Part 3 out of 3
Bliss too thou bringst to our greening North,
Red scintillant through cherry-blossom rifts,
Herald of summer-heat, and all the gifts
And all the joys a summer can bring forth ----
Be thou my star, for I have made my aim
To follow loveliness till autumn-strown
Sunder the sinews of this flower-like frame
As rose-leaves sunder when the bud is blown.
Ay, sooner spirit and sense disintegrate
Than reconcilement to a common fate
Strip the enchantment from a world so dressed
In hues of high romance. I cannot rest
While aught of beauty in any path untrod
Swells into bloom and spreads sweet charms abroad
Unworshipped of my love. I cannot see
In Life's profusion and passionate brevity
How hearts enamored of life can strain too much
In one long tension to hear, to see, to touch.
Now on each rustling night-wind from the South
Far music calls; beyond the harbor mouth
Each outbound argosy with sail unfurled
May point the path through this fortuitous world
That holds the heart from its desire. Away!
Where tinted coast-towns gleam at close of day,
Where squares are sweet with bells, or shores thick set
With bloom and bower, with mosque and minaret.
Blue peaks loom up beyond the coast-plains here,
White roads wind up the dales and disappear,
By silvery waters in the plains afar
Glimmers the inland city like a star,
With gilded gates and sunny spires ablaze
And burnished domes half-seen through luminous haze,
Lo, with what opportunity Earth teems!
How like a fair its ample beauty seems!
Fluttering with flags its proud pavilions rise:
What bright bazaars, what marvelous merchandise,
Down seething alleys what melodious din,
What clamor importuning from every booth!
At Earth's great market where Joy is trafficked in
Buy while thy purse yet swells with golden Youth!
Dante. Inferno, Canto XXVI
Florence, rejoice! For thou o'er land and sea
So spread'st thy pinions that the fame of thee
Hath reached no less into the depths of Hell.
So noble were the five I found to dwell
Therein -- thy sons -- whence shame accrues to me
And no great praise is thine; but if it be
That truth unveil in dreamings before dawn,
Then is the vengeful hour not far withdrawn
When Prato shall exult within her walls
To see thy suffering. Whate'er befalls,
Let it come soon, since come it must, for later,
Each year would see my grief for thee the greater.
We left; and once more up the craggy side
By the blind steps of our descent, my guide,
Remounting, drew me on. So we pursued
The rugged path through that steep solitude,
Where rocks and splintered fragments strewed the land
So thick, that foot availed not without hand.
Grief filled me then, and still great sorrow stirs
My heart as oft as memory recurs
To what I saw; that more and more I rein
My natural powers, and curb them lest they strain
Where Virtue guide not, -- that if some good star,
Or better thing, have made them what they are,
That good I may not grudge, nor turn to ill.
As when, reclining on some verdant hill --
What season the hot sun least veils his power
That lightens all, and in that gloaming hour
The fly resigns to the shrill gnat -- even then,
As rustic, looking down, sees, o'er the glen,
Vineyard, or tilth where lies his husbandry,
Fireflies innumerable sparkle: so to me,
Come where its mighty depth unfolded, straight
With flames no fewer seemed to scintillate
The shades of the eighth pit. And as to him
Whose wrongs the bears avenged, dim and more dim
Elijah's chariot seemed, when to the skies
Uprose the heavenly steeds; and still his eyes
Strained, following them, till naught remained in view
But flame, like a thin cloud against the blue:
So here, the melancholy gulf within,
Wandered these flames, concealing each its sin,
Yet each, a fiery integument,
Wrapped round a sinner.
On the bridge intent,
Gazing I stood, and grasped its flinty side,
Or else, unpushed, had fallen. And my guide,
Observing me so moved, spake, saying: "Behold
Where swathed each in his unconsuming fold,
The spirits lie confined." Whom answering,
"Master," I said, "thy words assurance bring
To that which I already had supposed;
And I was fain to ask who lies enclosed
In the embrace of that dividing fire,
Which seems to curl above the fabled pyre,
Where with his twin-born brother, fiercely hated,
Eteocles was laid." He answered, "Mated
In punishment as once in wrath they were,
Ulysses there and Diomed incur
The eternal pains; there groaning they deplore
The ambush of the horse, which made the door
For Rome's imperial seed to issue: there
In anguish too they wail the fatal snare
Whence dead Deidamia still must grieve,
Reft of Achilles; likewise they receive
Due penalty for the Palladium."
"Master," I said, "if in that martyrdom
The power of human speech may still be theirs,
I pray -- and think it worth a thousand prayers --
That, till this horned flame be come more nigh,
We may abide here; for thou seest that I
With great desire incline to it." And he:
"Thy prayer deserves great praise; which willingly
I grant; but thou refrain from speaking; leave
That task to me; for fully I conceive
What thing thou wouldst, and it might fall perchance
That these, being Greeks, would scorn thine utterance."
So when the flame had come where time and place
Seemed not unfitting to my guide with grace
To question, thus he spoke at my desire:
"O ye that are two souls within one fire,
If in your eyes some merit I have won --
Merit, or more or less -- for tribute done
When in the world I framed my lofty verse:
Move not; but fain were we that one rehearse
By what strange fortunes to his death he came."
The elder crescent of the antique flame
Began to wave, as in the upper air
A flame is tempest-tortured, here and there
Tossing its angry height, and in its sound
As human speech it suddenly had found,
Rolled forth a voice of thunder, saying: "When,
The twelvemonth past in Circe's halls, again
I left Gaeta's strand (ere thither came
Aeneas, and had given it that name)
Not love of son, nor filial reverence,
Nor that affection that might recompense
The weary vigil of Penelope,
Could so far quench the hot desire in me
To prove more wonders of the teeming earth, --
Of human frailty and of manly worth.
In one small bark, and with the faithful band
That all awards had shared of Fortune's hand,
I launched once more upon the open main.
Both shores I visited as far as Spain, --
Sardinia, and Morocco, and what more
The midland sea upon its bosom wore.
The hour of our lives was growing late
When we arrived before that narrow strait
Where Hercules had set his bounds to show
That there Man's foot shall pause, and further none shall go.
Borne with the gale past Seville on the right,
And on the left now swept by Ceuta's site,
`Brothers,' I cried, `that into the far West
Through perils numberless are now addressed,
In this brief respite that our mortal sense
Yet hath, shrink not from new experience;
But sailing still against the setting sun,
Seek we new worlds where Man has never won
Before us. Ponder your proud destinies:
Born were ye not like brutes for swinish ease,
But virtue and high knowledge to pursue.'
My comrades with such zeal did I imbue
By these brief words, that scarcely could I then
Have turned them from their purpose; so again
We set out poop against the morning sky,
And made our oars as wings wherewith to fly
Into the Unknown. And ever from the right
Our course deflecting, in the balmy night
All southern stars we saw, and ours so low,
That scarce above the sea-marge it might show.
So five revolving periods the soft,
Pale light had robbed of Cynthia, and as oft
Replenished since our start, when far and dim
Over the misty ocean's utmost rim,
Rose a great mountain, that for very height
Passed any I had seen. Boundless delight
Filled us -- alas, and quickly turned to dole:
For, springing from our scarce-discovered goal,
A whirlwind struck the ship; in circles three
It whirled us helpless in the eddying sea;
High on the fourth the fragile stern uprose,
The bow drove down, and, as Another chose,
Over our heads we heard the surging billows close."
Ariosto. Orlando Furioso, Canto X, 91-99
Ruggiero, to amaze the British host,
And wake more wonder in their wondering ranks,
The bridle of his winged courser loosed,
And clapped his spurs into the creature's flanks;
High in the air, even to the topmost banks
Of crudded cloud, uprose the flying horse,
And now above the Welsh, and now the Manx,
And now across the sea he shaped his course,
Till gleaming far below lay Erin's emerald shores.
There round Hibernia's fabled realm he coasted,
Where the old saint had left the holy cave,
Sought for the famous virtue that it boasted
To purge the sinful visitor and save.
Thence back returning over land and wave,
Ruggiero came where the blue currents flow,
The shores of Lesser Brittany to lave,
And, looking down while sailing to and fro,
He saw Angelica chained to the rock below.
'Twas on the Island of Complaint -- well named,
For there to that inhospitable shore,
A savage people, cruel and untamed,
Brought the rich prize of many a hateful war.
To feed a monster that bestead them sore,
They of fair ladies those that loveliest shone,
Of tender maidens they the tenderest bore,
And, drowned in tears and making piteous moan,
Left for that ravening beast, chained on the rocks alone.
Thither transported by enchanter's art,
Angelica from dreams most innocent
(As the tale mentioned in another part)
Awoke, the victim for that sad event.
Beauty so rare, nor birth so excellent,
Nor tears that make sweet Beauty lovelier still,
Could turn that people from their harsh intent.
Alas, what temper is conceived so ill
But, Pity moving not, Love's soft enthralment will?
On the cold granite at the ocean's rim
These folk had chained her fast and gone their way;
Fresh in the softness of each delicate limb
The pity of their bruising violence lay.
Over her beauty, from the eye of day
To hide its pleading charms, no veil was thrown.
Only the fragments of the salt sea-spray
Rose from the churning of the waves, wind-blown,
To dash upon a whiteness creamier than their own.
Carved out of candid marble without flaw,
Or alabaster blemishless and rare,
Ruggiero might have fancied what he saw,
For statue-like it seemed, and fastened there
By craft of cunningest artificer;
Save in the wistful eyes Ruggiero thought
A teardrop gleamed, and with the rippling hair
The ocean breezes played as if they sought
In its loose depths to hide that which her hand might not.
Pity and wonder and awakening love
Strove in the bosom of the Moorish Knight.
Down from his soaring in the skies above
He urged the tenor of his courser's flight.
Fairer with every foot of lessening height
Shone the sweet prisoner. With tightening reins
He drew more nigh, and gently as he might:
"O lady, worthy only of the chains
With which his bounden slaves the God of Love constrains,
"And least for this or any ill designed,
Oh, what unnatural and perverted race
Could the sweet flesh with flushing stricture bind,
And leave to suffer in this cold embrace
That the warm arms so hunger to replace?"
Into the damsel's cheeks such color flew
As by the alchemy of ancient days
If whitest ivory should take the hue
Of coral where it blooms deep in the liquid blue.
Nor yet so tightly drawn the cruel chains
Clasped the slim ankles and the wounded hands,
But with soft, cringing attitudes in vain
She strove to shield her from that ardent glance.
So, clinging to the walls of some old manse,
The rose-vine strives to shield her tender flowers,
When the rude wind, as autumn weeks advance,
Beats on the walls and whirls about the towers
And spills at every blast her pride in piteous showers.
And first for choking sobs she might not speak,
And then, "Alas!" she cried, "ah, woe is me!"
And more had said in accents faint and weak,
Pleading for succor and sweet liberty.
But hark! across the wide ways of the sea
Rose of a sudden such a fierce affray
That any but the brave had turned to flee.
Ruggiero, turning, looked. To his dismay,
Lo, where the monster came to claim his quivering prey!
On a Theme in the Greek Anthology
Thy petals yet are closely curled,
Rose of the world,
Around their scented, golden core;
Nor yet has Summer purpled o'er
Thy tender clusters that begin
To swell within
The dewy vine-leaves' early screen
Of sheltering green.
O hearts that are Love's helpless prey,
While yet you may,
Fly, ere the shaft is on the string!
The fire that now is smouldering
Shall be the conflagration soon
Whose paths are strewn
With torment of blanched lips and eyes
After an Epigram of Clement Marot
The lad I was I longer now
Nor am nor shall be evermore.
Spring's lovely blossoms from my brow
Have shed their petals on the floor.
Thou, Love, hast been my lord, thy shrine
Above all gods' best served by me.
Dear Love, could life again be mine
How bettered should that service be!
The Aisne (1914-15)
We first saw fire on the tragic slopes
Where the flood-tide of France's early gain,
Big with wrecked promise and abandoned hopes,
Broke in a surf of blood along the Aisne.
The charge her heroes left us, we assumed,
What, dying, they reconquered, we preserved,
In the chill trenches, harried, shelled, entombed,
Winter came down on us, but no man swerved.
Winter came down on us. The low clouds, torn
In the stark branches of the riven pines,
Blurred the white rockets that from dusk till morn
Traced the wide curve of the close-grappling lines.
In rain, and fog that on the withered hill
Froze before dawn, the lurking foe drew down;
Or light snows fell that made forlorner still
The ravaged country and the ruined town;
Or the long clouds would end. Intensely fair,
The winter constellations blazing forth --
Perseus, the Twins, Orion, the Great Bear --
Gleamed on our bayonets pointing to the north.
And the lone sentinel would start and soar
On wings of strong emotion as he knew
That kinship with the stars that only War
Is great enough to lift man's spirit to.
And ever down the curving front, aglow
With the pale rockets' intermittent light,
He heard, like distant thunder, growl and grow
The rumble of far battles in the night, --
Rumors, reverberant, indistinct, remote,
Borne from red fields whose martial names have won
The power to thrill like a far trumpet-note, --
Vic, Vailly, Soupir, Hurtelise, Craonne . . .
Craonne, before thy cannon-swept plateau,
Where like sere leaves lay strewn September's dead,
I found for all dear things I forfeited
A recompense I would not now forego.
For that high fellowship was ours then
With those who, championing another's good,
More than dull Peace or its poor votaries could,
Taught us the dignity of being men.
There we drained deeper the deep cup of life,
And on sublimer summits came to learn,
After soft things, the terrible and stern,
After sweet Love, the majesty of Strife;
There where we faced under those frowning heights
The blast that maims, the hurricane that kills;
There where the watchlights on the winter hills
Flickered like balefire through inclement nights;
There where, firm links in the unyielding chain,
Where fell the long-planned blow and fell in vain --
Hearts worthy of the honor and the trial,
We helped to hold the lines along the Aisne.
In the glad revels, in the happy fetes,
When cheeks are flushed, and glasses gilt and pearled
With the sweet wine of France that concentrates
The sunshine and the beauty of the world,
Drink sometimes, you whose footsteps yet may tread
The undisturbed, delightful paths of Earth,
To those whose blood, in pious duty shed,
Hallows the soil where that same wine had birth.
Here, by devoted comrades laid away,
Along our lines they slumber where they fell,
Beside the crater at the Ferme d'Alger
And up the bloody slopes of La Pompelle,
And round the city whose cathedral towers
The enemies of Beauty dared profane,
And in the mat of multicolored flowers
That clothe the sunny chalk-fields of Champagne.
Under the little crosses where they rise
The soldier rests. Now round him undismayed
The cannon thunders, and at night he lies
At peace beneath the eternal fusillade. . . .
That other generations might possess --
From shame and menace free in years to come --
A richer heritage of happiness,
He marched to that heroic martyrdom.
Esteeming less the forfeit that he paid
Than undishonored that his flag might float
Over the towers of liberty, he made
His breast the bulwark and his blood the moat.
Obscurely sacrificed, his nameless tomb,
Bare of the sculptor's art, the poet's lines,
Summer shall flush with poppy-fields in bloom,
And Autumn yellow with maturing vines.
There the grape-pickers at their harvesting
Shall lightly tread and load their wicker trays,
Blessing his memory as they toil and sing
In the slant sunshine of October days. . . .
I love to think that if my blood should be
So privileged to sink where his has sunk,
I shall not pass from Earth entirely,
But when the banquet rings, when healths are drunk,
And faces that the joys of living fill
Glow radiant with laughter and good cheer,
In beaming cups some spark of me shall still
Brim toward the lips that once I held so dear.
So shall one coveting no higher plane
Than nature clothes in color and flesh and tone,
Even from the grave put upward to attain
The dreams youth cherished and missed and might have known;
And that strong need that strove unsatisfied
Toward earthly beauty in all forms it wore,
Not death itself shall utterly divide
From the beloved shapes it thirsted for.
Alas, how many an adept for whose arms
Life held delicious offerings perished here,
How many in the prime of all that charms,
Crowned with all gifts that conquer and endear!
Honor them not so much with tears and flowers,
But you with whom the sweet fulfilment lies,
Where in the anguish of atrocious hours
Turned their last thoughts and closed their dying eyes,
Rather when music on bright gatherings lays
Its tender spell, and joy is uppermost,
Be mindful of the men they were, and raise
Your glasses to them in one silent toast.
Drink to them -- amorous of dear Earth as well,
They asked no tribute lovelier than this --
And in the wine that ripened where they fell,
Oh, frame your lips as though it were a kiss.
Champagne, France, July, 1915.
Purged, with the life they left, of all
That makes life paltry and mean and small,
In their new dedication charged
With something heightened, enriched, enlarged,
That lends a light to their lusty brows
And a song to the rhythm of their tramping feet,
These are the men that have taken vows,
These are the hardy, the flower, the elite, --
These are the men that are moved no more
By the will to traffic and grasp and store
And ring with pleasure and wealth and love
The circles that self is the center of;
But they are moved by the powers that force
The sea forever to ebb and rise,
That hold Arcturus in his course,
And marshal at noon in tropic skies
The clouds that tower on some snow-capped chain
And drift out over the peopled plain.
They are big with the beauty of cosmic things.
Mark how their columns surge! They seem
To follow the goddess with outspread wings
That points toward Glory, the soldier's dream.
With bayonets bare and flags unfurled,
They scale the summits of the world
And fade on the farthest golden height
In fair horizons full of light.
Comrades in arms there -- friend or foe --
That trod the perilous, toilsome trail
Through a world of ruin and blood and woe
In the years of the great decision -- hail!
Friend or foe, it shall matter nought;
This only matters, in fine: we fought.
For we were young and in love or strife
Sought exultation and craved excess:
To sound the wildest debauch in life
We staked our youth and its loveliness.
Let idlers argue the right and wrong
And weigh what merit our causes had.
Putting our faith in being strong --
Above the level of good and bad --
For us, we battled and burned and killed
Because evolving Nature willed,
And it was our pride and boast to be
The instruments of Destiny.
There was a stately drama writ
By the hand that peopled the earth and air
And set the stars in the infinite
And made night gorgeous and morning fair,
And all that had sense to reason knew
That bloody drama must be gone through.
Some sat and watched how the action veered --
Waited, profited, trembled, cheered --
We saw not clearly nor understood,
But yielding ourselves to the masterhand,
Each in his part as best he could,
We played it through as the author planned.
A shell surprised our post one day
And killed a comrade at my side.
My heart was sick to see the way
He suffered as he died.
I dug about the place he fell,
And found, no bigger than my thumb,
A fragment of the splintered shell
In warm aluminum.
I melted it, and made a mould,
And poured it in the opening,
And worked it, when the cast was cold,
Into a shapely ring.
And when my ring was smooth and bright,
Holding it on a rounded stick,
For seal, I bade a Turco write
`Maktoob' in Arabic.
`Maktoob!' "'Tis written!" . . . So they think,
These children of the desert, who
From its immense expanses drink
Some of its grandeur too.
Within the book of Destiny,
Whose leaves are time, whose cover, space,
The day when you shall cease to be,
The hour, the mode, the place,
Are marked, they say; and you shall not
By taking thought or using wit
Alter that certain fate one jot,
Postpone or conjure it.
Learn to drive fear, then, from your heart.
If you must perish, know, O man,
'Tis an inevitable part
Of the predestined plan.
And, seeing that through the ebon door
Once only you may pass, and meet
Of those that have gone through before
The mighty, the elite ----
Guard that not bowed nor blanched with fear
You enter, but serene, erect,
As you would wish most to appear
To those you most respect.
So die as though your funeral
Ushered you through the doors that led
Into a stately banquet hall
Where heroes banqueted;
And it shall all depend therein
Whether you come as slave or lord,
If they acclaim you as their kin
Or spurn you from their board.
So, when the order comes: "Attack!"
And the assaulting wave deploys,
And the heart trembles to look back
On life and all its joys;
Or in a ditch that they seem near
To find, and round your shallow trough
Drop the big shells that you can hear
Coming a half mile off;
When, not to hear, some try to talk,
And some to clean their guns, or sing,
And some dig deeper in the chalk --
I look upon my ring:
And nerves relax that were most tense,
And Death comes whistling down unheard,
As I consider all the sense
Held in that mystic word.
And it brings, quieting like balm
My heart whose flutterings have ceased,
The resignation and the calm
And wisdom of the East.
I Have a Rendezvous with Death . . .
I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air --
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.
It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath --
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.
God knows 'twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where Love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear . . .
But I've a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.
- Sonnet I -
Sidney, in whom the heyday of romance
Came to its precious and most perfect flower,
Whether you tourneyed with victorious lance
Or brought sweet roundelays to Stella's bower,
I give myself some credit for the way
I have kept clean of what enslaves and lowers,
Shunned the ideals of our present day
And studied those that were esteemed in yours;
For, turning from the mob that buys Success
By sacrificing all Life's better part,
Down the free roads of human happiness
I frolicked, poor of purse but light of heart,
And lived in strict devotion all along
To my three idols -- Love and Arms and Song.
- Sonnet II -
Not that I always struck the proper mean
Of what mankind must give for what they gain,
But, when I think of those whom dull routine
And the pursuit of cheerless toil enchain,
Who from their desk-chairs seeing a summer cloud
Race through blue heaven on its joyful course
Sigh sometimes for a life less cramped and bowed,
I think I might have done a great deal worse;
For I have ever gone untied and free,
The stars and my high thoughts for company;
Wet with the salt-spray and the mountain showers,
I have had the sense of space and amplitude,
And love in many places, silver-shoed,
Has come and scattered all my path with flowers.
- Sonnet III -
Why should you be astonished that my heart,
Plunged for so long in darkness and in dearth,
Should be revived by you, and stir and start
As by warm April now, reviving Earth?
I am the field of undulating grass
And you the gentle perfumed breath of Spring,
And all my lyric being, when you pass,
Is bowed and filled with sudden murmuring.
I asked you nothing and expected less,
But, with that deep, impassioned tenderness
Of one approaching what he most adores,
I only wished to lose a little space
All thought of my own life, and in its place
To live and dream and have my joy in yours.
- Sonnet IV -
To . . . in church
If I was drawn here from a distant place,
'Twas not to pray nor hear our friend's address,
But, gazing once more on your winsome face,
To worship there Ideal Loveliness.
On that pure shrine that has too long ignored
The gifts that once I brought so frequently
I lay this votive offering, to record
How sweet your quiet beauty seemed to me.
Enchanting girl, my faith is not a thing
By futile prayers and vapid psalm-singing
To vent in crowded nave and public pew.
My creed is simple: that the world is fair,
And beauty the best thing to worship there,
And I confess it by adoring you.
Biarritz, Sunday, March 26, 1916.
- Sonnet V -
Seeing you have not come with me, nor spent
This day's suggestive beauty as we ought,
I have gone forth alone and been content
To make you mistress only of my thought.
And I have blessed the fate that was so kind
In my life's agitations to include
This moment's refuge where my sense can find
Refreshment, and my soul beatitude.
Oh, be my gentle love a little while!
Walk with me sometimes. Let me see you smile.
Watching some night under a wintry sky,
Before the charge, or on the bed of pain,
These blessed memories shall revive again
And be a power to cheer and fortify.
- Sonnet VI -
Oh, you are more desirable to me
Than all I staked in an impulsive hour,
Making my youth the sport of chance, to be
Blighted or torn in its most perfect flower;
For I think less of what that chance may bring
Than how, before returning into fire,
To make my dearest memory of the thing
That is but now my ultimate desire.
And in old times I should have prayed to her
Whose haunt the groves of windy Cyprus were,
To prosper me and crown with good success
My will to make of you the rose-twined bowl
From whose inebriating brim my soul
Shall drink its last of earthly happiness.
- Sonnet VII -
There have been times when I could storm and plead,
But you shall never hear me supplicate.
These long months that have magnified my need
Have made my asking less importunate,
For now small favors seem to me so great
That not the courteous lovers of old time
Were more content to rule themselves and wait,
Easing desire with discourse and sweet rhyme.
Nay, be capricious, willful; have no fear
To wound me with unkindness done or said,
Lest mutual devotion make too dear
My life that hangs by a so slender thread,
And happy love unnerve me before May
For that stern part that I have yet to play.
- Sonnet VIII -
Oh, love of woman, you are known to be
A passion sent to plague the hearts of men;
For every one you bring felicity
Bringing rebuffs and wretchedness to ten.
I have been oft where human life sold cheap
And seen men's brains spilled out about their ears
And yet that never cost me any sleep;
I lived untroubled and I shed no tears.
Fools prate how war is an atrocious thing;
I always knew that nothing it implied
Equalled the agony of suffering
Of him who loves and loves unsatisfied.
War is a refuge to a heart like this;
Love only tells it what true torture is.
- Sonnet IX -
Well, seeing I have no hope, then let us part;
Having long taught my flesh to master fear,
I should have learned by now to rule my heart,
Although, Heaven knows, 'tis not so easy near.
Oh, you were made to make men miserable
And torture those who would have joy in you,
But I, who could have loved you, dear, so well,
Take pride in being a good loser too;
And it has not been wholly unsuccess,
For I have rescued from forgetfulness
Some moments of this precious time that flies,
Adding to my past wealth of memory
The pretty way you once looked up at me,
Your low, sweet voice, your smile, and your dear eyes.
- Sonnet X -
I have sought Happiness, but it has been
A lovely rainbow, baffling all pursuit,
And tasted Pleasure, but it was a fruit
More fair of outward hue than sweet within.
Renouncing both, a flake in the ferment
Of battling hosts that conquer or recoil,
There only, chastened by fatigue and toil,
I knew what came the nearest to content.
For there at least my troubled flesh was free
From the gadfly Desire that plagued it so;
Discord and Strife were what I used to know,
Heartaches, deception, murderous jealousy;
By War transported far from all of these,
Amid the clash of arms I was at peace.
- Sonnet XI -
On Returning to the Front after Leave
Apart sweet women (for whom Heaven be blessed),
Comrades, you cannot think how thin and blue
Look the leftovers of mankind that rest,
Now that the cream has been skimmed off in you.
War has its horrors, but has this of good --
That its sure processes sort out and bind
Brave hearts in one intrepid brotherhood
And leave the shams and imbeciles behind.
Now turn we joyful to the great attacks,
Not only that we face in a fair field
Our valiant foe and all his deadly tools,
But also that we turn disdainful backs
On that poor world we scorn yet die to shield --
That world of cowards, hypocrites, and fools.
- Sonnet XII -
Clouds rosy-tinted in the setting sun,
Depths of the azure eastern sky between,
Plains where the poplar-bordered highways run,
Patched with a hundred tints of brown and green, --
Beauty of Earth, when in thy harmonies
The cannon's note has ceased to be a part,
I shall return once more and bring to these
The worship of an undivided heart.
Of those sweet potentialities that wait
For my heart's deep desire to fecundate
I shall resume the search, if Fortune grants;
And the great cities of the world shall yet
Be golden frames for me in which to set
New masterpieces of more rare romance.
Deep in the sloping forest that surrounds
The head of a green valley that I know,
Spread the fair gardens and ancestral grounds
Of Bellinglise, the beautiful chateau.
Through shady groves and fields of unmown grass,
It was my joy to come at dusk and see,
Filling a little pond's untroubled glass,
Its antique towers and mouldering masonry.
Oh, should I fall to-morrow, lay me here,
That o'er my tomb, with each reviving year,
Wood-flowers may blossom and the wood-doves croon;
And lovers by that unrecorded place,
Passing, may pause, and cling a little space,
Close-bosomed, at the rising of the moon.
Here, where in happier times the huntsman's horn
Echoing from far made sweet midsummer eves,
Now serried cannon thunder night and morn,
Tearing with iron the greenwood's tender leaves.
Yet has sweet Spring no particle withdrawn
Of her old bounty; still the song-birds hail,
Even through our fusillade, delightful Dawn;
Even in our wire bloom lilies of the vale.
You who love flowers, take these; their fragile bells
Have trembled with the shock of volleyed shells,
And in black nights when stealthy foes advance
They have been lit by the pale rockets' glow
That o'er scarred fields and ancient towns laid low
Trace in white fire the brave frontiers of France.
May 22, 1916.
I who, conceived beneath another star,
Had been a prince and played with life, instead
Have been its slave, an outcast exiled far
From the fair things my faith has merited.
My ways have been the ways that wanderers tread
And those that make romance of poverty --
Soldier, I shared the soldier's board and bed,
And Joy has been a thing more oft to me
Whispered by summer wind and summer sea
Than known incarnate in the hours it lies
All warm against our hearts and laughs into our eyes.
I know not if in risking my best days
I shall leave utterly behind me here
This dream that lightened me through lonesome ways
And that no disappointment made less dear;
Sometimes I think that, where the hilltops rear
Their white entrenchments back of tangled wire,
Behind the mist Death only can make clear,
There, like Brunhilde ringed with flaming fire,
Lies what shall ease my heart's immense desire:
There, where beyond the horror and the pain
Only the brave shall pass, only the strong attain.
Truth or delusion, be it as it may,
Yet think it true, dear friends, for, thinking so,
That thought shall nerve our sinews on the day
When to the last assault our bugles blow:
Reckless of pain and peril we shall go,
Heads high and hearts aflame and bayonets bare,
And we shall brave eternity as though
Eyes looked on us in which we would seem fair --
One waited in whose presence we would wear,
Even as a lover who would be well-seen,
Our manhood faultless and our honor clean.
Exiled afar from youth and happy love,
If Death should ravish my fond spirit hence
I have no doubt but, like a homing dove,
It would return to its dear residence,
And through a thousand stars find out the road
Back into earthly flesh that was its loved abode.
A Message to America
You have the grit and the guts, I know;
You are ready to answer blow for blow
You are virile, combative, stubborn, hard,
But your honor ends with your own back-yard;
Each man intent on his private goal,
You have no feeling for the whole;
What singly none would tolerate
You let unpunished hit the state,
Unmindful that each man must share
The stain he lets his country wear,
And (what no traveller ignores)
That her good name is often yours.
You are proud in the pride that feels its might;
From your imaginary height
Men of another race or hue
Are men of a lesser breed to you:
The neighbor at your southern gate
You treat with the scorn that has bred his hate.
To lend a spice to your disrespect
You call him the "greaser". But reflect!
The greaser has spat on you more than once;
He has handed you multiple affronts;
He has robbed you, banished you, burned and killed;
He has gone untrounced for the blood he spilled;
He has jeering used for his bootblack's rag
The stars and stripes of the gringo's flag;
And you, in the depths of your easy-chair --
What did you do, what did you care?
Did you find the season too cold and damp
To change the counter for the camp?
Were you frightened by fevers in Mexico?
I can't imagine, but this I know --
You are impassioned vastly more
By the news of the daily baseball score
Than to hear that a dozen countrymen
Have perished somewhere in Darien,
That greasers have taken their innocent lives
And robbed their holdings and raped their wives.
Not by rough tongues and ready fists
Can you hope to jilt in the modern lists.
The armies of a littler folk
Shall pass you under the victor's yoke,
Sobeit a nation that trains her sons
To ride their horses and point their guns --
Sobeit a people that comprehends
The limit where private pleasure ends
And where their public dues begin,
A people made strong by discipline
Who are willing to give -- what you've no mind to --
And understand -- what you are blind to --
The things that the individual
Must sacrifice for the good of all.
You have a leader who knows -- the man
Most fit to be called American,
A prophet that once in generations
Is given to point to erring nations
Brighter ideals toward which to press
And lead them out of the wilderness.
Will you turn your back on him once again?
Will you give the tiller once more to men
Who have made your country the laughing-stock
For the older peoples to scorn and mock,
Who would make you servile, despised, and weak,
A country that turns the other cheek,
Who care not how bravely your flag may float,
Who answer an insult with a note,
Whose way is the easy way in all,
And, seeing that polished arms appal
Their marrow of milk-fed pacifist,
Would tell you menace does not exist?
Are these, in the world's great parliament,
The men you would choose to represent
Your honor, your manhood, and your pride,
And the virtues your fathers dignified?
Oh, bury them deeper than the sea
In universal obloquy;
Forget the ground where they lie, or write
For epitaph: "Too proud to fight."
I have been too long from my country's shores
To reckon what state of mind is yours,
But as for myself I know right well
I would go through fire and shot and shell
And face new perils and make my bed
In new privations, if ROOSEVELT led;
But I have given my heart and hand
To serve, in serving another land,
Ideals kept bright that with you are dim;
Here men can thrill to their country's hymn,
For the passion that wells in the Marseillaise
Is the same that fires the French these days,
And, when the flag that they love goes by,
With swelling bosom and moistened eye
They can look, for they know that it floats there still
By the might of their hands and the strength of their will,
And through perils countless and trials unknown
Its honor each man has made his own.
They wanted the war no more than you,
But they saw how the certain menace grew,
And they gave two years of their youth or three
The more to insure their liberty
When the wrath of rifles and pennoned spears
Should roll like a flood on their wrecked frontiers.
They wanted the war no more than you,
But when the dreadful summons blew
And the time to settle the quarrel came
They sprang to their guns, each man was game;
And mark if they fight not to the last
For their hearths, their altars, and their past:
Yea, fight till their veins have been bled dry
For love of the country that WILL not die.
O friends, in your fortunate present ease
(Yet faced by the self-same facts as these),
If you would see how a race can soar
That has no love, but no fear, of war,
How each can turn from his private role
That all may act as a perfect whole,
How men can live up to the place they claim
And a nation, jealous of its good name,
Be true to its proud inheritance,
Oh, look over here and learn from FRANCE!
Introduction and Conclusion of a Long Poem
I have gone sometimes by the gates of Death
And stood beside the cavern through whose doors
Enter the voyagers into the unseen.
From that dread threshold only, gazing back,
Have eyes in swift illumination seen
Life utterly revealed, and guessed therein
What things were vital and what things were vain.
Know then, like a vast ocean from my feet
Spreading away into the morning sky,
I saw unrolled my vanished days, and, lo,
Oblivion like a morning mist obscured
Toils, trials, ambitions, agitations, ease,
And like green isles, sun-kissed, with sweet perfume
Loading the airs blown back from that dim gulf,
Gleamed only through the all-involving haze
The hours when we have loved and been beloved.
Therefore, sweet friends, as often as by Love
You rise absorbed into the harmony
Of planets singing round magnetic suns,
Let not propriety nor prejudice
Nor the precepts of jealous age deny
What Sense so incontestably affirms;
Cling to the blessed moment and drink deep
Of the sweet cup it tends, as there alone
Were that which makes life worth the pain to live.
What is so fair as lovers in their joy
That dies in sleep, their sleep that wakes in joy?
Caressing arms are their light pillows. They
That like lost stars have wandered hitherto
Lonesome and lightless through the universe,
Now glow transfired at Nature's flaming core;
They are the centre; constellated heaven
Is the embroidered panoply spread round
Their bridal, and the music of the spheres
Rocks them in hushed epithalamium.
. . . . .
I know that there are those whose idle tongues
Blaspheme the beauty of the world that was
So wondrous and so worshipful to me.
I call them those that, in the palace where
Down perfumed halls the Sleeping Beauty lay,
Wandered without the secret or the key.
I know that there are those, of gentler heart,
Broken by grief or by deception bowed,
Who in some realm beyond the grave conceive
The bliss they found not here; but, as for me,
In the soft fibres of the tender flesh
I saw potentialities of Joy
Ten thousand lifetimes could not use. Dear Earth,
In this dark month when deep as morning dew
On thy maternal breast shall fall the blood
Of those that were thy loveliest and thy best,
If it be fate that mine shall mix with theirs,
Hear this my natural prayer, for, purified
By that Lethean agony and clad
In more resplendent powers, I ask nought else
Than reincarnate to retrace my path,
Be born again of woman, walk once more
Through Childhood's fragrant, flowery wonderland
And, entered in the golden realm of Youth,
Fare still a pilgrim toward the copious joys
I savored here yet scarce began to sip;
Yea, with the comrades that I loved so well
Resume the banquet we had scarce begun
When in the street we heard the clarion-call
And each man sprang to arms -- ay, even myself
Who loved sweet Youth too truly not to share
Its pain no less than its delight. If prayers
Are to be prayed, lo, here is mine! Be this
My resurrection, this my recompense!
Ode in Memory of the American Volunteers Fallen for France
(To have been read before the statue of Lafayette and Washington in Paris,
on Decoration Day, May 30, 1916.)
Ay, it is fitting on this holiday,
Commemorative of our soldier dead,
When -- with sweet flowers of our New England May
Hiding the lichened stones by fifty years made gray --
Their graves in every town are garlanded,
That pious tribute should be given too
To our intrepid few
Obscurely fallen here beyond the seas.
Those to preserve their country's greatness died;
But by the death of these
Something that we can look upon with pride
Has been achieved, nor wholly unreplied
Can sneerers triumph in the charge they make
That from a war where Freedom was at stake
America withheld and, daunted, stood aside.
Be they remembered here with each reviving spring,
Not only that in May, when life is loveliest,
Around Neuville-Saint-Vaast and the disputed crest
Of Vimy, they, superb, unfaltering,
In that fine onslaught that no fire could halt,
Parted impetuous to their first assault;
But that they brought fresh hearts and springlike too
To that high mission, and 'tis meet to strew
With twigs of lilac and spring's earliest rose
The cenotaph of those
Who in the cause that history most endears
Fell in the sunny morn and flower of their young years.
Yet sought they neither recompense nor praise,
Nor to be mentioned in another breath
Than their blue coated comrades whose great days
It was their pride to share -- ay, share even to the death!
Nay, rather, France, to you they rendered thanks
(Seeing they came for honor, not for gain),
Who, opening to them your glorious ranks,
Gave them that grand occasion to excel,
That chance to live the life most free from stain
And that rare privilege of dying well.
O friends! I know not since that war began
From which no people nobly stands aloof
If in all moments we have given proof
Of virtues that were thought American.
I know not if in all things done and said
All has been well and good,
Or if each one of us can hold his head
As proudly as he should,
Or, from the pattern of those mighty dead
Whose shades our country venerates to-day,
If we've not somewhat fallen and somewhat gone astray.
But you to whom our land's good name is dear,
If there be any here
Who wonder if her manhood be decreased,
Relaxed its sinews and its blood less red
Than that at Shiloh and Antietam shed,
Be proud of these, have joy in this at least,
And cry: "Now heaven be praised
That in that hour that most imperilled her,
Menaced her liberty who foremost raised
Europe's bright flag of freedom, some there were
Who, not unmindful of the antique debt,
Came back the generous path of Lafayette;
And when of a most formidable foe
She checked each onset, arduous to stem --
Foiled and frustrated them --
On those red fields where blow with furious blow
Was countered, whether the gigantic fray
Rolled by the Meuse or at the Bois Sabot,
Accents of ours were in the fierce melee;
And on those furthest rims of hallowed ground
Where the forlorn, the gallant charge expires,
When the slain bugler has long ceased to sound,
And on the tangled wires
The last wild rally staggers, crumbles, stops,
Withered beneath the shrapnel's iron showers: --
Now heaven be thanked, we gave a few brave drops;
Now heaven be thanked, a few brave drops were ours."
There, holding still, in frozen steadfastness,
Their bayonets toward the beckoning frontiers,
They lie -- our comrades -- lie among their peers,
Clad in the glory of fallen warriors,
Grim clusters under thorny trellises,
Dry, furthest foam upon disastrous shores,
Leaves that made last year beautiful, still strewn
Even as they fell, unchanged, beneath the changing moon;
And earth in her divine indifference
Rolls on, and many paltry things and mean
Prate to be heard and caper to be seen.
But they are silent, calm; their eloquence
Is that incomparable attitude;
No human presences their witness are,
But summer clouds and sunset crimson-hued,
And showers and night winds and the northern star.
Nay, even our salutations seem profane,
Opposed to their Elysian quietude;
Our salutations calling from afar,
From our ignobler plane
And undistinction of our lesser parts:
Hail, brothers, and farewell; you are twice blest, brave hearts.
Double your glory is who perished thus,
For you have died for France and vindicated us.
[End of original text.]
Appendix: ASCII to Greek Character Map
The ASCII character | (pipe) precedes the following symbols: '`/\^
to mark accents in Greek. These in turn Precede the vowel they refer to.
Appendix: Corrections made to original text.
The following corrections have been made:
In "The Deserted Garden", `Down beechen allies' has been corrected
to read `Down beechen alleys', as the former is more than doubtful.
One occurrence each of "bazar" and "twelve-month" have been corrected
to read "bazaar" and "twelvemonth", to be consistent
both with other mentions in the text, and with the most common usage.