Transcribed by David Price, email email@example.com
POEMS BY OSCAR WILDE
To drift with every passion till my soul Is a stringed lute on which all winds can play, Is it for this that I have given away
Mine ancient wisdom, and austere control? Methinks my life is a twice-written scroll Scrawled over on some boyish holiday
With idle songs for pipe and virelay, Which do but mar the secret of the whole. Surely there was a time I might have trod The sunlit heights, and from life’s dissonance Struck one clear chord to reach the ears of God: Is that time dead? lo! with a little rod I did but touch the honey of romance–
And must I lose a soul’s inheritance?
Poem: Sonnet To Liberty
Not that I love thy children, whose dull eyes See nothing save their own unlovely woe, Whose minds know nothing, nothing care to know,– But that the roar of thy Democracies,
Thy reigns of Terror, thy great Anarchies, Mirror my wildest passions like the sea
And give my rage a brother–! Liberty! For this sake only do thy dissonant cries Delight my discreet soul, else might all kings By bloody knout or treacherous cannonades Rob nations of their rights inviolate
And I remain unmoved–and yet, and yet, These Christs that die upon the barricades, God knows it I am with them, in some things.
Poem: Ave Imperatrix
Set in this stormy Northern sea,
Queen of these restless fields of tide, England! what shall men say of thee,
Before whose feet the worlds divide?
The earth, a brittle globe of glass,
Lies in the hollow of thy hand,
And through its heart of crystal pass, Like shadows through a twilight land,
The spears of crimson-suited war,
The long white-crested waves of fight, And all the deadly fires which are
The torches of the lords of Night.
The yellow leopards, strained and lean, The treacherous Russian knows so well,
With gaping blackened jaws are seen Leap through the hail of screaming shell.
The strong sea-lion of England’s wars Hath left his sapphire cave of sea,
To battle with the storm that mars
The stars of England’s chivalry.
The brazen-throated clarion blows
Across the Pathan’s reedy fen,
And the high steeps of Indian snows Shake to the tread of armed men.
And many an Afghan chief, who lies
Beneath his cool pomegranate-trees, Clutches his sword in fierce surmise
When on the mountain-side he sees
The fleet-foot Marri scout, who comes To tell how he hath heard afar
The measured roll of English drums
Beat at the gates of Kandahar.
For southern wind and east wind meet
Where, girt and crowned by sword and fire, England with bare and bloody feet
Climbs the steep road of wide empire.
O lonely Himalayan height,
Grey pillar of the Indian sky,
Where saw’st thou last in clanging flight Our winged dogs of Victory?
The almond-groves of Samarcand,
Bokhara, where red lilies blow,
And Oxus, by whose yellow sand
The grave white-turbaned merchants go:
And on from thence to Ispahan,
The gilded garden of the sun,
Whence the long dusty caravan
Brings cedar wood and vermilion;
And that dread city of Cabool
Set at the mountain’s scarped feet, Whose marble tanks are ever full
With water for the noonday heat:
Where through the narrow straight Bazaar A little maid Circassian
Is led, a present from the Czar
Unto some old and bearded khan,–
Here have our wild war-eagles flown,
And flapped wide wings in fiery fight; But the sad dove, that sits alone
In England–she hath no delight.
In vain the laughing girl will lean
To greet her love with love-lit eyes: Down in some treacherous black ravine,
Clutching his flag, the dead boy lies.
And many a moon and sun will see
The lingering wistful children wait To climb upon their father’s knee;
And in each house made desolate
Pale women who have lost their lord
Will kiss the relics of the slain– Some tarnished epaulette–some sword–
Poor toys to soothe such anguished pain.
For not in quiet English fields
Are these, our brothers, lain to rest, Where we might deck their broken shields With all the flowers the dead love best.
For some are by the Delhi walls,
And many in the Afghan land,
And many where the Ganges falls
Through seven mouths of shifting sand.
And some in Russian waters lie,
And others in the seas which are
The portals to the East, or by
The wind-swept heights of Trafalgar.
O wandering graves! O restless sleep! O silence of the sunless day!
O still ravine! O stormy deep!
Give up your prey! Give up your prey!
And thou whose wounds are never healed, Whose weary race is never won,
O Cromwell’s England! must thou yield For every inch of ground a son?
Go! crown with thorns thy gold-crowned head, Change thy glad song to song of pain;
Wind and wild wave have got thy dead, And will not yield them back again.
Wave and wild wind and foreign shore
Possess the flower of English land– Lips that thy lips shall kiss no more,
Hands that shall never clasp thy hand.
What profit now that we have bound
The whole round world with nets of gold, If hidden in our heart is found
The care that groweth never old?
What profit that our galleys ride,
Pine-forest-like, on every main?
Ruin and wreck are at our side,
Grim warders of the House of Pain.
Where are the brave, the strong, the fleet? Where is our English chivalry?
Wild grasses are their burial-sheet, And sobbing waves their threnody.
O loved ones lying far away,
What word of love can dead lips send! O wasted dust! O senseless clay!
Is this the end! is this the end!
Peace, peace! we wrong the noble dead To vex their solemn slumber so;
Though childless, and with thorn-crowned head, Up the steep road must England go,
Yet when this fiery web is spun,
Her watchmen shall descry from far
The young Republic like a sun
Rise from these crimson seas of war.
Poem: To Milton
Milton! I think thy spirit hath passed away From these white cliffs and high-embattled towers; This gorgeous fiery-coloured world of ours Seems fallen into ashes dull and grey,
And the age changed unto a mimic play Wherein we waste our else too-crowded hours: For all our pomp and pageantry and powers We are but fit to delve the common clay, Seeing this little isle on which we stand, This England, this sea-lion of the sea,
By ignorant demagogues is held in fee, Who love her not: Dear God! is this the land Which bare a triple empire in her hand
When Cromwell spake the word Democracy!
Poem: Louis Napoleon
Eagle of Austerlitz! where were thy wings When far away upon a barbarous strand,
In fight unequal, by an obscure hand, Fell the last scion of thy brood of Kings!
Poor boy! thou shalt not flaunt thy cloak of red, Or ride in state through Paris in the van Of thy returning legions, but instead
Thy mother France, free and republican,
Shall on thy dead and crownless forehead place The better laurels of a soldier’s crown, That not dishonoured should thy soul go down To tell the mighty Sire of thy race
That France hath kissed the mouth of Liberty, And found it sweeter than his honied bees, And that the giant wave Democracy
Breaks on the shores where Kings lay couched at ease.
Poem: On The Massacre Of The Christians In Bulgaria
Christ, dost Thou live indeed? or are Thy bones Still straitened in their rock-hewn sepulchre? And was Thy Rising only dreamed by her
Whose love of Thee for all her sin atones? For here the air is horrid with men’s groans, The priests who call upon Thy name are slain, Dost Thou not hear the bitter wail of pain From those whose children lie upon the stones? Come down, O Son of God! incestuous gloom Curtains the land, and through the starless night Over Thy Cross a Crescent moon I see!
If Thou in very truth didst burst the tomb Come down, O Son of Man! and show Thy might Lest Mahomet be crowned instead of Thee!
Poem: Quantum Mutata
There was a time in Europe long ago
When no man died for freedom anywhere, But England’s lion leaping from its lair Laid hands on the oppressor! it was so
While England could a great Republic show. Witness the men of Piedmont, chiefest care Of Cromwell, when with impotent despair
The Pontiff in his painted portico
Trembled before our stern ambassadors. How comes it then that from such high estate We have thus fallen, save that Luxury
With barren merchandise piles up the gate Where noble thoughts and deeds should enter by: Else might we still be Milton’s heritors.
Poem: Libertatis Sacra Fames
Albeit nurtured in democracy,
And liking best that state republican Where every man is Kinglike and no man
Is crowned above his fellows, yet I see, Spite of this modern fret for Liberty,
Better the rule of One, whom all obey, Than to let clamorous demagogues betray
Our freedom with the kiss of anarchy. Wherefore I love them not whose hands profane Plant the red flag upon the piled-up street For no right cause, beneath whose ignorant reign Arts, Culture, Reverence, Honour, all things fade, Save Treason and the dagger of her trade, Or Murder with his silent bloody feet.
This mighty empire hath but feet of clay: Of all its ancient chivalry and might
Our little island is forsaken quite: Some enemy hath stolen its crown of bay, And from its hills that voice hath passed away Which spake of Freedom: O come out of it, Come out of it, my Soul, thou art not fit For this vile traffic-house, where day by day Wisdom and reverence are sold at mart,
And the rude people rage with ignorant cries Against an heritage of centuries.
It mars my calm: wherefore in dreams of Art And loftiest culture I would stand apart, Neither for God, nor for his enemies.
Poem: The Garden Of Eros
It is full summer now, the heart of June; Not yet the sunburnt reapers are astir
Upon the upland meadow where too soon Rich autumn time, the season’s usurer,
Will lend his hoarded gold to all the trees, And see his treasure scattered by the wild and spendthrift breeze.
Too soon indeed! yet here the daffodil, That love-child of the Spring, has lingered on To vex the rose with jealousy, and still The harebell spreads her azure pavilion, And like a strayed and wandering reveller Abandoned of its brothers, whom long since June’s messenger
The missel-thrush has frighted from the glade, One pale narcissus loiters fearfully
Close to a shadowy nook, where half afraid Of their own loveliness some violets lie That will not look the gold sun in the face For fear of too much splendour,–ah! methinks it is a place
Which should be trodden by Persephone When wearied of the flowerless fields of Dis! Or danced on by the lads of Arcady!
The hidden secret of eternal bliss
Known to the Grecian here a man might find, Ah! you and I may find it now if Love and Sleep be kind.
There are the flowers which mourning Herakles Strewed on the tomb of Hylas, columbine, Its white doves all a-flutter where the breeze Kissed them too harshly, the small celandine, That yellow-kirtled chorister of eve,
And lilac lady’s-smock,–but let them bloom alone, and leave
Yon spired hollyhock red-crocketed
To sway its silent chimes, else must the bee, Its little bellringer, go seek instead
Some other pleasaunce; the anemone
That weeps at daybreak, like a silly girl Before her love, and hardly lets the butterflies unfurl
Their painted wings beside it,–bid it pine In pale virginity; the winter snow
Will suit it better than those lips of thine Whose fires would but scorch it, rather go And pluck that amorous flower which blooms alone, Fed by the pander wind with dust of kisses not its own.
The trumpet-mouths of red convolvulus So dear to maidens, creamy meadow-sweet
Whiter than Juno’s throat and odorous As all Arabia, hyacinths the feet
Of Huntress Dian would be loth to mar For any dappled fawn,–pluck these, and those fond flowers which are
Fairer than what Queen Venus trod upon Beneath the pines of Ida, eucharis,
That morning star which does not dread the sun, And budding marjoram which but to kiss
Would sweeten Cytheraea’s lips and make Adonis jealous,–these for thy head,–and for thy girdle take
Yon curving spray of purple clematis
Whose gorgeous dye outflames the Tyrian King, And foxgloves with their nodding chalices, But that one narciss which the startled Spring Let from her kirtle fall when first she heard In her own woods the wild tempestuous song of summer’s bird,
Ah! leave it for a subtle memory
Of those sweet tremulous days of rain and sun, When April laughed between her tears to see The early primrose with shy footsteps run From the gnarled oak-tree roots till all the wold, Spite of its brown and trampled leaves, grew bright with shimmering gold.
Nay, pluck it too, it is not half so sweet As thou thyself, my soul’s idolatry!
And when thou art a-wearied at thy feet Shall oxlips weave their brightest tapestry, For thee the woodbine shall forget its pride And veil its tangled whorls, and thou shalt walk on daisies pied.
And I will cut a reed by yonder spring And make the wood-gods jealous, and old Pan Wonder what young intruder dares to sing In these still haunts, where never foot of man Should tread at evening, lest he chance to spy The marble limbs of Artemis and all her company.
And I will tell thee why the jacinth wears Such dread embroidery of dolorous moan,
And why the hapless nightingale forbears To sing her song at noon, but weeps alone When the fleet swallow sleeps, and rich men feast, And why the laurel trembles when she sees the lightening east.
And I will sing how sad Proserpina
Unto a grave and gloomy Lord was wed, And lure the silver-breasted Helena
Back from the lotus meadows of the dead, So shalt thou see that awful loveliness
For which two mighty Hosts met fearfully in war’s abyss!
And then I’ll pipe to thee that Grecian tale How Cynthia loves the lad Endymion,
And hidden in a grey and misty veil Hies to the cliffs of Latmos once the Sun Leaps from his ocean bed in fruitless chase Of those pale flying feet which fade away in his embrace.
And if my flute can breathe sweet melody, We may behold Her face who long ago
Dwelt among men by the AEgean sea,
And whose sad house with pillaged portico And friezeless wall and columns toppled down Looms o’er the ruins of that fair and violet cinctured town.
Spirit of Beauty! tarry still awhile, They are not dead, thine ancient votaries; Some few there are to whom thy radiant smile Is better than a thousand victories,
Though all the nobly slain of Waterloo Rise up in wrath against them! tarry still, there are a few
Who for thy sake would give their manlihood And consecrate their being; I at least
Have done so, made thy lips my daily food, And in thy temples found a goodlier feast Than this starved age can give me, spite of all Its new-found creeds so sceptical and so dogmatical.
Here not Cephissos, not Ilissos flows, The woods of white Colonos are not here, On our bleak hills the olive never blows, No simple priest conducts his lowing steer Up the steep marble way, nor through the town Do laughing maidens bear to thee the crocus-flowered gown.
Yet tarry! for the boy who loved thee best, Whose very name should be a memory
To make thee linger, sleeps in silent rest Beneath the Roman walls, and melody
Still mourns her sweetest lyre; none can play The lute of Adonais: with his lips Song passed away.
Nay, when Keats died the Muses still had left One silver voice to sing his threnody,
But ah! too soon of it we were bereft When on that riven night and stormy sea
Panthea claimed her singer as her own, And slew the mouth that praised her; since which time we walk alone,
Save for that fiery heart, that morning star Of re-arisen England, whose clear eye
Saw from our tottering throne and waste of war The grand Greek limbs of young Democracy Rise mightily like Hesperus and bring
The great Republic! him at least thy love hath taught to sing,
And he hath been with thee at Thessaly, And seen white Atalanta fleet of foot
In passionless and fierce virginity Hunting the tusked boar, his honied lute Hath pierced the cavern of the hollow hill, And Venus laughs to know one knee will bow before her still.
And he hath kissed the lips of Proserpine, And sung the Galilaean’s requiem,
That wounded forehead dashed with blood and wine He hath discrowned, the Ancient Gods in him Have found their last, most ardent worshipper, And the new Sign grows grey and dim before its conqueror.
Spirit of Beauty! tarry with us still, It is not quenched the torch of poesy,
The star that shook above the Eastern hill Holds unassailed its argent armoury
From all the gathering gloom and fretful fight– O tarry with us still! for through the long and common night,
Morris, our sweet and simple Chaucer’s child, Dear heritor of Spenser’s tuneful reed,
With soft and sylvan pipe has oft beguiled The weary soul of man in troublous need, And from the far and flowerless fields of ice Has brought fair flowers to make an earthly paradise.
We know them all, Gudrun the strong men’s bride, Aslaug and Olafson we know them all,
How giant Grettir fought and Sigurd died, And what enchantment held the king in thrall When lonely Brynhild wrestled with the powers That war against all passion, ah! how oft through summer hours,
Long listless summer hours when the noon Being enamoured of a damask rose
Forgets to journey westward, till the moon The pale usurper of its tribute grows
From a thin sickle to a silver shield And chides its loitering car–how oft, in some cool grassy field
Far from the cricket-ground and noisy eight, At Bagley, where the rustling bluebells come Almost before the blackbird finds a mate And overstay the swallow, and the hum
Of many murmuring bees flits through the leaves, Have I lain poring on the dreamy tales his fancy weaves,
And through their unreal woes and mimic pain Wept for myself, and so was purified,
And in their simple mirth grew glad again; For as I sailed upon that pictured tide
The strength and splendour of the storm was mine Without the storm’s red ruin, for the singer is divine;
The little laugh of water falling down Is not so musical, the clammy gold
Close hoarded in the tiny waxen town Has less of sweetness in it, and the old Half-withered reeds that waved in Arcady Touched by his lips break forth again to fresher harmony.
Spirit of Beauty, tarry yet awhile!
Although the cheating merchants of the mart With iron roads profane our lovely isle, And break on whirling wheels the limbs of Art, Ay! though the crowded factories beget
The blindworm Ignorance that slays the soul, O tarry yet!
For One at least there is,–He bears his name From Dante and the seraph Gabriel,–
Whose double laurels burn with deathless flame To light thine altar; He too loves thee well, Who saw old Merlin lured in Vivien’s snare, And the white feet of angels coming down the golden stair,
Loves thee so well, that all the World for him A gorgeous-coloured vestiture must wear, And Sorrow take a purple diadem,
Or else be no more Sorrow, and Despair Gild its own thorns, and Pain, like Adon, be Even in anguish beautiful;–such is the empery
Which Painters hold, and such the heritage This gentle solemn Spirit doth possess,
Being a better mirror of his age
In all his pity, love, and weariness, Than those who can but copy common things, And leave the Soul unpainted with its mighty questionings.
But they are few, and all romance has flown, And men can prophesy about the sun,
And lecture on his arrows–how, alone, Through a waste void the soulless atoms run, How from each tree its weeping nymph has fled, And that no more ‘mid English reeds a Naiad shows her head.
Methinks these new Actaeons boast too soon That they have spied on beauty; what if we Have analysed the rainbow, robbed the moon Of her most ancient, chastest mystery,
Shall I, the last Endymion, lose all hope Because rude eyes peer at my mistress through a telescope!
What profit if this scientific age
Burst through our gates with all its retinue Of modern miracles! Can it assuage
One lover’s breaking heart? what can it do To make one life more beautiful, one day More godlike in its period? but now the Age of Clay
Returns in horrid cycle, and the earth Hath borne again a noisy progeny
Of ignorant Titans, whose ungodly birth Hurls them against the august hierarchy
Which sat upon Olympus; to the Dust They have appealed, and to that barren arbiter they must
Repair for judgment; let them, if they can, From Natural Warfare and insensate Chance, Create the new Ideal rule for man!
Methinks that was not my inheritance; For I was nurtured otherwise, my soul
Passes from higher heights of life to a more supreme goal.
Lo! while we spake the earth did turn away Her visage from the God, and Hecate’s boat Rose silver-laden, till the jealous day
Blew all its torches out: I did not note The waning hours, to young Endymions
Time’s palsied fingers count in vain his rosary of suns!
Mark how the yellow iris wearily
Leans back its throat, as though it would be kissed By its false chamberer, the dragon-fly,
Who, like a blue vein on a girl’s white wrist, Sleeps on that snowy primrose of the night, Which ‘gins to flush with crimson shame, and die beneath the light.
Come let us go, against the pallid shield Of the wan sky the almond blossoms gleam, The corncrake nested in the unmown field Answers its mate, across the misty stream On fitful wing the startled curlews fly, And in his sedgy bed the lark, for joy that Day is nigh,
Scatters the pearled dew from off the grass, In tremulous ecstasy to greet the sun,
Who soon in gilded panoply will pass Forth from yon orange-curtained pavilion Hung in the burning east: see, the red rim O’ertops the expectant hills! it is the God! for love of him
Already the shrill lark is out of sight, Flooding with waves of song this silent dell,– Ah! there is something more in that bird’s flight Than could be tested in a crucible!–
But the air freshens, let us go, why soon The woodmen will be here; how we have lived this night of June!
Tread lightly, she is near
Under the snow,
Speak gently, she can hear
The daisies grow.
All her bright golden hair
Tarnished with rust,
She that was young and fair
Fallen to dust.
Lily-like, white as snow,
She hardly knew
She was a woman, so
Sweetly she grew.
Coffin-board, heavy stone,
Lie on her breast,
I vex my heart alone,
She is at rest.
Peace, Peace, she cannot hear
Lyre or sonnet,
All my life’s buried here,
Heap earth upon it.
Poem: Sonnet On Approaching Italy
I reached the Alps: the soul within me burned, Italia, my Italia, at thy name:
And when from out the mountain’s heart I came And saw the land for which my life had yearned, I laughed as one who some great prize had earned: And musing on the marvel of thy fame
I watched the day, till marked with wounds of flame The turquoise sky to burnished gold was turned. The pine-trees waved as waves a woman’s hair, And in the orchards every twining spray
Was breaking into flakes of blossoming foam: But when I knew that far away at Rome
In evil bonds a second Peter lay,
I wept to see the land so very fair.
Poem: San Miniato
See, I have climbed the mountain side Up to this holy house of God,
Where once that Angel-Painter trod
Who saw the heavens opened wide,
And throned upon the crescent moon
The Virginal white Queen of Grace,– Mary! could I but see thy face
Death could not come at all too soon.
O crowned by God with thorns and pain! Mother of Christ! O mystic wife!
My heart is weary of this life
And over-sad to sing again.
O crowned by God with love and flame! O crowned by Christ the Holy One!
O listen ere the searching sun
Show to the world my sin and shame.
Poem: Ave Maria Gratia Plena
Was this His coming! I had hoped to see A scene of wondrous glory, as was told
Of some great God who in a rain of gold Broke open bars and fell on Danae:
Or a dread vision as when Semele
Sickening for love and unappeased desire Prayed to see God’s clear body, and the fire Caught her brown limbs and slew her utterly: With such glad dreams I sought this holy place, And now with wondering eyes and heart I stand Before this supreme mystery of Love:
Some kneeling girl with passionless pale face, An angel with a lily in his hand,
And over both the white wings of a Dove.
Italia! thou art fallen, though with sheen Of battle-spears thy clamorous armies stride From the north Alps to the Sicilian tide! Ay! fallen, though the nations hail thee Queen Because rich gold in every town is seen, And on thy sapphire-lake in tossing pride Of wind-filled vans thy myriad galleys ride Beneath one flag of red and white and green. O Fair and Strong! O Strong and Fair in vain! Look southward where Rome’s desecrated town Lies mourning for her God-anointed King! Look heaven-ward! shall God allow this thing? Nay! but some flame-girt Raphael shall come down, And smite the Spoiler with the sword of pain.
Poem: Holy Week At Genoa
I wandered through Scoglietto’s far retreat, The oranges on each o’erhanging spray
Burned as bright lamps of gold to shame the day; Some startled bird with fluttering wings and fleet Made snow of all the blossoms; at my feet Like silver moons the pale narcissi lay: And the curved waves that streaked the great green bay Laughed i’ the sun, and life seemed very sweet. Outside the young boy-priest passed singing clear, ‘Jesus the son of Mary has been slain,
O come and fill His sepulchre with flowers.’ Ah, God! Ah, God! those dear Hellenic hours Had drowned all memory of Thy bitter pain, The Cross, the Crown, the Soldiers and the Spear.
Poem: Rome Unvisited
The corn has turned from grey to red, Since first my spirit wandered forth
From the drear cities of the north, And to Italia’s mountains fled.
And here I set my face towards home,
For all my pilgrimage is done,
Although, methinks, yon blood-red sun Marshals the way to Holy Rome.
O Blessed Lady, who dost hold
Upon the seven hills thy reign!
O Mother without blot or stain,
Crowned with bright crowns of triple gold!
O Roma, Roma, at thy feet
I lay this barren gift of song!
For, ah! the way is steep and long
That leads unto thy sacred street.
And yet what joy it were for me
To turn my feet unto the south,
And journeying towards the Tiber mouth To kneel again at Fiesole!
And wandering through the tangled pines That break the gold of Arno’s stream,
To see the purple mist and gleam
Of morning on the Apennines
By many a vineyard-hidden home,
Orchard and olive-garden grey,
Till from the drear Campagna’s way
The seven hills bear up the dome!
A pilgrim from the northern seas–
What joy for me to seek alone
The wondrous temple and the throne
Of him who holds the awful keys!
When, bright with purple and with gold Come priest and holy cardinal,
And borne above the heads of all
The gentle Shepherd of the Fold.
O joy to see before I die
The only God-anointed king,
And hear the silver trumpets ring
A triumph as he passes by!
Or at the brazen-pillared shrine
Holds high the mystic sacrifice,
And shows his God to human eyes
Beneath the veil of bread and wine.
For lo, what changes time can bring!
The cycles of revolving years
May free my heart from all its fears, And teach my lips a song to sing.
Before yon field of trembling gold
Is garnered into dusty sheaves,
Or ere the autumn’s scarlet leaves
Flutter as birds adown the wold,
I may have run the glorious race,
And caught the torch while yet aflame, And called upon the holy name
Of Him who now doth hide His face.
Poem: Urbs Sacra Aeterna
Rome! what a scroll of History thine has been; In the first days thy sword republican
Ruled the whole world for many an age’s span: Then of the peoples wert thou royal Queen, Till in thy streets the bearded Goth was seen; And now upon thy walls the breezes fan
(Ah, city crowned by God, discrowned by man!) The hated flag of red and white and green. When was thy glory! when in search for power Thine eagles flew to greet the double sun, And the wild nations shuddered at thy rod? Nay, but thy glory tarried for this hour, When pilgrims kneel before the Holy One, The prisoned shepherd of the Church of God.
Poem: Sonnet On Hearing The Dies Irae Sung In The Sistine Chapel
Nay, Lord, not thus! white lilies in the spring, Sad olive-groves, or silver-breasted dove, Teach me more clearly of Thy life and love Than terrors of red flame and thundering. The hillside vines dear memories of Thee bring: A bird at evening flying to its nest
Tells me of One who had no place of rest: I think it is of Thee the sparrows sing. Come rather on some autumn afternoon,
When red and brown are burnished on the leaves, And the fields echo to the gleaner’s song, Come when the splendid fulness of the moon Looks down upon the rows of golden sheaves, And reap Thy harvest: we have waited long.
Poem: Easter Day
The silver trumpets rang across the Dome: The people knelt upon the ground with awe: And borne upon the necks of men I saw,
Like some great God, the Holy Lord of Rome. Priest-like, he wore a robe more white than foam, And, king-like, swathed himself in royal red, Three crowns of gold rose high upon his head: In splendour and in light the Pope passed home. My heart stole back across wide wastes of years To One who wandered by a lonely sea,
And sought in vain for any place of rest: ‘Foxes have holes, and every bird its nest. I, only I, must wander wearily,
And bruise my feet, and drink wine salt with tears.’
Poem: E Tenebris
Come down, O Christ, and help me! reach Thy hand, For I am drowning in a stormier sea
Than Simon on Thy lake of Galilee:
The wine of life is spilt upon the sand, My heart is as some famine-murdered land Whence all good things have perished utterly, And well I know my soul in Hell must lie If I this night before God’s throne should stand. ‘He sleeps perchance, or rideth to the chase, Like Baal, when his prophets howled that name From morn to noon on Carmel’s smitten height.’ Nay, peace, I shall behold, before the night, The feet of brass, the robe more white than flame, The wounded hands, the weary human face.
Poem: Vita Nuova
I stood by the unvintageable sea
Till the wet waves drenched face and hair with spray; The long red fires of the dying day
Burned in the west; the wind piped drearily; And to the land the clamorous gulls did flee: ‘Alas!’ I cried, ‘my life is full of pain, And who can garner fruit or golden grain From these waste fields which travail ceaselessly!’ My nets gaped wide with many a break and flaw, Nathless I threw them as my final cast
Into the sea, and waited for the end. When lo! a sudden glory! and I saw
From the black waters of my tortured past The argent splendour of white limbs ascend!
Poem: Madonna Mia
A lily-girl, not made for this world’s pain, With brown, soft hair close braided by her ears, And longing eyes half veiled by slumberous tears Like bluest water seen through mists of rain: Pale cheeks whereon no love hath left its stain, Red underlip drawn in for fear of love,
And white throat, whiter than the silvered dove, Through whose wan marble creeps one purple vein. Yet, though my lips shall praise her without cease, Even to kiss her feet I am not bold,
Being o’ershadowed by the wings of awe, Like Dante, when he stood with Beatrice
Beneath the flaming Lion’s breast, and saw The seventh Crystal, and the Stair of Gold.
Poem: The New Helen
Where hast thou been since round the walls of Troy The sons of God fought in that great emprise? Why dost thou walk our common earth again? Hast thou forgotten that impassioned boy, His purple galley and his Tyrian men
And treacherous Aphrodite’s mocking eyes? For surely it was thou, who, like a star Hung in the silver silence of the night, Didst lure the Old World’s chivalry and might Into the clamorous crimson waves of war!
Or didst thou rule the fire-laden moon? In amorous Sidon was thy temple built
Over the light and laughter of the sea Where, behind lattice scarlet-wrought and gilt, Some brown-limbed girl did weave thee tapestry, All through the waste and wearied hours of noon; Till her wan cheek with flame of passion burned, And she rose up the sea-washed lips to kiss Of some glad Cyprian sailor, safe returned From Calpe and the cliffs of Herakles!
No! thou art Helen, and none other one! It was for thee that young Sarpedon died, And Memnon’s manhood was untimely spent; It was for thee gold-crested Hector tried With Thetis’ child that evil race to run, In the last year of thy beleaguerment;
Ay! even now the glory of thy fame
Burns in those fields of trampled asphodel, Where the high lords whom Ilion knew so well Clash ghostly shields, and call upon thy name.
Where hast thou been? in that enchanted land Whose slumbering vales forlorn Calypso knew, Where never mower rose at break of day
But all unswathed the trammelling grasses grew, And the sad shepherd saw the tall corn stand Till summer’s red had changed to withered grey? Didst thou lie there by some Lethaean stream Deep brooding on thine ancient memory,
The crash of broken spears, the fiery gleam From shivered helm, the Grecian battle-cry?
Nay, thou wert hidden in that hollow hill With one who is forgotten utterly,
That discrowned Queen men call the Erycine; Hidden away that never mightst thou see
The face of Her, before whose mouldering shrine To-day at Rome the silent nations kneel; Who gat from Love no joyous gladdening,
But only Love’s intolerable pain,
Only a sword to pierce her heart in twain, Only the bitterness of child-bearing.
The lotus-leaves which heal the wounds of Death Lie in thy hand; O, be thou kind to me,
While yet I know the summer of my days; For hardly can my tremulous lips draw breath To fill the silver trumpet with thy praise, So bowed am I before thy mystery;
So bowed and broken on Love’s terrible wheel, That I have lost all hope and heart to sing, Yet care I not what ruin time may bring
If in thy temple thou wilt let me kneel.
Alas, alas, thou wilt not tarry here, But, like that bird, the servant of the sun, Who flies before the north wind and the night, So wilt thou fly our evil land and drear, Back to the tower of thine old delight,
And the red lips of young Euphorion; Nor shall I ever see thy face again,
But in this poisonous garden-close must stay, Crowning my brows with the thorn-crown of pain, Till all my loveless life shall pass away.
O Helen! Helen! Helen! yet a while,
Yet for a little while, O, tarry here, Till the dawn cometh and the shadows flee! For in the gladsome sunlight of thy smile Of heaven or hell I have no thought or fear, Seeing I know no other god but thee:
No other god save him, before whose feet In nets of gold the tired planets move,
The incarnate spirit of spiritual love Who in thy body holds his joyous seat.
Thou wert not born as common women are! But, girt with silver splendour of the foam, Didst from the depths of sapphire seas arise! And at thy coming some immortal star,
Bearded with flame, blazed in the Eastern skies, And waked the shepherds on thine island-home. Thou shalt not die: no asps of Egypt creep Close at thy heels to taint the delicate air; No sullen-blooming poppies stain thy hair, Those scarlet heralds of eternal sleep.
Lily of love, pure and inviolate!
Tower of ivory! red rose of fire!
Thou hast come down our darkness to illume: For we, close-caught in the wide nets of Fate, Wearied with waiting for the World’s Desire, Aimlessly wandered in the House of gloom, Aimlessly sought some slumberous anodyne For wasted lives, for lingering wretchedness, Till we beheld thy re-arisen shrine,
And the white glory of thy loveliness.
Poem: The Burden Of Itys
This English Thames is holier far than Rome, Those harebells like a sudden flush of sea Breaking across the woodland, with the foam Of meadow-sweet and white anemone
To fleck their blue waves,–God is likelier there Than hidden in that crystal-hearted star the pale monks bear!
Those violet-gleaming butterflies that take Yon creamy lily for their pavilion
Are monsignores, and where the rushes shake A lazy pike lies basking in the sun,
His eyes half shut,–he is some mitred old Bishop in partibus! look at those gaudy scales all green and gold.
The wind the restless prisoner of the trees Does well for Palaestrina, one would say The mighty master’s hands were on the keys Of the Maria organ, which they play
When early on some sapphire Easter morn In a high litter red as blood or sin the Pope is borne
From his dark House out to the Balcony Above the bronze gates and the crowded square, Whose very fountains seem for ecstasy
To toss their silver lances in the air, And stretching out weak hands to East and West In vain sends peace to peaceless lands, to restless nations rest.
Is not yon lingering orange after-glow That stays to vex the moon more fair than all Rome’s lordliest pageants! strange, a year ago I knelt before some crimson Cardinal
Who bare the Host across the Esquiline, And now–those common poppies in the wheat seem twice as fine.
The blue-green beanfields yonder, tremulous With the last shower, sweeter perfume bring Through this cool evening than the odorous Flame-jewelled censers the young deacons swing, When the grey priest unlocks the curtained shrine, And makes God’s body from the common fruit of corn and vine.
Poor Fra Giovanni bawling at the mass Were out of tune now, for a small brown bird Sings overhead, and through the long cool grass I see that throbbing throat which once I heard On starlit hills of flower-starred Arcady, Once where the white and crescent sand of Salamis meets sea.
Sweet is the swallow twittering on the eaves At daybreak, when the mower whets his scythe, And stock-doves murmur, and the milkmaid leaves Her little lonely bed, and carols blithe To see the heavy-lowing cattle wait
Stretching their huge and dripping mouths across the farmyard gate.
And sweet the hops upon the Kentish leas, And sweet the wind that lifts the new-mown hay, And sweet the fretful swarms of grumbling bees That round and round the linden blossoms play; And sweet the heifer breathing in the stall, And the green bursting figs that hang upon the red-brick wall,
And sweet to hear the cuckoo mock the spring While the last violet loiters by the well, And sweet to hear the shepherd Daphnis sing The song of Linus through a sunny dell
Of warm Arcadia where the corn is gold And the slight lithe-limbed reapers dance about the wattled fold.
And sweet with young Lycoris to recline In some Illyrian valley far away,
Where canopied on herbs amaracine
We too might waste the summer-tranced day Matching our reeds in sportive rivalry,
While far beneath us frets the troubled purple of the sea.
But sweeter far if silver-sandalled foot Of some long-hidden God should ever tread The Nuneham meadows, if with reeded flute Pressed to his lips some Faun might raise his head By the green water-flags, ah! sweet indeed To see the heavenly herdsman call his white-fleeced flock to feed.
Then sing to me thou tuneful chorister, Though what thou sing’st be thine own requiem! Tell me thy tale thou hapless chronicler Of thine own tragedies! do not contemn
These unfamiliar haunts, this English field, For many a lovely coronal our northern isle can yield
Which Grecian meadows know not, many a rose Which all day long in vales AEolian
A lad might seek in vain for over-grows Our hedges like a wanton courtesan
Unthrifty of its beauty; lilies too Ilissos never mirrored star our streams, and cockles blue
Dot the green wheat which, though they are the signs For swallows going south, would never spread Their azure tents between the Attic vines; Even that little weed of ragged red,
Which bids the robin pipe, in Arcady Would be a trespasser, and many an unsung elegy
Sleeps in the reeds that fringe our winding Thames Which to awake were sweeter ravishment
Than ever Syrinx wept for; diadems
Of brown bee-studded orchids which were meant For Cytheraea’s brows are hidden here
Unknown to Cytheraea, and by yonder pasturing steer
There is a tiny yellow daffodil,
The butterfly can see it from afar, Although one summer evening’s dew could fill Its little cup twice over ere the star
Had called the lazy shepherd to his fold And be no prodigal; each leaf is flecked with spotted gold
As if Jove’s gorgeous leman Danae
Hot from his gilded arms had stooped to kiss The trembling petals, or young Mercury
Low-flying to the dusky ford of Dis Had with one feather of his pinions
Just brushed them! the slight stem which bears the burden of its suns
Is hardly thicker than the gossamer,
Or poor Arachne’s silver tapestry,– Men say it bloomed upon the sepulchre
Of One I sometime worshipped, but to me It seems to bring diviner memories
Of faun-loved Heliconian glades and blue nymph-haunted seas,
Of an untrodden vale at Tempe where
On the clear river’s marge Narcissus lies, The tangle of the forest in his hair,
The silence of the woodland in his eyes, Wooing that drifting imagery which is
No sooner kissed than broken; memories of Salmacis
Who is not boy nor girl and yet is both, Fed by two fires and unsatisfied
Through their excess, each passion being loth For love’s own sake to leave the other’s side Yet killing love by staying; memories
Of Oreads peeping through the leaves of silent moonlit trees,
Of lonely Ariadne on the wharf
At Naxos, when she saw the treacherous crew Far out at sea, and waved her crimson scarf And called false Theseus back again nor knew That Dionysos on an amber pard
Was close behind her; memories of what Maeonia’s bard
With sightless eyes beheld, the wall of Troy, Queen Helen lying in the ivory room,
And at her side an amorous red-lipped boy Trimming with dainty hand his helmet’s plume, And far away the moil, the shout, the groan, As Hector shielded off the spear and Ajax hurled the stone;
Of winged Perseus with his flawless sword Cleaving the snaky tresses of the witch, And all those tales imperishably stored
In little Grecian urns, freightage more rich Than any gaudy galleon of Spain
Bare from the Indies ever! these at least bring back again,
For well I know they are not dead at all, The ancient Gods of Grecian poesy:
They are asleep, and when they hear thee call Will wake and think ‘t is very Thessaly, This Thames the Daulian waters, this cool glade The yellow-irised mead where once young Itys laughed and played.
If it was thou dear jasmine-cradled bird Who from the leafy stillness of thy throne Sang to the wondrous boy, until he heard The horn of Atalanta faintly blown
Across the Cumnor hills, and wandering Through Bagley wood at evening found the Attic poets’ spring,–
Ah! tiny sober-suited advocate
That pleadest for the moon against the day! If thou didst make the shepherd seek his mate On that sweet questing, when Proserpina
Forgot it was not Sicily and leant
Across the mossy Sandford stile in ravished wonderment,–
Light-winged and bright-eyed miracle of the wood! If ever thou didst soothe with melody
One of that little clan, that brotherhood Which loved the morning-star of Tuscany
More than the perfect sun of Raphael And is immortal, sing to me! for I too love thee well.
Sing on! sing on! let the dull world grow young, Let elemental things take form again,
And the old shapes of Beauty walk among The simple garths and open crofts, as when The son of Leto bare the willow rod,
And the soft sheep and shaggy goats followed the boyish God.
Sing on! sing on! and Bacchus will be here Astride upon his gorgeous Indian throne, And over whimpering tigers shake the spear With yellow ivy crowned and gummy cone,
While at his side the wanton Bassarid Will throw the lion by the mane and catch the mountain kid!
Sing on! and I will wear the leopard skin, And steal the mooned wings of Ashtaroth, Upon whose icy chariot we could win
Cithaeron in an hour ere the froth
Has over-brimmed the wine-vat or the Faun Ceased from the treading! ay, before the flickering lamp of dawn
Has scared the hooting owlet to its nest, And warned the bat to close its filmy vans, Some Maenad girl with vine-leaves on her breast Will filch their beech-nuts from the sleeping Pans So softly that the little nested thrush
Will never wake, and then with shrilly laugh and leap will rush
Down the green valley where the fallen dew Lies thick beneath the elm and count her store, Till the brown Satyrs in a jolly crew
Trample the loosestrife down along the shore, And where their horned master sits in state Bring strawberries and bloomy plums upon a wicker crate!
Sing on! and soon with passion-wearied face Through the cool leaves Apollo’s lad will come, The Tyrian prince his bristled boar will chase Adown the chestnut-copses all a-bloom,
And ivory-limbed, grey-eyed, with look of pride, After yon velvet-coated deer the virgin maid will ride.
Sing on! and I the dying boy will see Stain with his purple blood the waxen bell That overweighs the jacinth, and to me
The wretched Cyprian her woe will tell, And I will kiss her mouth and streaming eyes, And lead her to the myrtle-hidden grove where Adon lies!
Cry out aloud on Itys! memory
That foster-brother of remorse and pain Drops poison in mine ear,–O to be free, To burn one’s old ships! and to launch again Into the white-plumed battle of the waves And fight old Proteus for the spoil of coral-flowered caves!
O for Medea with her poppied spell!
O for the secret of the Colchian shrine! O for one leaf of that pale asphodel
Which binds the tired brows of Proserpine, And sheds such wondrous dews at eve that she Dreams of the fields of Enna, by the far Sicilian sea,
Where oft the golden-girdled bee she chased From lily to lily on the level mead,
Ere yet her sombre Lord had bid her taste The deadly fruit of that pomegranate seed, Ere the black steeds had harried her away Down to the faint and flowerless land, the sick and sunless day.
O for one midnight and as paramour
The Venus of the little Melian farm! O that some antique statue for one hour
Might wake to passion, and that I could charm The Dawn at Florence from its dumb despair, Mix with those mighty limbs and make that giant breast my lair!
Sing on! sing on! I would be drunk with life, Drunk with the trampled vintage of my youth, I would forget the wearying wasted strife, The riven veil, the Gorgon eyes of Truth, The prayerless vigil and the cry for prayer, The barren gifts, the lifted arms, the dull insensate air!
Sing on! sing on! O feathered Niobe,
Thou canst make sorrow beautiful, and steal From joy its sweetest music, not as we
Who by dead voiceless silence strive to heal Our too untented wounds, and do but keep Pain barricadoed in our hearts, and murder pillowed sleep.
Sing louder yet, why must I still behold The wan white face of that deserted Christ, Whose bleeding hands my hands did once enfold, Whose smitten lips my lips so oft have kissed, And now in mute and marble misery
Sits in his lone dishonoured House and weeps, perchance for me?
O Memory cast down thy wreathed shell! Break thy hoarse lute O sad Melpomene!
O Sorrow, Sorrow keep thy cloistered cell Nor dim with tears this limpid Castaly!
Cease, Philomel, thou dost the forest wrong To vex its sylvan quiet with such wild impassioned song!
Cease, cease, or if ‘t is anguish to be dumb Take from the pastoral thrush her simpler air, Whose jocund carelessness doth more become This English woodland than thy keen despair, Ah! cease and let the north wind bear thy lay Back to the rocky hills of Thrace, the stormy Daulian bay.
A moment more, the startled leaves had stirred, Endymion would have passed across the mead Moonstruck with love, and this still Thames had heard Pan plash and paddle groping for some reed To lure from her blue cave that Naiad maid Who for such piping listens half in joy and half afraid.
A moment more, the waking dove had cooed, The silver daughter of the silver sea
With the fond gyves of clinging hands had wooed Her wanton from the chase, and Dryope
Had thrust aside the branches of her oak To see the lusty gold-haired lad rein in his snorting yoke.
A moment more, the trees had stooped to kiss Pale Daphne just awakening from the swoon Of tremulous laurels, lonely Salmacis
Had bared his barren beauty to the moon, And through the vale with sad voluptuous smile Antinous had wandered, the red lotus of the Nile
Down leaning from his black and clustering hair, To shade those slumberous eyelids’ caverned bliss, Or else on yonder grassy slope with bare High-tuniced limbs unravished Artemis
Had bade her hounds give tongue, and roused the deer From his green ambuscade with shrill halloo and pricking spear.
Lie still, lie still, O passionate heart, lie still! O Melancholy, fold thy raven wing!
O sobbing Dryad, from thy hollow hill Come not with such despondent answering! No more thou winged Marsyas complain,
Apollo loveth not to hear such troubled songs of pain!
It was a dream, the glade is tenantless, No soft Ionian laughter moves the air,
The Thames creeps on in sluggish leadenness, And from the copse left desolate and bare Fled is young Bacchus with his revelry,
Yet still from Nuneham wood there comes that thrilling melody
So sad, that one might think a human heart Brake in each separate note, a quality
Which music sometimes has, being the Art Which is most nigh to tears and memory;
Poor mourning Philomel, what dost thou fear? Thy sister doth not haunt these fields, Pandion is not here,
Here is no cruel Lord with murderous blade, No woven web of bloody heraldries,
But mossy dells for roving comrades made, Warm valleys where the tired student lies With half-shut book, and many a winding walk Where rustic lovers stray at eve in happy simple talk.
The harmless rabbit gambols with its young Across the trampled towing-path, where late A troop of laughing boys in jostling throng Cheered with their noisy cries the racing eight; The gossamer, with ravelled silver threads, Works at its little loom, and from the dusky red-eaved sheds
Of the lone Farm a flickering light shines out Where the swinked shepherd drives his bleating flock Back to their wattled sheep-cotes, a faint shout Comes from some Oxford boat at Sandford lock, And starts the moor-hen from the sedgy rill, And the dim lengthening shadows flit like swallows up the hill.
The heron passes homeward to the mere, The blue mist creeps among the shivering trees, Gold world by world the silent stars appear, And like a blossom blown before the breeze A white moon drifts across the shimmering sky, Mute arbitress of all thy sad, thy rapturous threnody.
She does not heed thee, wherefore should she heed, She knows Endymion is not far away;
‘Tis I, ’tis I, whose soul is as the reed Which has no message of its own to play, So pipes another’s bidding, it is I,
Drifting with every wind on the wide sea of misery.
Ah! the brown bird has ceased: one exquisite trill About the sombre woodland seems to cling Dying in music, else the air is still,
So still that one might hear the bat’s small wing Wander and wheel above the pines, or tell Each tiny dew-drop dripping from the bluebell’s brimming cell.
And far away across the lengthening wold, Across the willowy flats and thickets brown, Magdalen’s tall tower tipped with tremulous gold Marks the long High Street of the little town, And warns me to return; I must not wait, Hark ! ‘t is the curfew booming from the bell at Christ Church gate.
Poem: Impression Du Matin
The Thames nocturne of blue and gold
Changed to a Harmony in grey:
A barge with ochre-coloured hay
Dropt from the wharf: and chill and cold
The yellow fog came creeping down
The bridges, till the houses’ walls Seemed changed to shadows and St. Paul’s Loomed like a bubble o’er the town.
Then suddenly arose the clang
Of waking life; the streets were stirred With country waggons: and a bird
Flew to the glistening roofs and sang.
But one pale woman all alone,
The daylight kissing her wan hair,
Loitered beneath the gas lamps’ flare, With lips of flame and heart of stone.
Poem: Magdalen Walks
The little white clouds are racing over the sky, And the fields are strewn with the gold of the flower of March, The daffodil breaks under foot, and the tasselled larch Sways and swings as the thrush goes hurrying by.
A delicate odour is borne on the wings of the morning breeze, The odour of deep wet grass, and of brown new-furrowed earth, The birds are singing for joy of the Spring’s glad birth, Hopping from branch to branch on the rocking trees.
And all the woods are alive with the murmur and sound of Spring, And the rose-bud breaks into pink on the climbing briar, And the crocus-bed is a quivering moon of fire Girdled round with the belt of an amethyst ring.
And the plane to the pine-tree is whispering some tale of love Till it rustles with laughter and tosses its mantle of green, And the gloom of the wych-elm’s hollow is lit with the iris sheen Of the burnished rainbow throat and the silver breast of a dove.
See! the lark starts up from his bed in the meadow there, Breaking the gossamer threads and the nets of dew, And flashing adown the river, a flame of blue! The kingfisher flies like an arrow, and wounds the air.
To that gaunt House of Art which lacks for naught Of all the great things men have saved from Time, The withered body of a girl was brought
Dead ere the world’s glad youth had touched its prime, And seen by lonely Arabs lying hid
In the dim womb of some black pyramid.
But when they had unloosed the linen band Which swathed the Egyptian’s body,–lo! was found Closed in the wasted hollow of her hand
A little seed, which sown in English ground Did wondrous snow of starry blossoms bear And spread rich odours through our spring-tide air.
With such strange arts this flower did allure That all forgotten was the asphodel,
And the brown bee, the lily’s paramour, Forsook the cup where he was wont to dwell, For not a thing of earth it seemed to be, But stolen from some heavenly Arcady.
In vain the sad narcissus, wan and white At its own beauty, hung across the stream, The purple dragon-fly had no delight
With its gold dust to make his wings a-gleam, Ah! no delight the jasmine-bloom to kiss, Or brush the rain-pearls from the eucharis.
For love of it the passionate nightingale Forgot the hills of Thrace, the cruel king, And the pale dove no longer cared to sail Through the wet woods at time of blossoming, But round this flower of Egypt sought to float, With silvered wing and amethystine throat.
While the hot sun blazed in his tower of blue A cooling wind crept from the land of snows, And the warm south with tender tears of dew Drenched its white leaves when Hesperos up-rose Amid those sea-green meadows of the sky
On which the scarlet bars of sunset lie.
But when o’er wastes of lily-haunted field The tired birds had stayed their amorous tune, And broad and glittering like an argent shield High in the sapphire heavens hung the moon, Did no strange dream or evil memory make Each tremulous petal of its blossoms shake?
Ah no! to this bright flower a thousand years Seemed but the lingering of a summer’s day, It never knew the tide of cankering fears Which turn a boy’s gold hair to withered grey, The dread desire of death it never knew, Or how all folk that they were born must rue.
For we to death with pipe and dancing go, Nor would we pass the ivory gate again,
As some sad river wearied of its flow Through the dull plains, the haunts of common men, Leaps lover-like into the terrible sea!
And counts it gain to die so gloriously.
We mar our lordly strength in barren strife With the world’s legions led by clamorous care, It never feels decay but gathers life
From the pure sunlight and the supreme air, We live beneath Time’s wasting sovereignty, It is the child of all eternity.
Poem: Serenade (For Music)
The western wind is blowing fair
Across the dark AEgean sea,
And at the secret marble stair
My Tyrian galley waits for thee.
Come down! the purple sail is spread, The watchman sleeps within the town,
O leave thy lily-flowered bed,
O Lady mine come down, come down!
She will not come, I know her well,
Of lover’s vows she hath no care,
And little good a man can tell
Of one so cruel and so fair.
True love is but a woman’s toy,
They never know the lover’s pain,
And I who loved as loves a boy
Must love in vain, must love in vain.
O noble pilot, tell me true,
Is that the sheen of golden hair?
Or is it but the tangled dew
That binds the passion-flowers there? Good sailor come and tell me now
Is that my Lady’s lily hand?
Or is it but the gleaming prow,
Or is it but the silver sand?
No! no! ’tis not the tangled dew,
‘Tis not the silver-fretted sand,
It is my own dear Lady true
With golden hair and lily hand!
O noble pilot, steer for Troy,
Good sailor, ply the labouring oar, This is the Queen of life and joy
Whom we must bear from Grecian shore!
The waning sky grows faint and blue,
It wants an hour still of day,
Aboard! aboard! my gallant crew,
O Lady mine, away! away!
O noble pilot, steer for Troy,
Good sailor, ply the labouring oar, O loved as only loves a boy!
O loved for ever evermore!
Poem: Endymion (For Music)
The apple trees are hung with gold,
And birds are loud in Arcady,
The sheep lie bleating in the fold, The wild goat runs across the wold,
But yesterday his love he told,
I know he will come back to me.
O rising moon! O Lady moon!
Be you my lover’s sentinel,
You cannot choose but know him well, For he is shod with purple shoon,
You cannot choose but know my love, For he a shepherd’s crook doth bear,
And he is soft as any dove,
And brown and curly is his hair.
The turtle now has ceased to call
Upon her crimson-footed groom,
The grey wolf prowls about the stall, The lily’s singing seneschal
Sleeps in the lily-bell, and all
The violet hills are lost in gloom. O risen moon! O holy moon!
Stand on the top of Helice,
And if my own true love you see,
Ah! if you see the purple shoon,
The hazel crook, the lad’s brown hair, The goat-skin wrapped about his arm,
Tell him that I am waiting where
The rushlight glimmers in the Farm.
The falling dew is cold and chill,
And no bird sings in Arcady,
The little fauns have left the hill, Even the tired daffodil
Has closed its gilded doors, and still My lover comes not back to me.
False moon! False moon! O waning moon! Where is my own true lover gone,
Where are the lips vermilion,
The shepherd’s crook, the purple shoon? Why spread that silver pavilion,
Why wear that veil of drifting mist? Ah! thou hast young Endymion,
Thou hast the lips that should be kissed!
Poem: La Bella Donna Della Mia Mente
My limbs are wasted with a flame,
My feet are sore with travelling,
For, calling on my Lady’s name,
My lips have now forgot to sing.
O Linnet in the wild-rose brake
Strain for my Love thy melody,
O Lark sing louder for love’s sake, My gentle Lady passeth by.
She is too fair for any man
To see or hold his heart’s delight, Fairer than Queen or courtesan
Or moonlit water in the night.
Her hair is bound with myrtle leaves, (Green leaves upon her golden hair!)
Green grasses through the yellow sheaves Of autumn corn are not more fair.
Her little lips, more made to kiss
Than to cry bitterly for pain,
Are tremulous as brook-water is,
Or roses after evening rain.
Her neck is like white melilote
Flushing for pleasure of the sun,
The throbbing of the linnet’s throat Is not so sweet to look upon.
As a pomegranate, cut in twain,
White-seeded, is her crimson mouth, Her cheeks are as the fading stain
Where the peach reddens to the south.
O twining hands! O delicate
White body made for love and pain!
O House of love! O desolate
Pale flower beaten by the rain!
A ring of gold and a milk-white dove
Are goodly gifts for thee,
And a hempen rope for your own love To hang upon a tree.
For you a House of Ivory,
(Roses are white in the rose-bower)! A narrow bed for me to lie,
(White, O white, is the hemlock flower)!
Myrtle and jessamine for you,
(O the red rose is fair to see)!
For me the cypress and the rue,
(Finest of all is rosemary)!
For you three lovers of your hand,
(Green grass where a man lies dead)! For me three paces on the sand,
(Plant lilies at my head)!
He was a Grecian lad, who coming home With pulpy figs and wine from Sicily
Stood at his galley’s prow, and let the foam Blow through his crisp brown curls unconsciously, And holding wave and wind in boy’s despite Peered from his dripping seat across the wet and stormy night.
Till with the dawn he saw a burnished spear Like a thin thread of gold against the sky, And hoisted sail, and strained the creaking gear, And bade the pilot head her lustily
Against the nor’west gale, and all day long Held on his way, and marked the rowers’ time with measured song.
And when the faint Corinthian hills were red Dropped anchor in a little sandy bay,
And with fresh boughs of olive crowned his head, And brushed from cheek and throat the hoary spray, And washed his limbs with oil, and from the hold Brought out his linen tunic and his sandals brazen-soled,
And a rich robe stained with the fishers’ juice Which of some swarthy trader he had bought Upon the sunny quay at Syracuse,
And was with Tyrian broideries inwrought, And by the questioning merchants made his way Up through the soft and silver woods, and when the labouring day
Had spun its tangled web of crimson cloud, Clomb the high hill, and with swift silent feet Crept to the fane unnoticed by the crowd Of busy priests, and from some dark retreat Watched the young swains his frolic playmates bring The firstling of their little flock, and the shy shepherd fling
The crackling salt upon the flame, or hang His studded crook against the temple wall To Her who keeps away the ravenous fang
Of the base wolf from homestead and from stall; And then the clear-voiced maidens ‘gan to sing, And to the altar each man brought some goodly offering,
A beechen cup brimming with milky foam, A fair cloth wrought with cunning imagery Of hounds in chase, a waxen honey-comb
Dripping with oozy gold which scarce the bee Had ceased from building, a black skin of oil Meet for the wrestlers, a great boar the fierce and white-tusked spoil
Stolen from Artemis that jealous maid To please Athena, and the dappled hide
Of a tall stag who in some mountain glade Had met the shaft; and then the herald cried, And from the pillared precinct one by one Went the glad Greeks well pleased that they their simple vows had done.
And the old priest put out the waning fires Save that one lamp whose restless ruby glowed For ever in the cell, and the shrill lyres Came fainter on the wind, as down the road In joyous dance these country folk did pass, And with stout hands the warder closed the gates of polished brass.
Long time he lay and hardly dared to breathe, And heard the cadenced drip of spilt-out wine, And the rose-petals falling from the wreath As the night breezes wandered through the shrine, And seemed to be in some entranced swoon Till through the open roof above the full and brimming moon
Flooded with sheeny waves the marble floor, When from his nook up leapt the venturous lad, And flinging wide the cedar-carven door
Beheld an awful image saffron-clad
And armed for battle! the gaunt Griffin glared From the huge helm, and the long lance of wreck and ruin flared
Like a red rod of flame, stony and steeled The Gorgon’s head its leaden eyeballs rolled, And writhed its snaky horrors through the shield, And gaped aghast with bloodless lips and cold In passion impotent, while with blind gaze The blinking owl between the feet hooted in shrill amaze.
The lonely fisher as he trimmed his lamp Far out at sea off Sunium, or cast
The net for tunnies, heard a brazen tramp Of horses smite the waves, and a wild blast Divide the folded curtains of the night, And knelt upon the little poop, and prayed in holy fright.
And guilty lovers in their venery
Forgat a little while their stolen sweets, Deeming they heard dread Dian’s bitter cry; And the grim watchmen on their lofty seats Ran to their shields in haste precipitate, Or strained black-bearded throats across the dusky parapet.
For round the temple rolled the clang of arms, And the twelve Gods leapt up in marble fear, And the air quaked with dissonant alarums Till huge Poseidon shook his mighty spear, And on the frieze the prancing horses neighed, And the low tread of hurrying feet rang from the cavalcade.