Part 2 out of 4
(Raising her arms and sprinkling the Queen's body)
That now I scatter on the Queen of death
For signal to her spirit that I can slake
Her long corrosion of misery with such balm--
Blood for weeping, terror for woe, death for death,
A broken body for a broken heart.
What will you say against me and my deed?
That now you cannot save yourself from me.
While your blind virgin power still stood apart
In an unused, unviolated life,
You judged me in my weakness, and because
I felt you unflawed I could not answer you;
But you have mingled in mortality
And violently begun the common life
By fault against your fellows; and the state,
The state of Britain that inheres in me
Not touched by my humanity or sin,
Passions or privy acts, shall be as hard
And savage to you as to a murderess.
Goneril (taking a letter from her girdle):
I found a warrant in her favoured bosom, King:
She wore this on her heart when you were crowning her.
But this is not my hand:
(Looking about him on the floor)
Where is the other letter?
Is there another letter? What should it say?
There is no other letter if you have none.
"Open your window when the moon is dead,
And I will come again.
The men say everywhere that you are faithless ...
And your eyes shifty eyes. Ah, but I love you, Gormflaith." ...
This is not hers: she'd not receive such words.
Her name stands twice therein: her perfume fills it:
My knife went through it ere I found it on her.
The filth is suitably dead. You are my true daughter.
I do not understand how men can govern,
Use craft and exercise the duty of cunning,
Anticipate treason, treachery meet with treachery,
And yet believe a woman because she looks
Straight in their eyes with mournful, trustful gaze,
And lisps like innocence, all gentleness.
Your Gormflaith could not answer a woman's eyes.
I did not need to read her in a letter;
I am not woman yet, but I can feel
What untruths are instinctive in my kind,
And how some men desire deceit from us.
Come; let these washers do what they must do:
Or shall your Queen be wrapped and coffined awry?
[She goes out by the garden doorway.]
I thought she had been broken long ago:
She must be wedded and broken, I cannot do it.
[He follows GONERIL out. The two women return to the bedside.]
The Elder Woman:
Poor, masterful King, he is no easier,
Although his tearful wife is gone at last:
A wilful girl shall prick and thwart him now.
Old gossip, we must hasten; the Queen is setting.
Lend me a pair of pennies to weight her eyes.
The Younger Woman:
Find your own pennies: then you can steal them safely.
The Elder Woman:
Praise you the gods of Britain, as I do praise them,
That I have been sweet-natured from my birth,
And that I lack your unforgiving mind.
Friend of the worms, help me to lift her clear
And draw away the under sheet for you;
Then go and spread the shroud by the hall fire--
I never could put damp linen on a corpse.
The louse made off unhappy and wet;--
Ahumm, Ahumm, Ahee--
He's looking for us, the little pet;
So haste, for her chin's to tie up yet,
And let us be gone with what we can get--
Her ring for thee, her gown for Bet,
Her pocket turned out for me.
[Footnote 1: Copyright by Gordon Bottomley, 1915, in the United States
* * * * *
Mamua, when our laughter ends,
And hearts and bodies, brown as white,
Are dust about the doors of friends,
Or scent ablowing down the night,
Then, oh! then, the wise agree,
Comes our immortality.
Mamua, there waits a land
Hard for us to understand.
Out of time, beyond the sun,
All are one in Paradise,
You and Pupure are one,
And Tau, and the ungainly wise.
There the Eternals are, and there
The Good, the Lovely, and the True,
And Types, whose earthly copies were
The foolish broken things we knew;
There is the Face, whose ghosts we are;
The real, the never-setting Star;
And the Flower, of which we love
Faint and fading shadows here;
Never a tear, but only Grief;
Dance, but not the limbs that move;
Songs in Song shall disappear;
Instead of lovers, Love shall be;
For hearts, Immutability;
And there, on the Ideal Reef,
Thunders the Everlasting Sea!
And my laughter, and my pain,
Shall home to the Eternal Brain;
And all lovely things, they say,
Meet in Loveliness again;
Miri's laugh, Teipo's feet,
And the hands of Matua,
Stars and sunlight there shall meet,
Coral's hues and rainbows there,
And Teilra's braided hair;
And with the starred 'tiare's' white,
And white birds in the dark ravine,
And 'flamboyants' ablaze at night,
And jewels, and evening's after-green,
And dawns of pearl and gold and red,
Mamua, your lovelier head!
And there'll no more be one who dreams
Under the ferns, of crumbling stuff,
Eyes of illusion, mouth that seems,
All time-entangled human love.
And you'll no longer swing and sway
Divinely down the scented shade,
Where feet to Ambulation fade,
And moons are lost in endless Day.
How shall we wind these wreaths of ours,
Where there are neither heads nor flowers?
Oh, Heaven's Heaven!--but we'll be missing
The palms, and sunlight, and the south;
And there's an end, I think, of kissing,
When our mouths are one with Mouth ...
'Tau here', Mamua,
Crown the hair, and come away!
Hear the calling of the moon,
And the whispering scents that stray
About the idle warm lagoon.
Hasten, hand in human hand,
Down the dark, the flowered way,
Along the whiteness of the sand,
And in the water's soft caress,
Wash the mind of foolishness,
Mamua, until the day.
Spend the glittering moonlight there
Pursuing down the soundless deep
Limbs that gleam and shadowy hair,
Or floating lazy, half-asleep.
Dive and double and follow after,
Snare in flowers, and kiss, and call,
With lips that fade, and human laughter,
And faces individual,
Well this side of Paradise! ...
There's little comfort in the wise.
THE GREAT LOVER
I have been so great a lover: filled my days
So proudly with the splendour of Love's praise,
The pain, the calm, and the astonishment,
Desire illimitable, and still content,
And all dear names men use, to cheat despair,
For the perplexed and viewless streams that bear
Our hearts at random down the dark of life.
Now, ere the unthinking silence on that strife
Steals down, I would cheat drowsy Death so far,
My night shall be remembered for a star
That outshone all the suns of all men's days.
Shall I not crown them with immortal praise
Whom I have loved, who have given me, dared with me
High secrets, and in darkness knelt to see
The inenarrable godhead of delight?
Love is a flame;--we have beaconed the world's night.
A city:--and we have built it, these and I.
An emperor:--we have taught the world to die.
So, for their sakes I loved, ere I go hence,
And the high cause of Love's magnificence,
And to keep loyalties young, I'll write those names
Golden for ever, eagles, crying flames,
And set them as a banner, that men may know,
To dare the generations, burn, and blow
Out on the wind of Time, shining and streaming ...
These I have loved:
White plates and cups, clean-gleaming,
Ringed with blue lines; and feathery, faery dust;
Wet roofs, beneath the lamp-light; the strong crust
Of friendly bread; and many-tasting food;
Rainbows; and the blue bitter smoke of wood;
And radiant raindrops couching in cool flowers;
And flowers themselves, that sway through sunny hours,
Dreaming of moths that drink them under the moon;
Then, the cool kindliness of sheets, that soon
Smooth away trouble; and the rough male kiss
Of blankets; grainy wood; live hair that is
Shining and free; blue-massing clouds; the keen
Unpassioned beauty of a great machine;
The benison of hot water; furs to touch;
The good smell of old clothes; and other such--
The comfortable smell of friendly fingers,
Hair's fragrance, and the musty reek that lingers
About dead leaves and last year's ferns ...
And thousand other throng to me! Royal flames;
Sweet water's dimpling laugh from tap or spring;
Holes in the ground; and voices that do sing;
Voices in laughter, too; and body's pain,
Soon turned to peace; and the deep-panting train;
Firm sands; the little dulling edge of foam
That browns and dwindles as the wave goes home;
And washen stones, gay for an hour; the cold
Graveness of iron; moist black earthen mould;
Sleep; and high places; footprints in the dew;
And oaks; and brown horse-chestnuts, glossy-new;
And new-peeled sticks; and shining pools on grass;--
All these have been my loves. And these shall pass,
Whatever passes not, in the great hour,
Nor all my passion, all my prayers, have power
To hold them with me through the gate of Death.
They'll play deserter, turn with the traitor breath,
Break the high bond we made, and sell Love's trust
And sacramented covenant to the dust.
--Oh, never a doubt but, somewhere, I shall wake,
And give what's left of love again, and make
New friends, now strangers...
But the best I've known,
Stays here, and changes, breaks, grows old, is blown
About the winds of the world, and fades from brains
Of living men, and dies.
O dear my loves, O faithless, once again
This one last gift I give: that after men
Shall know, and later lovers, far-removed,
Praise you, 'All these were lovely'; say, 'He loved.'
BEAUTY AND BEAUTY
When Beauty and Beauty meet
All naked, fair to fair,
The earth is crying-sweet,
And scattering-bright the air,
Eddying, dizzying, closing round,
With soft and drunken laughter;
Veiling all that may befall
Where Beauty and Beauty met,
Earth's still a-tremble there,
And winds are scented yet,
And memory-soft the air,
Bosoming, folding glints of light,
And shreds of shadowy laughter;
Not the tears that fill the years
Fish (fly-replete, in depth of June,
Dawdling away their wat'ry noon)
Ponder deep wisdom, dark or clear,
Each secret fishy hope or fear.
Fish say, they have their Stream and Pond;
But is there anything Beyond?
This life cannot be All, they swear,
For how unpleasant, if it were!
One may not doubt that, somehow, Good
Shall come of Water and of Mud;
And, sure, the reverent eye must see
A Purpose in Liquidity.
We darkly know, by Faith we cry,
The future is not Wholly Dry.
Mud unto mud!--Death eddies near--
Not here the appointed End, not here!
But somewhere, beyond Space and Time,
Is wetter water, slimier slime!
And there (they trust) there swimmeth One
Who swam ere rivers were begun,
Immense, of fishy form and mind,
Squamous, omnipotent, and kind;
And under that Almighty Fin,
The littlest fish may enter in.
Oh! never fly conceals a hook,
Fish say, in the Eternal Brook,
But more than mundane weeds are there,
And mud, celestially fair;
Fat caterpillars drift around,
And Paradisal grubs are found;
Unfading moths, immortal flies,
And the worm that never dies.
And in that Heaven of all their wish,
There shall be no more land, say fish.
Down the blue night the unending columns press
In noiseless tumult, break and wave and flow,
Now tread the far South, or lift rounds of snow
Up to the white moon's hidden loveliness.
Some pause in their grave wandering comradeless,
And turn with profound gesture vague and slow,
As who would pray good for the world, but know
Their benediction empty as they bless.
They say that the Dead die not, but remain
Near to the rich heirs of their grief and mirth.
I think they ride the calm mid-heaven, as these,
In wise majestic melancholy train,
And watch the moon, and the still-raging seas,
And men, coming and going on the earth.
(Suggested by some of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical
Not with vain tears, when we're beyond the sun,
We'll beat on the substantial doors, nor tread
Those dusty high-roads of the aimless dead
Plaintive for Earth; but rather turn and run
Down some close-covered by-way of the air,
Some low sweet alley between wind and wind,
Stoop under faint gleams, thread the shadows, find
Some whispering ghost-forgotten nook, and there
Spend in pure converse our eternal day;
Think each in each, immediately wise;
Learn all we lacked before; hear, know, and say
What this tumultuous body now denies;
And feel, who have laid our groping hands away;
And see, no longer blinded by our eyes.
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
* * * * *
WILLIAM H. DAVIES
My mind has thunderstorms,
That brood for heavy hours:
Until they rain me words,
My thoughts are drooping flowers
And sulking, silent birds.
Yet come, dark thunderstorms,
And brood your heavy hours;
For when you rain me words
My thoughts are dancing flowers
And joyful singing birds.
THE MIND'S LIBERTY
The mind, with its own eyes and ears,
May for these others have no care;
No matter where this body is,
The mind is free to go elsewhere.
My mind can be a sailor, when
This body's still confined to land;
And turn these mortals into trees,
That walk in Fleet Street or the Strand.
So, when I'm passing Charing Cross,
Where porters work both night and day,
I ofttimes hear sweet Malpas Brook,
That flows thrice fifty miles away.
And when I'm passing near St Paul's,
I see, beyond the dome and crowd,
Twm Barlum, that green pap in Gwent,
With its dark nipple in a cloud.
Thy beauty haunts me heart and soul,
Oh thou fair Moon, so close and bright;
Thy beauty makes me like the child
That cries aloud to own thy light:
The little child that lifts each arm
To press thee to her bosom warm.
Though there are birds that sing this night
With thy white beams across their throats,
Let my deep silence speak for me
More than for them their sweetest notes:
Who worships thee till music fails,
Is greater than thy nightingales.
WHEN ON A SUMMER'S MORN
When on a summer's morn I wake,
And open my two eyes,
Out to the clear, born-singing rills
My bird-like spirit flies,
To hear the Blackbird, Cuckoo, Thrush,
Or any bird in song;
And common leaves that hum all day,
Without a throat or tongue.
And when Time strikes the hour for sleep,
Back in my room alone,
My heart has many a sweet bird's song--
And one that's all my own.
A GREAT TIME
Sweet Chance, that led my steps abroad,
Beyond the town, where wild flowers grow--
A rainbow and a cuckoo, Lord,
How rich and great the times are now!
Know, all ye sheep
And cows, that keep
On staring that I stand so long
In grass that's wet from heavy rain--
A rainbow and a cuckoo's song
May never come together again;
May never come
This side the tomb.
Thou dost not fly, thou art not perched,
The air is all around:
What is it that can keep thee set,
From falling to the ground?
The concentration of thy mind
Supports thee in the air;
As thou dost watch the small young birds,
With such a deadly care.
My mind has such a hawk as thou,
It is an evil mood;
It comes when there's no cause for grief,
And on my joys doth brood.
Then do I see my life in parts;
The earth receives my bones,
The common air absorbs my mind--
It knows not flowers from stones.
Sweet Stay-at-Home, sweet Well-content,
Thou knowest of no strange continent:
Thou hast not felt thy bosom keep
A gentle motion with the deep;
Thou hast not sailed in Indian seas,
Where scent comes forth in every breeze.
Thou hast not seen the rich grape grow
For miles, as far as eyes can go;
Thou hast not seen a summer's night
When maids could sew by a worm's light;
Nor the North Sea in spring send out
Bright hues that like birds flit about
In solid cages of white ice--
Sweet Stay-at-Home, sweet Love-one-place.
Thou hast not seen black fingers pick
White cotton when the bloom is thick,
Nor heard black throats in harmony;
Nor hast thou sat on stones that lie
Flat on the earth, that once did rise
To hide proud kings from common eyes.
Thou hast not seen plains full of bloom
Where green things had such little room
They pleased the eye like fairer flowers--
Sweet Stay-at-Home, all these long hours.
Sweet Well-content, sweet Love-one-place,
Sweet, simple maid, bless thy dear face;
For thou hast made more homely stuff
Nurture thy gentle self enough;
I love thee for a heart that's kind--
Not for the knowledge in thy mind.
A FLEETING PASSION
Thou shalt not laugh, thou shalt not romp,
Let's grimly kiss with bated breath;
As quietly and solemnly
As Life when it is kissing Death.
Now in the silence of the grave,
My hand is squeezing that soft breast;
While thou dost in such passion lie,
It mocks me with its look of rest.
But when the morning comes at last,
And we must part, our passions cold,
You'll think of some new feather, scarf
To buy with my small piece of gold;
And I'll be dreaming of green lanes,
Where little things with beating hearts
Hold shining eyes between the leaves,
Till men with horses pass, and carts.
THE BIRD OF PARADISE
Here comes Kate Summers, who, for gold,
Takes any man to bed:
"You knew my friend, Nell Barnes," she said;
"You knew Nell Barnes--she's dead.
"Nell Barnes was bad on all you men,
Unclean, a thief as well;
Yet all my life I have not found
A better friend than Nell.
"So I sat at her side at last,
For hours, till she was dead;
And yet she had no sense at all
Of any word I said.
"For all her cry but came to this--
'Not for the world! Take care:
Don't touch that bird of paradise,
Perched on the bed-post there!'
"I asked her would she like some grapes,
Some damsons ripe and sweet;
A custard made with new-laid eggs,
Or tender fowl to eat.
"I promised I would follow her,
To see her in her grave;
And buy a wreath with borrowed pence,
If nothing I could save.
"Yet still her cry but came to this--
'Not for the world! Take care:
Don't touch that bird of paradise,
Perched on the bed-post there!'"
* * * * *
WALTER DE LA MARE
When music sounds, gone is the earth I know,
And all her lovely things even lovelier grow;
Her flowers in vision flame, her forest trees
Lift burdened branches, stilled with ecstasies.
When music sounds, out of the water rise
Naiads whose beauty dims my waking eyes,
Rapt in strange dream burns each enchanted face,
With solemn echoing stirs their dwelling-place.
When music sounds, all that I was I am
Ere to this haunt of brooding dust I came;
And from Time's woods break into distant song
The swift-winged hours, as I hasten along.
Wide are the meadows of night,
And daisies are shining there,
Tossing their lovely dews,
Lustrous and fair;
And through these sweet fields go,
Wanderers amid the stars--
Venus, Mercury, Uranus, Neptune,
Saturn, Jupiter, Mars.
'Tired in their silver, they move,
And circling, whisper and say,
Fair are the blossoming meads of delight
Through which we stray.
Three and thirty birds there stood
In an elder in a wood;
Called Melmillo--flew off three,
Leaving thirty in the tree;
Called Melmillo--nine now gone,
And the boughs held twenty-one;
Called Melmillo--and eighteen
Left but three to nod and preen;
Now of birds were feathers none.
Then stole slim Melmillo in
To that wood all dusk and green,
And with lean long palms outspread
Softly a strange dance did tread;
Not a note of music she
Had for echoing company;
All the birds were flown to rest
In the hollow of her breast;
In the wood--thorn, elder, willow--
Danced alone--lone danced Melmillo.
It was the Great Alexander,
Capped with a golden helm,
Sate in the ages, in his floating ship,
In a dead calm.
Voices of sea-maids singing
Wandered across the deep:
The sailors labouring on their oars
Rowed as in sleep.
All the high pomp of Asia,
Charmed by that siren lay,
Out of their weary and dreaming minds
Like a bold boy sate their Captain,
His glamour withered and gone,
In the souls of his brooding manners,
While the song pined on.
Time like a falling dew,
Life like the scene of a dream
Laid between slumber and slumber
Only did seem ...
O Alexander, then,
In all us mortals too,
Wax not so overbold
On the wave dark-blue!
Come the calm starry night,
Who then will hear
Aught save the singing
Of the sea-maids clear?
THE MOCKING FAIRY
'Won't you look out of your window, Mrs Gill?'
Quoth the Fairy, nidding, nodding in the garden;
'CAN'T you look out of your window, Mrs Gill?'
Quoth the Fairy, laughing softly in the garden;
But the air was still, the cherry boughs were still,
And the ivy-tod 'neath the empty sill,
And never from her window looked out Mrs Gill
On the Fairy shrilly mocking in the garden.
'What have they done with you, you poor Mrs Gill?'
Quoth the Fairy brightly glancing in the garden;
'Where have they hidden you, you poor old Mrs Gill?'
Quoth the Fairy dancing lightly in the garden;
But night's faint veil now wrapped the hill,
Stark 'neath the stars stood the dead-still Mill,
And out of her cold cottage never answered Mrs Gill
The Fairy mimbling mambling in the garden.
One night as Dick lay half asleep,
Into his drowsy eyes
A great still light began to creep
From out the silent skies.
It was the lovely moon's, for when
He raised his dreamy head,
Her surge of silver filled the pane
And streamed across his bed.
So, for awhile, each gazed at each--
Dick and the solemn moon--
Till, climbing slowly on her way,
She vanished, and was gone.
OFF THE GROUND
Three jolly Farmers
Once bet a pound
Each dance the others would
Off the ground.
Out of their coats
They slipped right soon,
And neat and nicesome
Put each his shoon.
And away they go,
Not too fast,
And not too slow;
Out from the elm-tree's
Into the sun
And across the meadow.
Past the schoolroom,
With knees well bent,
They dancing went.
Up sides and over,
And round and round,
They crossed click-clacking
The Parish bound;
By Tupman's meadow
They did their mile,
On a three-barred stile.
Then straight through Whipham,
Downhill to Week,
Footing it lightsome,
But not too quick,
Up fields to Watchet,
And on through Wye,
Till seven fine churches
They'd seen skip by--
Seven fine churches,
And five old mills,
Farms in the valley,
And sheep on the hills;
Old Man's Acre
And Dead Man's Pool
All left behind,
As they danced through Wool.
And Wool gone by,
Like tops that seem
To spin in sleep
They danced in dream:
Like an old clock
Their heels did go.
A league and a league
And a league they went,
And not one weary,
And not one spent.
And lo, and behold!
Stretched with its waters
The great green sea.
Says Farmer Bates,
'I puffs and I blows,
What's under the water,
Why, no man knows!'
Says Farmer Giles,
'My mind comes weak,
And a good man drowned
Is far to seek.'
But Farmer Turvey,
On twirling toes,
Up's with his gaiters,
And in he goes:
Down where the mermaids
Pluck and play
On their twangling harps
In a sea-green day;
Down where the mermaids,
Finned and fair,
Sleek with their combs
Their yellow hair ...
Bates and Giles--
On the shingle sat,
Gazing at Turvey's
But never a ripple
Nor bubble told
Where he was supping
Off plates of gold.
Never an echo
Rilled through the sea
Of the feasting and dancing
Came no reply:
Nought but the ripples'
Then glum and silent
They sat instead,
On home and bed,
Till both together
Stood up and said:--
'Us knows not, dreams not,
Where you be,
In the deep blue sea;
But axcusing silver--
And it comes most willing--
Here's us two paying
Our forty shilling;
For it's sartin sure, Turvey,
Safe and sound,
You danced us square, Turvey,
Off the ground!'
* * * * *
A TOWN WINDOW
Beyond my window in the night
Is but a drab inglorious street,
Yet there the frost and clean starlight
As over Warwick woods are sweet.
Under the grey drift of the town
The crocus works among the mould
As eagerly as those that crown
The Warwick spring in flame and gold.
And when the tramway down the hill
Across the cobbles moans and rings,
There is about my window-sill
The tumult of a thousand wings.
(To those who live there)
For peace, than knowledge more desirable,
Into your Sussex quietness I came,
When summer's green and gold and azure fell
Over the world in flame.
And peace upon your pasture-lands I found,
Where grazing flocks drift on continually,
As little clouds that travel with no sound
Across a windless sky.
Out of your oaks the birds call to their mates
That brood among the pines, where hidden deep
From curious eyes a world's adventure waits
In columned choirs of sleep.
Under the calm ascension of the night
We heard the mellow lapsing and return
Of night-owls purring in their groundling flight
Through lanes of darkling fern.
Unbroken peace when all the stars were drawn
Back to their lairs of light, and ranked along
From shire to shire the downs out of the dawn
Were risen in golden song.
* * * * *
I sing of peace who have known the large unrest
Of men bewildered in their travelling,
And I have known the bridal earth unblest
By the brigades of spring.
I have known that loss. And now the broken thought
Of nations marketing in death I know,
The very winds to threnodies are wrought
That on your downlands blow.
I sing of peace. Was it but yesterday
I came among your roses and your corn?
Then momently amid this wrath I pray
For yesterday reborn.
THE CARVER IN STONE
He was a man with wide and patient eyes,
Grey, like the drift of twitch-fires blown in June,
That, without fearing, searched if any wrong
Might threaten from your heart. Grey eyes he had
Under a brow was drawn because he knew
So many seasons to so many pass
Of upright service, loyal, unabased
Before the world seducing, and so, barren
Of good words praising and thought that mated his.
He carved in stone. Out of his quiet life
He watched as any faithful seaman charged
With tidings of the myriad faring sea,
And thoughts and premonitions through his mind
Sailing as ships from strange and storied lands
His hungry spirit held, till all they were
Found living witness in the chiselled stone.
Slowly out of the dark confusion, spread
By life's innumerable venturings
Over his brain, he would triumph into the light
Of one clear mood, unblemished of the blind
Legions of errant thought that cried about
His rapt seclusion: as a pearl unsoiled,
Nay, rather washed to lonelier chastity,
In gritty mud. And then would come a bird,
A flower, or the wind moving upon a flower,
A beast at pasture, or a clustered fruit,
A peasant face as were the saints of old,
The leer of custom, or the bow of the moon
Swung in miraculous poise--some stray from the world
Of things created by the eternal mind
In joy articulate. And his perfect mood
Would dwell about the token of God's mood,
Until in bird or flower or moving wind
Or flock or shepherd or the troops of heaven
It sprang in one fierce moment of desire
To visible form.
Then would his chisel work among the stone,
Persuading it of petal or of limb
Or starry curve, till risen anew there sang
Shape out of chaos, and again the vision
Of one mind single from the world was pressed
Upon the daily custom of the sky
Or field or the body of man.
Had many gods for worship. The tiger-god,
The owl, the dewlapped bull, the running pard,
The camel, and the lizard of the slime,
The ram with quivering fleece and fluted horn,
The crested eagle and the doming bat
Were sacred. And the king and his high priests
Decreed a temple, wide on columns huge,
Should top the cornlands to the sky's far line.
They bade the carvers carve along the walls
Images of their gods, each one to carve
As he desired, his choice to name his god ...
And many came; and he among them, glad
Of three leagues' travel through the singing air
Of dawn among the boughs yet bare of green,
The eager flight of the spring leading his blood
Into swift lofty channels of the air,
Proud as an eagle riding to the sun ...
An eagle, clean of pinion--there's his choice.
Daylong they worked under the growing roof,
One at his leopard, one the staring ram,
And he winning his eagle from the stone,
Until each man had carved one image out,
Arow beyond the portal of the house.
They stood arow, the company of gods,
Camel and bat, lizard and bull and ram,
The pard and owl, dead figures on the wall,
Figures of habit driven on the stone
By chisels governed by no heat of the brain
But drudges of hands that moved by easy rule.
Proudly recorded mood was none, no thought
Plucked from the dark battalions of the mind
And throned in everlasting sight. But one
God of them all was witness of belief
And large adventure dared. His eagle spread
Wide pinions on a cloudless ground of heaven,
Glad with the heart's high courage of that dawn
Moving upon the ploughlands newly sown,
Dead stone the rest. He looked, and knew it so.
Then came the king with priests and counsellors
And many chosen of the people, wise
With words weary of custom, and eyes askew
That watched their neighbour face for any news
Of the best way of judgment, till, each sure
None would determine with authority,
All spoke in prudent praise. One liked the owl
Because an owl blinked on the beam of his barn.
One, hoarse with crying gospels in the street,
Praised most the ram, because the common folk
Wore breeches made of ram's wool. One declared
The tiger pleased him best,--the man who carved
The tiger-god was halt out of the womb--
A man to praise, being so pitiful.
And one, whose eyes dwelt in a distant void,
With spell and omen pat upon his lips,
And a purse for any crystal prophet ripe,
A zealot of the mist, gazed at the bull--
A lean ill-shapen bull of meagre lines
That scarce the steel had graved upon the stone--
Saying that here was very mystery
And truth, did men but know. And one there was
Who praised his eagle, but remembering
The lither pinion of the swift, the curve
That liked him better of the mirrored swan.
And they who carved the tiger-god and ram,
The camel and the pard, the owl and bull,
And lizard, listened greedily, and made
Humble denial of their worthiness,
And when the king his royal judgment gave
That all had fashioned well, and bade that each
Re-shape his chosen god along the walls
Till all the temple boasted of their skill,
They bowed themselves in token that as this
Never had carvers been so fortunate.
Only the man with wide and patient eyes
Made no denial, neither bowed his head.
Already while they spoke his thoughts had gone
Far from his eagle, leaving it for a sign
Loyally wrought of one deep breath of life,
And played about the image of a toad
That crawled among his ivy leaves. A queer
Puff-bellied toad, with eyes that always stared
Sidelong at heaven and saw no heaven there,
Weak-hammed, and with a throttle somehow twisted
Beyond full wholesome draughts of air, and skin
Of wrinkled lips, the only zest or will
The little flashing tongue searching the leaves.
And king and priest, chosen and counsellor,
Babbling out of their thin and jealous brains,
Seemed strangely one; a queer enormous toad
Panting under giant leaves of dark,
Sunk in the loins, peering into the day.
Their judgment wry he counted not for wrong
More than the fabled poison of the toad
Striking at simple wits; how should their thought
Or word in praise or blame come near the peace
That shone in seasonable hours above
The patience of his spirit's husbandry?
They foolish and not seeing, how should he
Spend anger there or fear--great ceremonies
Equal for none save great antagonists?
The grave indifference of his heart before them
Was moved by laughter innocent of hate,
Chastising clean of spite, that moulded them
Into the antic likeness of his toad
Bidding for laughter underneath the leaves.
He bowed not, nor disputed, but he saw
Those ill-created joyless gods, and loathed,
And saw them creeping, creeping round the walls,
Death breeding death, wile witnessing to wile,
And sickened at the dull iniquity
Should be rewarded, and for ever breathe
Contagion on the folk gathered in prayer.
His truth should not be doomed to march among
This falsehood to the ages. He was called,
And he must labour there; if so the king
Would grant it, where the pillars bore the roof
A galleried way of meditation nursed
Secluded time, with wall of ready stone
In panels for the carver set between
The windows--there his chisel should be set,--
It was his plea. And the king spoke of him,
Scorning, as one lack-fettle, among all these
Eager to take the riches of renown;
One fearful of the light or knowing nothing
Of light's dimension, a witling who would throw
Honour aside and praise spoken aloud
All men of heart should covet. Let him go
Grubbing out of the sight of those who knew
The worth of substance; there was his proper trade.
A squat and curious toad indeed ... The eyes,
Patient and grey, were dumb as were the lips,
That, fixed and governed, hoarded from them all
The larger laughter lifting in his heart.
Straightway about his gallery he moved,
Measured the windows and the virgin stone,
Till all was weighed and patterned in his brain.
Then first where most the shadows struck the wall,
Under the sills, and centre of the base,
From floor to sill out of the stone was wooed
Memorial folly, as from the chisel leapt
His chastening laughter searching priest and king--
Huge and wrinkled toad, with legs asplay,
And belly loaded, leering with great eyes
Busily fixed upon the void.
His chisel was the first to ring across
The temple's quiet; and at fall of dusk
Passing among the carvers homeward, they
Would speak of him as mad, or weak against
The challenge of the world, and let him go
Lonely, as was his will, under the night
Of stars or cloud or summer's folded sun,
Through crop and wood and pasture-land to sleep.
None took the narrow stair as wondering
How did his chisel prosper in the stone,
Unvisited his labour and forgot.
And times when he would lean out of his height
And watch the gods growing along the walls,
The row of carvers in their linen coats
Took in his vision a virtue that alone
Carving they had not nor the thing they carved.
Knowing the health that flowed about his close
Imagining, the daily quiet won
From process of his clean and supple craft,
Those carvers there, far on the floor below,
Would haply be transfigured in his thought
Into a gallant company of men
Glad of the strict and loyal reckoning
That proved in the just presence of the brain
Each chisel-stroke. How surely would he prosper
In pleasant talk at easy hours with men
So fashioned if it might be--and his eyes
Would pass again to those dead gods that grew
In spreading evil round the temple walls;
And, one dead pressure made, the carvers moved
Along the wall to mould and mould again
The self-same god, their chisels on the stone
Tapping in dull precision as before,
And he would turn, back to his lonely truth.
He carved apace. And first his people's gods,
About the toad, out of their sterile time,
Under his hand thrilled and were recreate.
The bull, the pard, the camel and the ram,
Tiger and owl and bat--all were the signs
Visibly made body on the stone
Of sightless thought adventuring the host
That is mere spirit; these the bloom achieved
By secret labour in the flowing wood
Of rain and air and wind and continent sun ...
His tiger, lithe, immobile in the stone,
A swift destruction for a moment leashed,
Sprang crying from the jealous stealth of men
Opposed in cunning watch, with engines hid
Of torment and calamitous desire.
His leopard, swift on lean and paltry limbs,
Was fear in flight before accusing faith.
His bull, with eyes that often in the dusk
Would lift from the sweet meadow grass to watch
Him homeward passing, bore on massy beam
The burden of the patient of the earth.
His camel bore the burden of the damned,
Being gaunt, with eyes aslant along the nose.
He had a friend, who hammered bronze and iron
And cupped the moonstone on a silver ring,
One constant like himself, would come at night
Or bid him as a guest, when they would make
Their poets touch a starrier height, or search
Together with unparsimonious mind
The crowded harbours of mortality.
And there were jests, wholesome as harvest ale,
Of homely habit, bred of hearts that dared
Judgment of laughter under the eternal eye:
This frolic wisdom was his carven owl.
His ram was lordship on the lonely hills,
Alert and fleet, content only to know
The wind mightily pouring on his fleece,
With yesterday and all unrisen suns
Poorer than disinherited ghosts. His bat
Was ancient envy made a mockery,
Cowering below the newer eagle carved
Above the arches with wide pinion spread,
His faith's dominion of that happy dawn.
And so he wrought the gods upon the wall,
Living and crying out of his desire,
Out of his patient incorruptible thought,
Wrought them in joy was wages to his faith.
And other than the gods he made. The stalks
Of bluebells heavy with the news of spring,
The vine loaded with plenty of the year,
And swallows, merely tenderness of thought
Bidding the stone to small and fragile flight;
Leaves, the thin relics of autumnal boughs,
Or massed in June ...
All from their native pressure bloomed and sprang
Under his shaping hand into a proud
And governed image of the central man,--
Their moulding, charts of all his travelling.
And all were deftly ordered, duly set
Between the windows, underneath the sills,
And roofward, as a motion rightly planned,
Till on the wall, out of the sullen stone,
A glory blazed, his vision manifest,
His wonder captive. And he was content.
And when the builders and the carvers knew
Their labours done, and high the temple stood
Over the cornlands, king and counsellor
And priest and chosen of the people came
Among a ceremonial multitude
To dedication. And, below the thrones
Where king and archpriest ruled above the throng,
Highest among the ranked artificers
The carvers stood. And when, the temple vowed
To holy use, tribute and choral praise
Given as was ordained, the king looked down
Upon the gathered folk, and bade them see
The comely gods fashioned about the walls,
And keep in honour men whose precious skill
Could so adorn the sessions of their worship,
Gravely the carvers bowed them to the ground.
Only the man with wide and patient eyes
Stood not among them; nor did any come
To count his labour, where he watched alone
Above the coloured throng. He heard, and looked
Again upon his work, and knew it good,
Smiled on his toad, passed down the stair unseen,
And sang across the teeming meadows home.
* * * * *
JAMES ELROY FLECKER
THE OLD SHIPS
I have seen old ships sail like swans asleep
Beyond the village which men still call Tyre,
With leaden age o'ercargoed, dipping deep
For Famagusta and the hidden sun
That rings black Cyprus with a lake of fire;
And all those ships were certainly so old--
Who knows how oft with squat and noisy gun,
Questing brown slaves or Syrian oranges,
The pirate Genoese
Hell-raked them till they rolled
Blood, water, fruit and corpses up the hold.
But now through friendly seas they softly run,
Painted the mid-sea blue or shore-sea green,
Still patterned with the vine and grapes in gold.
But I have seen
Pointing her shapely shadows from the dawn
And image tumbled on a rose-swept bay
A drowsy ship of some yet older day;
And, wonder's breath indrawn,
Thought I--who knows--who knows--but in that same
(Fished up beyond AEaea, patched up new
--Stern painted brighter blue--)
That talkative, bald-headed seaman came
(Twelve patient comrades sweating at the oar)
From Troy's doom-crimson shore,
And with great lies about his wooden horse
Set the crew laughing, and forgot his course.
It was so old a ship--who knows, who knows?
--And yet so beautiful, I watched in vain
To see the mast burst open with a rose,
And the whole deck put on its leaves again.
O pouring westering streams
Shouting that I have leapt the mountain bar,
Down curve on curve my journey's white way gleams--
My road along the river of return.
I know the countries where the white moons burn,
And heavy star on star
Dips on the pale and crystal desert hills.
I know the river of the sun that fills
With founts of gold the lakes of Orient sky.
* * * * *
And I have heard a voice of broken seas
And from the cliffs a cry.
Ah still they learn, those cave-eared Cyclades,
The Triton's friendly or his fearful horn,
And why the deep sea-bells but seldom chime,
And how those waves and with what spell-swept rhyme
In years of morning, on a summer's morn
Whispering round his castle on the coast,
Lured young Achilles from his haunted sleep
And drave him out to dive beyond those deep
Dim purple windows of the empty swell,
His ivory body flitting like a ghost
Over the holes where flat blind fishes dwell,
All to embrace his mother throned in her shell.
(A Legend of the AEgean)
'Who are you, Sea Lady,
And where in the seas are we?
I have too long been steering
By the flashes in your eyes.
Why drops the moonlight through my heart,
And why so quietly
Go the great engines of my boat
As if their souls were free?'
'Oh ask me not, bold sailor;
Is not your ship a magic ship
That sails without a sail:
Are not these isles the Isles of Greece
And dust upon the sea?
But answer me three questions
And give me answers three.
What is your ship?" 'A British.'
'And where may Britain be?'
'Oh it lies north, dear lady;
It is a small country.'
'Yet you will know my lover,
Though you live far away:
And you will whisper where he has gone,
That lily boy to look upon
And whiter than the spray.'
'How should I know your lover,
Lady of the sea?'
The King of the World was he.'
'Weep not for him, dear lady,
But come aboard my ship.
So many years ago he died,
He's dead as dead can be.'
'O base and brutal sailor
To lie this lie to me.
His mother was the foam-foot
His father was Adonis
Who lives away in Lebanon,
In stony Lebanon, where blooms
His red anemone.
But where is Alexander,
The soldier Alexander,
My golden love of olden days
The King of the world and me?'
She sank into the moonlight
And the sea was only sea.
How splendid in the morning glows the lily: with what grace he throws
His supplication to the rose: do roses nod the head, Yasmin?
But when the silver dove descends I find the little flower of friends
Whose very name that sweetly ends I say when I have said, Yasmin.
The morning light is clear and cold: I dare not in that light behold
A whiter light, a deeper gold, a glory too far shed, Yasmin.
But when the deep red eye of day is level with the lone highway,
And some to Mecca turn to pray, and I toward thy bed, Yasmin;
Or when the wind beneath the moon is drifting like a soul aswoon,
And harping planets talk love's tune with milky wings outspread, Yasmin,
Shower down thy love, O burning bright! For one night or the other night
Will come the Gardener in white, and gathered flowers are dead, Yasmin.
GATES OF DAMASCUS
Four great gates has the city of Damascus,
And four Grand Wardens, on their spears reclining,
All day long stand like tall stone men
And sleep on the towers when the moon is shining.
'This is the song of the East Gate Warden
When he locks the great gate and smokes in his garden'.
Postern of Fate, the Desert Gate, Disaster's Cavern, Fort of Fear,
The Portal of Bagdad am I, the Doorway of Diarbekir.
The Persian dawn with new desires may net the flushing mountain spires,
But my gaunt buttress still rejects the suppliance of those mellow
Pass not beneath, O Caravan, or pass not singing. Have you heard
That silence where the birds are dead yet something pipeth like a bird?
Pass not beneath! Men say there blows in stony deserts still a rose
But with no scarlet to her leaf--and from whose heart no perfume flows.
Wilt thou bloom red where she buds pale, thy sister rose? Wilt thou not
When noonday flashes like a flail? Leave, nightingale, the Caravan!
Pass then, pass all! Bagdad! ye cry, and down the billows of blue sky
Ye beat the bell that beats to hell, and who shall thrust ye back? Not
The Sun who flashes through the head and paints the shadows green and
The Sun shall eat thy fleshless dead, O Caravan, O Caravan!
And one who licks his lips for thirst with fevered eyes shall face in
The palms that wave, the streams that burst, his last mirage, O Caravan!
And one--the bird-voiced Singing-man--shall fall behind thee, Caravan!
And God shall meet him in the night, and he shall sing as best he can.
And one the Bedouin shall slay, and one, sand-stricken on the way,
Go dark and blind; and one shall say--'How lonely is the Caravan!'
Pass out beneath, O Caravan, Doom's Caravan, Death's Caravan!
I had not told ye, fools, so much, save that I heard your Singing-man.
'This was sung by the West Gate's keeper
When heaven's hollow dome grew deeper'.
I am the gate toward the sea: O sailor men, pass out from me!
I hear you high on Lebanon, singing the marvels of the sea.
The dragon-green, the luminous, the dark, the serpent-haunted sea,
The snow-besprinkled wine of earth, the white-and-blue-flower foaming
Beyond the sea are towns with towers, carved with lions and lily
And not a soul in all those lonely streets to while away the hours.
Beyond the towns, an isle where, bound, a naked giant bites the ground:
The shadow of a monstrous wing looms on his back: and still no sound.
Beyond the isle a rock that screams like madmen shouting in their
From whose dark issues night and day blood crashes in a thousand
Beyond the rock is Restful Bay, where no wind breathes or ripple stirs,
And there on Roman ships, they say, stand rows of metal mariners.
Beyond the bay in utmost West old Solomon the Jewish King
Sits with his beard upon his breast, and grips and guards his magic
And when that ring is stolen, he will rise in outraged majesty,
And take the World upon his back, and fling the World beyond the sea.
'This is the song of the North Gate's master,
Who singeth fast, but drinketh faster.'
I am the gay Aleppo Gate: a dawn, a dawn and thou art there:
Eat not thy heart with fear and care, O brother of the beast we hate!
Thou hast not many miles to tread, nor other foes than fleas to dread;
Homs shall behold thy morning meal, and Hama see thee safe in bed.
Take to Aleppo filigrane, and take them paste of apricots,
And coffee tables botched with pearl, and little beaten brassware pots:
And thou shalt sell thy wares for thrice the Damascene retailers' price,
And buy a fat Armenian slave who smelleth odorous and nice.
Some men of noble stock were made: some glory in the murder-blade:
Some praise a Science or an Art, but I like honourable Trade!
Sell them the rotten, buy the ripe! Their heads are weak; their pockets
Aleppo men are mighty fools. Salaam Aleikum! Safe return!
'This is the song of the South Gate Holder,
A silver man, but his song is older.'
I am the Gate that fears no fall: the Mihrab of Damascus wall,
The bridge of booming Sinai: the Arch of Allah all in all.
O spiritual pilgrim, rise: the night has grown her single horn:
The voices of the souls unborn are half adream with Paradise.
To Meccah thou hast turned in prayer with aching heart and eyes that
Ah, Hajji, whither wilt thou turn when thou art there, when thou art
God be thy guide from camp to camp: God be thy shade from well to well;
God grant beneath the desert stars thou hear the Prophet's camel bell.
And God shall make thy body pure, and give thee knowledge to endure
This ghost-life's piercing phantom-pain, and bring thee out to Life
And God shall make thy soul a Glass where eighteen thousand AEons pass,
And thou shalt see the gleaming Worlds as men see dew upon the grass.
And son of Islam, it may be that thou shalt learn at journey's end
Who walks thy garden eve on eve, and bows his head, and calls thee
THE DYING PATRIOT
Day breaks on England down the Kentish hills,
Singing in the silence of the meadow-footing rills,
Day of my dreams, O day!
I saw them march from Dover, long ago,
With a silver cross before them, singing low,
Monks of Rome from their home where the blue seas break in foam,
Augustine with his feet of snow.
Noon strikes on England, noon on Oxford town,
--Beauty she was statue cold--there's blood upon her gown:
Noon of my dreams, O noon!
Proud and godly kings had built her, long ago,
With her towers and tombs and statues all arow,
With her fair and floral air and the love that lingers there,
And the streets where the great men go.
Evening on the olden, the golden sea of Wales,
When the first star shivers and the last wave pales:
O evening dreams!
There's a house that Britons walked in, long ago,
Where now the springs of ocean fall and flow,
And the dead robed in red and sea-lilies overhead
Sway when the long winds blow.
Sleep not, my country: though night is here, afar
Your children of the morning are clamorous for war:
Fire in the night, O dreams!
Though she send you as she sent you, long ago,
South to desert, east to ocean, west to snow,
West of these out to seas colder than the Hebrides I must go
Where the fleet of stars is anchored, and the young Star-captains glow.
* * * * *
WILFRID WILSON GIBSON
In dream, again within the clean, cold hell
Of glazed and aching silence he was trapped;
And, closing in, the blank walls of his cell
Crushed stifling on him ... when the bracken snapped,
Caught in his clutching fingers; and he lay
Awake upon his back among the fern,
With free eyes travelling the wide blue day,
Unhindered, unremembering; while a burn
Tinkled and gurgled somewhere out of sight,
Unheard of him; till suddenly aware
Of its cold music, shivering in the light,
He raised himself, and with far-ranging stare
Looked all about him: and with dazed eyes wide
Saw, still as in a numb, unreal dream,
Black figures scouring a far hill-side,
With now and then a sunlit rifle's gleam;
And knew the hunt was hot upon his track:
Yet hardly seemed to mind, somehow, just then ...
But kept on wondering why they looked so black
On that hot hillside, all those little men
Who scurried round like beetles--twelve, all told ...
He counted them twice over; and began
A third time reckoning them, but could not hold
His starved wits to the business, while they ran
So brokenly, and always stuck at 'five' ...
And 'One, two, three, four, five,' a dozen times
He muttered ... 'Can you catch a fish alive?'
Sang mocking echoes of old nursery rhymes
Through the strained, tingling hollow of his head.
And now, almost remembering, he was stirred
To pity them; and wondered if they'd fed
Since he had, or if, ever since they'd heard
Two nights ago the sudden signal-gun
That raised alarm of his escape, they too
Had fasted in the wilderness, and run
With nothing but the thirsty wind to chew,
And nothing in their bellies but a fill
Of cold peat-water, till their heads were light ...
The crackling of a rifle on the hill
Rang in his ears: and stung to headlong flight,
He started to his feet; and through the brake
He plunged in panic, heedless of the sun
That burned his cropped head to a red-hot ache
Still racked with crackling echoes of the gun.
Then suddenly the sun-enkindled fire
Of gorse upon the moor-top caught his eye:
And that gold glow held all his heart's desire,
As, like a witless, flame-bewildered fly,
He blundered towards the league-wide yellow blaze,
And tumbled headlong on the spikes of bloom;
And rising, bruised and bleeding and adaze,
Struggled through clutching spines; the dense, sweet fume
Of nutty, acrid scent like poison stealing
Through his hot blood; the bristling yellow glare
Spiking his eyes with fire, till he went reeling,
Stifled and blinded, on--and did not care
Though he were taken--wandering round and round,
'Jerusalem the Golden' quavering shrill,
Changing his tune to 'Tommy Tiddler's Ground':
Till, just a lost child on that dazzling hill,
Bewildered in a glittering golden maze
Of stinging scented fire, he dropped, quite done,
A shrivelling wisp within a world ablaze
Beneath a blinding sky, one blaze of sun.
[Scene: The big tent-stable of a travelling circus. On the ground near
the entrance GENTLEMAN JOHN, stableman and general odd-job man, lies
smoking beside MERRY ANDREW, the clown. GENTLEMAN JOHN is a little
hunched man with a sensitive face and dreamy eyes. MERRY ANDREW, who is
resting between the afternoon and evening performances, with his clown's
hat lying beside him, wears a crimson wig, and a baggy suit of
orange-coloured cotton, patterned with purple cats. His face is chalked
dead-white, and painted with a set grin, so that it is impossible to see
what manner of man he is. In the back-ground are camels and elephants
feeding, dimly visible in the steamy dusk of the tent.]
And then consider camels: only think
Of camels long enough, and you'ld go mad--
With all their humps and lumps; their knobbly knees,
Splay feet, and straddle legs; their sagging necks,
Flat flanks, and scraggy tails, and monstrous teeth.
I've not forgotten the first fiend I met:
'Twas in a lane in Smyrna, just a ditch
Between the shuttered houses, and so narrow
The brute's bulk blocked the road; the huge green stack
Of dewy fodder that it slouched beneath
Brushing the yellow walls on either hand,
And shutting out the strip of burning blue:
And I'd to face that vicious bobbing head
With evil eyes, slack lips, and nightmare teeth,
And duck beneath the snaky, squirming neck,
Pranked with its silly string of bright blue beads,
That seemed to wriggle every way at once,
As though it were a hydra. Allah's beard!
But I was scared, and nearly turned and ran:
I felt that muzzle take me by the scruff,
And heard those murderous teeth crunching my spine,
Before I stooped--though I dodged safely under.
I've always been afraid of ugliness.
I'm such a toad myself, I hate all toads;
And the camel is the ugliest toad of all,
To my mind; and it's just my devil's luck
I've come to this--to be a camel's lackey,
To fetch and carry for original sin,
For sure enough, the camel's old evil incarnate.
Blue beads and amulets to ward off evil!
No eye's more evil than a camel's eye.
The elephant is quite a comely brute,
Compared with Satan camel,--trunk and all,
His floppy ears, and his inconsequent tail.
He's stolid, but at least a gentleman.
It doesn't hurt my pride to valet him,
And bring his shaving-water. He's a lord.
Only the bluest blood that has come down
Through generations from the mastodon
Could carry off that tail with dignity,
That tail and trunk. He cannot look absurd,
For all the monkey tricks you put him through,
Your paper hoops and popguns. He just makes
His masters look ridiculous, when his pomp's
Butchered to make a bumpkin's holiday.
He's dignity itself, and proper pride,
That stands serenely in a circus-world
Of mountebanks and monkeys. He has weight
Behind him: aeons of primeval power
Have shaped that pillared bulk; and he stands sure,
Solid, substantial on the world's foundations.
And he has form, form that's too big a thing
To be called beauty. Once, long since, I thought
To be a poet, and shape words, and mould
A poem like an elephant, huge, sublime,
To front oblivion; and because I failed,
And all my rhymes were gawky, shambling camels,
Or else obscene, blue-buttocked apes, I'm doomed
To lackey it for things such as I've made,
Till one of them crunches my backbone with his teeth,
Or knocks my wind out with a forthright kick
Clean in the midriff, crumpling up in death
The hunched and stunted body that was me--
John, the apostle of the Perfect Form!
Jerusalem! I'm talking like a book--
As you would say: and a bad book at that,
A maundering, kiss-mammy book--The Hunch-back's End
Or The Camel-Keeper's Reward--would be its title.
I froth and bubble like a new-broached cask.
No wonder you look glum, for all your grin.
What makes you mope? You've naught to growse about.
You've got no hump. Your body's brave and straight--
So shapely even that you can afford
To trick it in fantastic shapelessness,
Knowing that there's a clean-limbed man beneath
Preposterous pantaloons and purple cats.
I would have been a poet, if I could:
But better than shaping poems 'twould have been
To have had a comely body and clean limbs
Obedient to my bidding.
I missed a hoop
You missed a hoop? You mean ...
That I am done, used up, scrapped, on the shelf,
Out of the running--only that, no more.
Well, I've been missing hoops my whole life long;
Though, when I come to think of it, perhaps
There's little consolation to be chewed
From crumbs that I can offer.
I've not missed
A hoop since I was six. I'm forty-two.
This is the first time that my body's failed me:
But 'twill not be the last. And ...
Such is life!
You're going to say. You see I've got it pat,
Your jaded wheeze. Lord, what a wit I'ld make
If I'd a set grin painted on my face.
And such is life, I'ld say a hundred times,
And each time set the world aroar afresh
At my original humour. Missed a hoop!
Why, man alive, you've naught to grumble at.
I've boggled every hoop since I was six.
I'm fifty-five; and I've run round a ring
Would make this potty circus seem a pinhole.
I wasn't born to sawdust. I'd the world
For circus ...
It's no time for crowing now.
I know a gentleman, and take on trust
The silver spoon and all. My teeth were cut
Upon a horseshoe: and I wasn't born
To purple and fine linen--but to sawdust,
To sawdust, as you say--brought up on sawdust.
I've had to make my daily bread of sawdust:
Ay, and my children's,--children's, that's the rub,
As Shakespeare says ...
Ah, there you go again!
What a rare wit to set the ring aroar--
As Shakespeare says! Crowing? A gentleman?
Man, didn't you say you'd never missed a hoop?
It's only gentlemen who miss no hoops,
Clean livers, easy lords of life who take
Each obstacle at a leap, who never fail.
You are the gentleman.
Now don't you try
Being funny at my expense; or you'll soon find
I'm not quite done for yet--not quite snuffed out.
There's still a spark of life. You may have words:
But I've a fist will be a match for them.
Words slaver feebly from a broken jaw.
I've always lived straight, as a man must do
In my profession, if he'ld keep in fettle:
But I'm no gentleman, for I fail to see
There's any sport in baiting a poor man
Because he's losing grip at forty-two,
And sees his livelihood slipping from his grasp--
Ay, and his children's bread.
Why, man alive,
Who's baiting you? This winded, broken cur,
That limps through life, to bait a bull like you!
You don't want pity, man! The beaten bull,
Even when the dogs are tearing at his gullet,
Turns no eye up for pity. I myself,
Crippled and hunched and twisted as I am,
Would make a brave fend to stand up to you
Until you swallowed your words, if you should slobber
Your pity over me. A bull! Nay, man,
You're nothing but a bear with a sore head.
A bee has stung you--you who've lived on honey.
Sawdust, forsooth! You've had the sweet of life:
You've munched the honeycomb till--
Ay! talk's cheap.
But you've no children. You don't understand.
I have no children: I don't understand!
It's children make the difference.
Alive and kicking, though you're shamming dead--
You've hit the truth at last. It's that, just that,