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Muriel St Clare Byrne published a complete book of poems in 1917 - with the title Aldebaran. This book was number fourteen in Blackwell’s ‘Adventurers All’ series of books that were intended to provide hitherto unknown poets with the opportunity to publish their work.
Aldebaran, known as Alpha Taurii, is the brightest star in the constellation of Taurus (the Bull). It is an orange giant star located right where an eye might be in the head of the Bull.
Astrologers associate Aldebaran with birthdays from 29th May to 1st June and with descriptive words such as: desire, romance, knights-in-shining-armour, strength, and chivalry. Muriel was born on the 31st May, and she wrote these poems when she was at Somerville College, when the First World War was taking its sickening toll, and when she was entering the world of same-sex relationships!
THE bells of Magdalen ringing, and the dusk
Creeping in filmy veils about the trees,
A winter sunset fading in the sky;
These things I shall remember when I die;
Your hair, just stirring in the cool night breeze,
By the open window; the crackle of a husk
In the glowing fire, flaring yellow-white
For one brief instant; beech trees in November
That fringe some sloping ploughland, Elsfield way;
The white and crimson splendour of the May
O’er shadow’d waters: these I shall remember:
And all the starry wonder of the night.
THE sea is calling,
The dusk is falling,
The sea is calling,
And night is near.
The trees are sighing,
The far seals crying,
The trees are sighing,
The house is drear.
Ah! fear not, a rúin,
The night, mavourneen,
Ah! fear not, a rúin,
For I am here!
a rúin is Irish Gaelic for ‘oh love’.
mavourneen is a term of endearment derived from Irish Gaelic.
THE lamps were lit,
And still the rain poured ceaselessly
Upon the little narrow cobbled slum-like street,
And the stones glistened.
I was sad for them,
Because I knew they lay there in the rain
Dreaming of those clear amber depths
Beneath the waters of a tarn
Lost long ago,
A mountain lough in Ireland.
SHE would not let me come to her;
Night after night
I tried to reach her soul:
But it was bright
And glassy, hard, impregnable,
Between me and herself—
No way could I come to her;
And then one night
I swore I would:
Hour after hour I lay
Till nearly day,
While all my desperate being sought
To find a way
Past her defence; I though
If I but willed it hard enough
She’d let me come; and wild
With misery I hardly knew
The thing I did,
But pushing madly through
At last came where she hid . . .
I found her crying like a child.
ENGLISH IN THE SECOND FORM
WHAT is the Spanish Main?
It’s a continent near to Spain.
Some people say it’s an ocean—
A very ridiculous notion:
I think it’s perfectly silly;
It’s a continent, wooded and hilly,
With many a deep ravine
And torrents that flow between.
It’s a continent where you may find
Birds and beasts to your mind:
Where an iguanodon
Is a normal phenomenon,
Where lions and leopards abound,
And striped macaws fly round,
And snakes of marvellous hue
Are practically always on view.
It has secret caves galore
Approachable from the shore
When the tide is a certain height,
Or, if it’s a pitch dark night,
You may risk the secret way
That you daren’t attempt by day.
The inhabitants of this land
Are a beautiful scoundrelly band:
Long John Silver and Pew
Are chief of the rascally crew,
Goldshark, Black Harry and Flint,
And the Dutchman, with the squint,
Sharkteeth, Barracouta and Kidd,
Searching for treasure they hid.
The Faery Queen’s all right
When you don’t stay prep. at night—
It’s a jolly tale to tell,
And fairyland’s all very well
For a kid of six or seven,
But when a fellow’s eleven
He doesn’t want to go where
They don’t know how to swear.
ON THE HILL
And all that I sang
As a singer ‘midst men
Were the echoes that rang
In the soul of me then,
That were born in thee first, the perfection
of song, and but echoed again.
DAWN at last! The air
Blows chilly and damp round my head;
The light touches your hair,
And the tumbled sheets on your bed.
Peacefully you sleep:
On the roof I hear the rain:
I hear your breathing deep,
And I turn to sleep again,
At the light on your red-gold hair,
And a rich day yet to be spent . . .
The dawn is wondrous fair.
A COLD clean wind comes blowing
Across the little hills,
Beneath the morning sunlight
My heart with gladness fills.
Oh! Many a Spring-sweet morning
All chill and fresh with rains
The ecstasy of living
Just thundered in my veins!
For morning suns are sweetest,
And morning winds are strong,
And morning suits with youth-time
For morning hours are long,
Oh morning hours are long!
I CAN remember best
The afternoons that fled
While we cut the lavender,
And all the things you said.
Watching, these summer nights,
Like one in dreams who hears,
I seem to hear your laughter,
And the clip-clip of the shears;
I watch you straighten up
And shade your eyes to see
The red red lights and shadows
On each slim larch tree.
Always now these hot noons
I watch the summer haze
And dream I have again
Those good Spring days.
IV. BLESSING THE BOUNDS
LEST the good house should hate
Being left desolate
I, far away, will try
To bless the boundary.
First, as I go the round,
I would bless all the ground,
That in thy wells may be
Sweet water, flowing free.
Then, as I have begun
Walking the way of the sun,
Next I would bless the field,
Goodly should be its yield.
May every walk of grass
Where the young rabbits pass
Be green and soft to tread:
Fragrant each flower bed.
From the shadow-blue lavender
And the tall slender
Larches in Bagley Wood
Be snow and storm withstood.
May there be in the copse
Primrose clumps, snowdrops,
Daffodils in the breeze,
For the rock garden where
Thyme, sweet briar, scent the air,
Where the dark gentian flowers,
I would ask soft rain showers.
In the long straggling hedge
Guarding the copse edge
Keep the tits safe away
From cats and birds of prey.
So I would go the rounds,
Everywhere bless the bounds,
Thus would invoke for thee
Each garden deity.
WITHIN shalt thou find
Mirth to thy mind,
Good talk’s delight,
Sweet sleep by night,
Ease of heart by day,
And deep content alway.
OLD MIDSUMMER EVE
SWEET Master Herrick! in thy Devon days
Did’st keep old customs, and old country ways?
Did’st thou, perchance, on Old Midsummer Eve,
Creep down the stair, and very softly leave
The door half open? And did “Prew, thy maid,”
Returning, chide thy negligence, afraid
Lest neighbours’ cats should steal her precious cream?
Didst thou, while she was out, sit there and dream,
Watching the doorway in the fading light?
For goodwives say, that just before the night
Draws in, whoso has left an open door
Shall seem to hear light feet upon the floor,
And see the phantom of his love appear,
If love shall crown his loving ere New Year,
Silently come, and silently shall leave,
On Old Midsummer Eve, Midsummer Eve.
Ah! Master Herrick, wast thous ever true
To any single maid, excepting Prue?
I fear me much ’twas not for such as thee
A phantom on Midsummer’s Eve to see!
Thous hast not left a single word to show
If one appeared to thee, so long ago.
Only, I like to think that if thou tried
What comes, that eve, to folk with doors left wide,
Dozing, in dreams for once thou had’st the grace
To dream, that eve, of only one sweet face . . .
Till Prue’s reproachful accents broke the train—
“What, Master Herrick! At thy tricks again!”
SER NICOLO PASQUALIGO
WHY, yes: ’tis possible . . . I hardly know
If I aspire; the Foscari enjoyed
But little that assured pre-eminence:
And I too have a son: Jacopo too—
There’s a fatality that hangs about
That name, perchance: but ’twas his mother’s whim,
And I was reckless of untoward things—
Brother Rufino, I would have your learn
Some little patience; you are young and clever,
Not twenty-six I think?—and well equipped
To start a sober life amongst us here;
I am by no means destitute of power
To forward you in this or that desire:
This year I reached security of place:
Next year, perhaps, the Doge’s counsellor—
And, once there, I shall stay!
So, if you choose to steer the easy course
I have mapped out—and ’tis an ancient calling,
Of good repute in this our merchant city;
Fear not I ask a thing derogatory—
In a few years—why, who knows? Younger men
And duller than yourself, have won a place
Amid the Ten! Meanwhile, my growing wealth
Will easily secure another fortune
For my acknowledged, dearly cherished brother.
What do you crave? A pleasing marriage say?
Some noble damsel of a noble house,
Not over-cold, and beautiful to boot?
Well, there’s Lucrezia—nay, nay, throw no stone!
She is beautiful as any heathen goddess,
And is your life all blameless may I ask?
The family is powerful: an attack
Would be too reckless even for the Ten:
Besides, she knows too much: it’s best this way:
’Twould hide the scandal most conveniently,
And Venice, in our persons, be allowed
To let the matter slip as idle gossip.
Come, come! No need to rave: have you not heard
Of vice before? I take you for no fool—
Must I then tell you that to screen such vice
Is better policy than blazoning
The shame abroad, that cozening mob
To think there is none, makes it cease the sooner?
Recall the parallel of forgery,
And how we stamped it out: three years ago,
One of the Avogadori, I well knew
The epidemic nature of that crime:
Why, ’twas as rife as gaming! Every day
Brought some fresh case before us: punishment
Served only to attract the crowd’s attention,
Till they seemed swift to emulate the same.
Then on advice of us the Avogadori
The Ten relaxed their vigilance: ’twas noised
About the town the Signori di Notte
Had rooted out and hunted it to death:
The Ten, so others said, had killed the pest
By the extremest dooms of secret trial:
Killed by the fear that it was dead it died!
You take me? Old Ser Tommaso and I
Still wear the credit of that skilful move.
So with our fair but frail Lucrezias!
You see I do but counsel for the good
Of the whole State: and it would be as well
An excellent alliance for ourselves.
However, as you chafe at the idea
We will not press it further: every man
To his own tastes; and yours perchance are yet
But circumscribed and youthfully severe.
What’s that? Our system’s rotten at the core?—
Lower that savage voice and hark to me:
It’s dangerous to murmur things like that
Even in jest and this secluded room—.
Our state’s not rotten, but suppose it is
(I’ll prove its soundness later) for the sake
Of argument: you are a citizen,
And so have certain benefits derived
From that position—safety to pursue,
For instance, that same trade I offered now:
Say that you do pursue it carefully,
And thereby gain possession of the means
To lead the highest life you could desire;
(I speak in worldly terms, for you, I know,
Had never inclination for the Church)
You may be little better than a beast,
And so desire to swim in lust and sin,—
I happen to prefer a subtler kind
Of pleasures; the society of men
Of keenest intellect and busy wit;
Splendour of circumstance, and every pomp
Respect-compelling power exacts for me.
I have books
That you, the scholar, find it in your heart
To envy me; the pictures on my walls
Are your admitted joy; the marbled steps
In my salon are pure Pentilican;
I had a lovely wife of purest fame,
And have that hardy stripling of a son,
Jacopo, to succeed me: my two daughters
Both married happily to men of mark—
You must admit that this is good, is near
The happiness that you would choose yourself.
You nod assent—well, how was it obtained?
Won from the rotten State! Each single thing!
“Strange fallacy, that good should come of bad!”
You say! But, as you see, it came!
For you agree that what I have is good.
“But,” you object, “what need to strive for more?
I’m quite prepared to lead an honest life,
With some such comfort at the end of it,
But I abhor your politician’s tricks,
This secret dealing that so nicely juggles
With right and wrong that no man’s life is safe.”
Exactly! There I have you! No man’s life
Is safe—unless he join, as I have joined,
The ruling party, who dictate the safe
And the unsafe. What use is it to me
To have these worldly goods, if at a hint,
The sly misunderstanding of a look,
The Ten decide against me? How can I
Rest easy for the safety of my son,
My daughters, and myself, from day to day,
If, at the malice of an ancient foe,
Who has the power that I have wilfully scorned,
I stand accused before the counsellors?
The part of fools! Who so can grasp that power
Let him strain every nerve, and never cease
To work for safety for his house and life!
If, when a state of anarchy prevails,
A man should barricade his doors with care,
And arm himself against the stray attack,
The hasty stab, would you then call him mean
And shifty creature, dealing underhand?
No, he but acted prudently, you say,
And took a just precaution. So do I!
For we of Venice, from our early youth
To years of creeping age, are in the grip
Of all that vast machinery of State
Which, working silently, and swift to spring
Like lion on the prey, preserves its greatness
By draining copious draughts of our lifeblood,
And many perish that the State may live.
It is not upright living frees a man
From danger, nor adherence to the law;
Life is a state of armed resistance—here,
If not elsewhere,—and all must take up arms
Of some sort, or they perish: do you see?
We have not chosen it: but things are so;
And in return for life I serve the State.
What’s this? The Genoese have raised their power?
Marcello, get the boy away inland!
Rufino! Quick, the vaults, jewels and all!
Marcello! Horses! Inland to the hills!
OF CERTAIN PERSONS AND PLACES
(For D.L.S., D.H.R., and C.H.G.)
THIS night I’m very fain to be
Back in the town where I was free
Of a right joyous company:—
You who would chant your rhymes to us,
Of vivid life all amorous,
“Whose youth was not ungenerous,”
O you who sang the bitter-sweet
And valorous courage of defeat,
Who strode ahead afire to meet
An unknown future! Also you,
Dear Tony—words are all too few
For you, and other folk I knew;
And you, whose nimble wit so glanced
Through every theory you advanced
We listened half the night entranced,
Whose tonic laugh and timely jest
Came ever with as brave a zest:—
Dost still launch dream ships on the quest?
O! I am very fain
By night to see the High again,
Its lamps all blurry in the rain;
And I would gladly give a year
Of this my life just now to hear
The bell of Tom toll deep and clear.
By grassy tracks light feet shall stray,
And other hands than mine to-day
Shall gather spindle Beckley way.
Autumn and Spring will come and go,
And I shall never even know
Where the first primroses do show.
O! I am very fain
By night to see the High again,
Its lamps all blurry in the rain;
And I am very fain to be
Back in that town where I was free
Of your right joyous company!
The dedication is to Dorothy Leigh Sayers, Dorothea Hanbury Rowe, and Catherine Hope Godfrey. These, along with Muriel and others, were members of the Mutual Appreciation Society at Somerville College. 'Tony' was a nickname for Catherine Hope Godfrey.
SLEIGHT OF HAND
CONFOUND it all! I must stay sitting here,
And what’s more I must get this work done too.
Why can’t I work sedately, like these blear,
Be-spectacle-eyed fools around me? You
Are probably out on the river now:
I shouldn’t find you if I did go round:
But this one mad idea—I don’t know how—
Has bored its way into my brain, and wound
Itself about my thoughts, that you’d be pleased
To see me, now are wanting me, and would,
If I came, be most glad; . . . if I only could!—
If only . . . No, I said I’d stay . . . ah well
I’ve hopes of heaven! One gets there via hell!
THE COMMON THINGS
I NEVER knew how sorrel looks
When the sun is getting low,
Till I watched you gathering it,
Three weeks ago;
I’d never gathered trefoil
Since I was six years old,
Till I saw it in your hands—
Pure fairy gold.
Clover and trefoil
All in an earthern bowl—
How these little things
Master the soul!
HOW IT IS
SITTING close together
We gazed into the night,
My soul filled with love-longing,
But her soul filled with light.
And I can never know
The realms where she must go.
WE THAT HAVE LOVED THEE BEST
We that have loved thee best, known thee of old,
cherished and found thee fair,—
What shall we do when the day dawns that desire
faints in the heart, and prayer
Dies on the lips that were thine, lips that of old only
were moved to frame
Thy praise, thine in the dawn, thine in the night,
whisper aloud thy name?
Where, oh pure! shall we turn then, where shall we
find strength that will draw our soul
Up and out thro’ the dark, love that will use, love that
will claim the whole?
Ah! not then shall we find power to prevail, power to
inflame in thee,
Only a word in the quiet, born of thy love, whispers
the heart go free,
Clean and free cut away, heedless of pain, turn in the
dark to the West,
Set the foot to the road, strong, for the heart knows
that to go is best,
Knows that the road, ancient, long, wind as it will, grim
under skies o’ercast,
Over the rim of the world, out through the night, leads
back to thee at last.
JUST A FEW THINGS ESPECIALLY HAVE POWER
JUST a few things especially have power
And wonder with my soul, remembering you;
The scent from flowering beanfields: the first hour
Of a sunny Autumn morning, misty blue,
And chill: clear bells that chime for evensong
And matins: crusty bread and deep hued wine:
And flocks of sheep in lanes rushing along:
The rhythmic sweep and sway of a tall pine:
And huge foam crested waves, starlit nights,
Wet earth, and burning wood, a pale green sky
On a windy evening: far off valley lights:
And evenings when small fluttering bats dart by:
The tale of Deirdre, passionate and true—
These things have power on me, remembering you.
DAGONET, ARTHUR’S FOOL
DAGONET, Arthur’s fool,
He shocked and crashed with the rest,
But they gave him his coup-de-grace,
When Arthur fought in the West.
Dagonet, Arthur’s fool,
They smashed him, body and soul,
And they shoved him under a bush,
To die like a rat in a hole.
His poor little queer fool’s body
Was twisted awry with pain:—
Dagonet, Arthur’s fool,
Left to die in the rain.
He writhed and groaned in his torment,
But none heard his shameful cry:—
Dagonet, Arthur’s fool,
Whom they left alone to die.
Mordred hated the fool,
And he passed the place where he lay,
“Ah-ha! my pleasant fool,
We’ll see if you’ll jet to-day!”
“We’ve silence your bitter tongue,
We’ve stopped your quirks and pride!”
And Mordred, who ne’er forgot,
He kicked the fool aside.
Mordred was ever vile,
He scorned each knightly rule,
He swung a crashing blow
Right on the mouth of the fool.
He lifted his bleeding head,
Dazed for a moment’s space;
Then Dagonet, Arthur’s fool,
He laughed in Mordred’s face.
LOOK at the broad high forehead! Think what splendour
Of intellect and high ambition ruled
That brain! Then see the pitiful surrender
In those anxious eyes! He let himself be fooled
By the imagination of his heart,
Too prone to fancy what it wished was true,
Too prone to see the whole in but a part,
Yet too acute to go one, as some do,
Living in his fool’s paradise. So now
He wanders sadly with his rusty keys,
That worried smile wrinkling up his brow,
And all along the echoing galleries,
So empty and so desolate—of yore
So crammed with busy life—he goes,
Intently trying every shaft, each door.
They say he has forgotten his old woes,
Only remembers he was hurt to death;
It may be; but I’ve watched his poor eyes gleam,
And heard him whisper underneath his breath,
“My little dream! My wondrous little dream!”
IN THE CARDEN
YOU and I in the garden,
Walking up and down,
All in the chill December,
And the trees so bare and brown.
Talking in jest and earnest,
While the mist hung low and gray:—
Long ago in our youth-time
Such was our youthful way.
Now in the after days,
In the bleak winter weather,
Crouching over the fire
I think how we walked together;
Roamed and talked in a garden
On a day in drear December;—
But this is the deepest joy,
To know you too remember.
A WARM fire in the grate,
If the hour be late;
A companion by the fire
For thy desire.
White bread on thy board;
Let thy land afford
Lettuces green and sweet,
Apples to eat.
Stars without in the night,
Out-doors a starlit walk,
Within, quiet talk.
So I invoke for thee,
That such thy homecoming be,
Domiduca, and pray
Her to guard thee alway.
THE AGE OF YOUTH
AT fifteen, Horace,
Sixteen, Tom Paine,
And now I look back
And, to tell the truth,
At the age of youth!
DIGNITY and Impudence,
The Monarch of the Glen,
An old quill pen,
And old horsehair sofa,
A shaky what-not too,—
Me in the middle,
Very, very blue;
All of a sudden
Enter Miss Prue.
Dignity and Impudence,
The Monarch of the Glen,
All of a sudden
Enter Miss Prue—
An old horse-hair sofa—
What’s a chap to do?
That’s the room I lived in,
Loved in, too!
“AND SO SIR PALAMIDES DEPARTED
WITH GREAT HEAVINESS”
Malory viii., 32.
SICK at the heart I ride
To seek death far and wide:
And I have little doubt
That in each battle-rout
I’ll see the fighting out.
My arm is stout to ward
Any but Tristram’s sword,—
It will not fail in the fight;
But the grief-haunted night
Knoweth my sorry plight.
Had it been mine to please
Her, I had conquered these:
Now my heart lieth dead,
And for the fight ahead
Body must do instead.
It will not do to win
If Tristram enters in,
But ’twill do for God’s torment still,
And all His measureless ill,
And it will do to kill.
Yet it may hap indeed,
That in my utmost need,
When body too shall be
All broken utterly
Christ will remember me.
FAR through the sea from Thracian land I came
In the tall ships, darkening against the sky,
With summer sunset flaunting in the West,
And the world-wearied sun, sinking apace,
Burning a crimson pathway o’er the waves.
The winds blew sweet behind from the home
Of old Diomedes, and the long low shore
Where the wan water lapped against my feet
With a faint whisper of the storm to come.
Through all the years I had hungered for the strife
To wake that pale dead calm, the meeting winds
To spray the thin salt foam to my thirsty lips,
And turn that quiet soul-torturing blue to green,
Cruel, white-streaked green, cold to the depths,
With a stinging cloud-lashed rain under grey skies;
But still the water slept, soundless and drear
Like some lake of the dead in Hades’ realm,
Then with the spring o’the year came strange sweet dreams,
And joy grew in me at the quickening life
Around me in the chill bright mornings; swift
As some strong sea bird on the wing will swoop
Across the inland marshes, to the hills,
Wrapt in a piecing happiness I fled,
And Artemis had all my prayer those days,
Great goddess, Leda-born.
Then as I gazed, and the thin smoke curled up
From my own dwelling in the plain below,
A cold nameless fear smote at my heart
And drew my eyes still to that sombre sea,
While some old vague foreboding quenched my soul.
So, then, I live there in my father’s land,
Till at the summer’s height, in a hot noon,
Sails blurred the far horizon, and I saw,
Gazing o’er that still water, nine tall ships,
Like the think crescent of the new born moon
Scatt’ring the clouds in the dark field of heaven,
So came they ploughing thro’ the foam-flecked waves.
Three country boys, lying on the hot sand,
Beneath me, hurling stones in a rock-pool,
Up-starting stood at gaze, then fled inland,
And swift the word spread thro’ my father’s realm,
Rousing the folk.
Up on the curving beach ran the sharp prows:
And then they came, the tall strangers, slowly on,
Clad in bright armour, ashen spears i’ the hand,
And one amongst them seemed a king of men.
A LIFE without desire
Is a hearth without a fire,
But who desires too well
Fries in the fires of hell.
O SLENDER footed and slender thewed,
Child of Morning! oh thou endued
With perfect body and shaping brain!
Here’s a charm, in a world of pain,
To keep thought happy, and sweet, and sane!
Earth beneath thy foot,
Earth in thy hand,
Lay thee down on the brown
Winds to kiss thy body,
Primroses thy feet:
Bathe thy face at the place
Where the waters meet.
NOS IDEM MORTALES . . .
“And so there is a great silent conspiracy between us to forget death; all our lives are spent in busily forgetting death. That is why we are active about so many things we know to be unimportant.”—A SYMONS
I WATCHED the daylight fading,
The day that you had died,
I saw the lamps lit, one by one,
Down the road side.
I watched the trees stand black and still
Against the grey cloudy skies,
And over Grange Hill, dark and low,
Saw the moon rise;
The floods gleamed palely on the links:
There was nothing I could do:
I stood like stone, and seemed to be
The dead—not you.
WHEN grief is fresh they come and say,
“Cheer up! you’re young as yet:
’Twill come to be a memory—
Then, one day, you’ll forget.”
“Your life is all before you still,
You’re young, and hale, and fit:
You’ll talk of this, unmoved, in time”:
Ay, there’s the sting of it.
TO think of all your beauty—your blue eyes
With infinite longing and comfort in their depths:
To think your strong white body, excellent
And perfect, from your proudly poised head
To your white feet, so light upon the grass—
To think that these must pass!
That your bright hair
Shall turn to dust, a handful of white dust,
That all your loveliness must go from men . . .
Dear God, the agony
To think I may not either know nor care!
PEACE! Peace! oh wild and frenzied lips!
The long day slips
Quietly, gladly, into the grey twilight;
The old Earth-Mother sighs, and turns to rest,
And all the wounded little things
That in the heat of day
In some close thicket lay
Creep homeward in the evening to her breast:
Rustle of furry coat and tiny wings—
Ah! ye could tell us of Earth’s peace of night!
And she, the child of Earth and Air,
Hath she no share
In both the ecstasy and peace of Earth?
Shall one who loved the damp, sweet-smelling soil
Almost to passion, worshipped to the last,—
Shall not this one rejoice
To hear the quiet voice
That whispers,”Child of mine! the hour hour of toil,
Of sacred fear and mystery is past;
Creep home, O little one, to peace with Earth!”
οι Μαραθώνι άποθανόντες
WHEN they shall come to tell me you are dead
I will be very quiet: I shall know
Instantly, then, the place where I must go,
The thing that I must do. The words you said
I must ponder on in the very deepest heart:
I must remember all you ever did
Of loveliness, and the deep honour hid
In your whole life, and all the little part
We shared together, both of sorrow, laughter,
And age-old foolishness, all unforgotten.
I will tell over to myself all day
Your wonder and your beauty . . . and then after,
With peace of you from my long day begotten,
Quietly, strong with you, go on my way.
THE CONCEIT OF IMMORTALITY
SO short a time,
A day, and we are gone!
Dust, and a memory that dies . . .
And soon not even these.
Strange, that a rhyme
Outlives the light that shone
Vital and thoughtful, deep in human eyes,
And outlives memories.
We worship still
Etain and Deirdre dead:
No lapse of years shall quell
Their wonder for the wise
Though passionate lives are sped.
’Twas a devil out of hell
Called poets makers of lies!
THE RIDING SONG OF A FREE COMPANY
ABOUT ROCHE D’ARIEN
THERE du Guesclin bites his nails,
Listening to the jongleurs’ tales,
Little love, or so they say,
Nourishing for such as they,
Or their newest virelay;
But he must bide his time and wait,
In that little room above the gate,
In that gray place, a chill place
An old place, an ill place
A bad place in winter,
In Roche d’Arien.
There du Guesclin sits each day,
Waiting for the word to slay,
Watching for the face he’ll know,
Scans the folk who come and go,
Riding, trudging through the snow:—
There will be good blows to give
This March or April,—if we live!
But ’tis a cold place, a stark place,
A grim place, a dark place,
A bad place for waiting,
Is Roche d’Arien.
IT was three months ago,
When the snow lay on the ground—
She slipped into the room,
Making not a sound;
She sat there, all quiet,
Till I pushed the maps away
And came over beside her—
That was our first day.
“I had been laughing and talking
All the evening thro’
Amusing all those others,
They thought, and I did too:
But back in my quiet room
I of a sudden knew
That somehow, all the time,
I had really been with you.”
I came in early, so that I might wait
Alone for her, and get to know her room:
Mind and body strung up to a state
Of utter happiness, the fire-lit gloom
Wrought easily upon me, as I knelt,
Receptive only, drinking in the power
Of her, that, strange and sweet, I knew and felt
About me. So I knelt there all one hour.
I knelt by the open window,
And ever the cool night air
Blew in upon my forehead
And whisper’d, “She’s passing fair!”
It whisper’d and laugh’d, “She’s fairest!
No fairer while earth endures!”
It whisper’d and laugh’d exultant,
“She’s fairest and she is yours!”
I knelt there: suddenly I heard quick feet
That passed along the corridor, and sounds
Of busy talkers; outside in the street
The traffic noises died: and past the bounds
Of time and space I was caught up, and there
Beheld her beauty as a star shall be,
Constant, ineffable, beyond compare.
Doors opening, and light . . . And so she came to me.
I left her late the other night;
Much restlessness was in my head;
And all that night I dreamt a dream
Of the old love that was dead.
And when I woke next day I laughed,
“The love I loved so long of yore
Dims not the love I love to-day,
But makes me lover her more!”
I came home late one. night,
And as I entered the firelit room
I thought I saw her sitting
There, alone in the corner’s gloom.
I knew it was only fancy,
But for hours I could not go to bed,
Fretting that I’d been fooling,
When I might have been with her instead.
She looks at me and laughs
The way you used to do,
The very curve of her arm
Reminds me still of you.
I’ll think of her all night
It may help me to forget . . .
Dear face I knew of old,
Why must you haunt me yet?
Last night you hurried in, and said,
“Come quick! I need you—now!”
Then you were gone again, as fast,
And I could help you—how?
Oh! all those years I stood at hand,
But you were strong and free;
And now I’m helpless as a child,
Now you have need of me.
I’ve tried praying to God:
I’ve tried drinking it down, too;
But they’re all so useless,
These things men do.
I’ve tried being with her,
And I’ve tried being away:
But it’s all so useless . . .
Ah, God! Pity and slay!
HE DREAMS OF DEIRDRE AND HELEN
LIFE upon life is piled,
The rose blooms undefiled:
White queens immaculate
Have flung their scorn at fate:
Deirdre and Helen died,
And Iseult in her pride.
O world! my fool art thou!
Time is my captive now!
I have plucked down the star
That lures youth from afar,
Consummate found in thee
THE ORCHARD CLOSE
THERE is a little orchard close I know,
Set round with red brick walls, deep red and old,
And very high: the apple trees that grow
Along look small beside them; they enfold
The quiet: it is safe within their hold.
And in that little place I should have peace
I thought: the earth will soothe body, a load,
And spirit, all dog-weary; just to cease
To plan, be noisy, laugh, and cry, forbode,
And wish was all I wanted: there I rode.
And I was happy, letting cool peace steal
All over me: around me nothing stirred:
There was not even any breeze to feel;
But soon the quiet grew so deep I heard—
Saw, rather,—flame to life that little word
That I had hidden in my heart so long,
And overlaid with busyness, so deep
I thought I’d buried it away, so strong
The will that clamped and held it in its sleep,
I never dreamed that out to light ’twould creep
If I should tempt the silences again:
So, very sorrowfully, I went away;
I was so tired of all the noise of men
And their hot cities and the things they say
Yet there for quietness I might not stay.
WHEN you, in after days, in some still evening time,
Shall think of me, remembering the lilt of some old rhyme
I made you; when, dear heart, the bitterness and pain
That I, unknowing, wrought you, shed away again,
You, with a quiet gladness, pausefully recall
The love I had for you, the young joy of it all;
When, if at sundown musing happily a little space,
You laugh to glimpse again a vague, half-laughing face,
I’d have you say just this, “One loved me, gave to me the glow
Of young hot life . . . (between us the winds of years shall blow) . . .
I have forgot the rest . . . ’twas very long ago.”