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by Alan Seeger |


 I who, conceived beneath another star, 
Had been a prince and played with life, instead 
Have been its slave, an outcast exiled far 
From the fair things my faith has merited. 
My ways have been the ways that wanderers tread 
And those that make romance of poverty -- 
Soldier, I shared the soldier's board and bed, 
And Joy has been a thing more oft to me 
Whispered by summer wind and summer sea 
Than known incarnate in the hours it lies 
All warm against our hearts and laughs into our eyes. 

I know not if in risking my best days 
I shall leave utterly behind me here 
This dream that lightened me through lonesome ways 
And that no disappointment made less dear; 
Sometimes I think that, where the hilltops rear 
Their white entrenchments back of tangled wire, 
Behind the mist Death only can make clear, 
There, like Brunhilde ringed with flaming fire, 
Lies what shall ease my heart's immense desire: 
There, where beyond the horror and the pain 
Only the brave shall pass, only the strong attain. 

Truth or delusion, be it as it may, 
Yet think it true, dear friends, for, thinking so, 
That thought shall nerve our sinews on the day 
When to the last assault our bugles blow: 
Reckless of pain and peril we shall go, 
Heads high and hearts aflame and bayonets bare, 
And we shall brave eternity as though 
Eyes looked on us in which we would seem fair -- 
One waited in whose presence we would wear, 
Even as a lover who would be well-seen, 
Our manhood faultless and our honor clean.

by Alan Seeger |

Do You Remember Once . . .

 Do you remember once, in Paris of glad faces, 
The night we wandered off under the third moon's rays 
And, leaving far behind bright streets and busy places, 
Stood where the Seine flowed down between its quiet quais? 

The city's voice was hushed; the placid, lustrous waters 
Mirrored the walls across where orange windows burned. 
Out of the starry south provoking rumors brought us 
Far promise of the spring already northward turned. 

And breast drew near to breast, and round its soft desire 
My arm uncertain stole and clung there unrepelled. 
I thought that nevermore my heart would hover nigher 
To the last flower of bliss that Nature's garden held. 

There, in your beauty's sweet abandonment to pleasure, 
The mute, half-open lips and tender, wondering eyes, 
I saw embodied first smile back on me the treasure 
Long sought across the seas and back of summer skies. 

Dear face, when courted Death shall claim my limbs and find them 
Laid in some desert place, alone or where the tides 
Of war's tumultuous waves on the wet sands behind them 
Leave rifts of gasping life when their red flood subsides, 

Out of the past's remote delirious abysses 
Shine forth once more as then you shone, -- beloved head, 
Laid back in ecstasy between our blinding kisses, 
Transfigured with the bliss of being so coveted. 

And my sick arms will part, and though hot fever sear it, 
My mouth will curve again with the old, tender flame. 
And darkness will come down, still finding in my spirit 
The dream of your brief love, and on my lips your name. 


You loved me on that moonlit night long since. 
You were my queen and I the charming prince 
Elected from a world of mortal men. 
You loved me once. . . . What pity was it, then, 
You loved not Love. . . . Deep in the emerald west, 
Like a returning caravel caressed 
By breezes that load all the ambient airs 
With clinging fragrance of the bales it bears 
From harbors where the caravans come down, 
I see over the roof-tops of the town 
The new moon back again, but shall not see 
The joy that once it had in store for me, 
Nor know again the voice upon the stair, 
The little studio in the candle-glare, 
And all that makes in word and touch and glance 
The bliss of the first nights of a romance 
When will to love and be beloved casts out 
The want to question or the will to doubt. 
You loved me once. . . . Under the western seas 
The pale moon settles and the Pleiades. 
The firelight sinks; outside the night-winds moan -- 
The hour advances, and I sleep alone. 


Farewell, dear heart, enough of vain despairing! 
If I have erred I plead but one excuse -- 
The jewel were a lesser joy in wearing 
That cost a lesser agony to lose. 

I had not bid for beautifuller hours 
Had I not found the door so near unsealed, 
Nor hoped, had you not filled my arms with flowers, 
For that one flower that bloomed too far afield. 

If I have wept, it was because, forsaken, 
I felt perhaps more poignantly than some 
The blank eternity from which we waken 
And all the blank eternity to come. 

And I betrayed how sweet a thing and tender 
(In the regret with which my lip was curled) 
Seemed in its tragic, momentary splendor 
My transit through the beauty of the world.

by Alan Seeger |


 Lay me where soft Cyrene rambles down 
In grove and garden to the sapphire sea; 
Twine yellow roses for the drinker's crown; 
Let music reach and fair heads circle me, 
Watching blue ocean where the white sails steer 
Fruit-laden forth or with the wares and news 
Of merchant cities seek our harbors here, 
Careless how Corinth fares, how Syracuse; 
But here, with love and sleep in her caress, 
Warm night shall sink and utterly persuade 
The gentle doctrine Aristippus bare, -- 
Night-winds, and one whose white youth's loveliness, 
In a flowered balcony beside me laid, 
Dreams, with the starlight on her fragrant hair.

by Alan Seeger |

Ariosto. Orlando Furioso Canto X 91-99

 Ruggiero, to amaze the British host, 
And wake more wonder in their wondering ranks, 
The bridle of his winged courser loosed, 
And clapped his spurs into the creature's flanks; 
High in the air, even to the topmost banks 
Of crudded cloud, uprose the flying horse, 
And now above the Welsh, and now the Manx, 
And now across the sea he shaped his course, 
Till gleaming far below lay Erin's emerald shores. 

There round Hibernia's fabled realm he coasted, 
Where the old saint had left the holy cave, 
Sought for the famous virtue that it boasted 
To purge the sinful visitor and save. 
Thence back returning over land and wave, 
Ruggiero came where the blue currents flow, 
The shores of Lesser Brittany to lave, 
And, looking down while sailing to and fro, 
He saw Angelica chained to the rock below. 

'Twas on the Island of Complaint -- well named, 
For there to that inhospitable shore, 
A savage people, cruel and untamed, 
Brought the rich prize of many a hateful war. 
To feed a monster that bestead them sore, 
They of fair ladies those that loveliest shone, 
Of tender maidens they the tenderest bore, 
And, drowned in tears and making piteous moan, 
Left for that ravening beast, chained on the rocks alone. 

Thither transported by enchanter's art, 
Angelica from dreams most innocent 
(As the tale mentioned in another part) 
Awoke, the victim for that sad event. 
Beauty so rare, nor birth so excellent, 
Nor tears that make sweet Beauty lovelier still, 
Could turn that people from their harsh intent. 
Alas, what temper is conceived so ill 
But, Pity moving not, Love's soft enthralment will? 

On the cold granite at the ocean's rim 
These folk had chained her fast and gone their way; 
Fresh in the softness of each delicate limb 
The pity of their bruising violence lay. 
Over her beauty, from the eye of day 
To hide its pleading charms, no veil was thrown. 
Only the fragments of the salt sea-spray 
Rose from the churning of the waves, wind-blown, 
To dash upon a whiteness creamier than their own. 

Carved out of candid marble without flaw, 
Or alabaster blemishless and rare, 
Ruggiero might have fancied what he saw, 
For statue-like it seemed, and fastened there 
By craft of cunningest artificer; 
Save in the wistful eyes Ruggiero thought 
A teardrop gleamed, and with the rippling hair 
The ocean breezes played as if they sought 
In its loose depths to hide that which her hand might not. 

Pity and wonder and awakening love 
Strove in the bosom of the Moorish Knight. 
Down from his soaring in the skies above 
He urged the tenor of his courser's flight. 
Fairer with every foot of lessening height 
Shone the sweet prisoner. With tightening reins 
He drew more nigh, and gently as he might: 
"O lady, worthy only of the chains 
With which his bounden slaves the God of Love constrains, 

"And least for this or any ill designed, 
Oh, what unnatural and perverted race 
Could the sweet flesh with flushing stricture bind, 
And leave to suffer in this cold embrace 
That the warm arms so hunger to replace?" 
Into the damsel's cheeks such color flew 
As by the alchemy of ancient days 
If whitest ivory should take the hue 
Of coral where it blooms deep in the liquid blue. 

Nor yet so tightly drawn the cruel chains 
Clasped the slim ankles and the wounded hands, 
But with soft, cringing attitudes in vain 
She strove to shield her from that ardent glance. 
So, clinging to the walls of some old manse, 
The rose-vine strives to shield her tender flowers, 
When the rude wind, as autumn weeks advance, 
Beats on the walls and whirls about the towers 
And spills at every blast her pride in piteous showers. 

And first for choking sobs she might not speak, 
And then, "Alas!" she cried, "ah, woe is me!" 
And more had said in accents faint and weak, 
Pleading for succor and sweet liberty. 
But hark! across the wide ways of the sea 
Rose of a sudden such a fierce affray 
That any but the brave had turned to flee. 
Ruggiero, turning, looked. To his dismay, 
Lo, where the monster came to claim his quivering prey!

by Alan Seeger |


 Stretched on a sunny bank he lay at rest, 
Ferns at his elbow, lilies round his knees, 
With sweet flesh patterned where the cool turf pressed, 
Flowerlike crept o'er with emerald aphides. 
Single he couched there, to his circling flocks 
Piping at times some happy shepherd's tune, 
Nude, with the warm wind in his golden locks, 
And arched with the blue Asian afternoon. 
Past him, gorse-purpled, to the distant coast 
Rolled the clear foothills. There his white-walled town, 
There, a blue band, the placid Euxine lay. 
Beyond, on fields of azure light embossed 
He watched from noon till dewy eve came down 
The summer clouds pile up and fade away

by Alan Seeger |

An Ode to Antares

 At dusk, when lowlands where dark waters glide 
Robe in gray mist, and through the greening hills 
The hoot-owl calls his mate, and whippoorwills 
Clamor from every copse and orchard-side, 
I watched the red star rising in the East, 
And while his fellows of the flaming sign 
From prisoning daylight more and more released, 
Lift their pale lamps, and, climbing higher, higher, 
Out of their locks the waters of the Line 
Shaking in clouds of phosphorescent fire, 
Rose in the splendor of their curving flight, 
Their dolphin leap across the austral night, 
From windows southward opening on the sea 
What eyes, I wondered, might be watching, too, 
Orbed in some blossom-laden balcony. 
Where, from the garden to the rail above, 
As though a lover's greeting to his love 
Should borrow body and form and hue 
And tower in torrents of floral flame, 
The crimson bougainvillea grew, 
What starlit brow uplifted to the same 
Majestic regress of the summering sky, 
What ultimate thing -- hushed, holy, throned as high 
Above the currents that tarnish and profane 
As silver summits are whose pure repose 
No curious eyes disclose 
Nor any footfalls stain, 
But round their beauty on azure evenings 
Only the oreads go on gauzy wings, 
Only the oreads troop with dance and song 
And airy beings in rainbow mists who throng 
Out of those wonderful worlds that lie afar 
Betwixt the outmost cloud and the nearest star. 

Like the moon, sanguine in the orient night 
Shines the red flower in her beautiful hair. 
Her breasts are distant islands of delight 
Upon a sea where all is soft and fair. 
Those robes that make a silken sheath 
For each lithe attitude that flows beneath, 
Shrouding in scented folds sweet warmths and tumid flowers, 
Call them far clouds that half emerge 
Beyond a sunset ocean's utmost verge, 
Hiding in purple shade and downpour of soft showers 
Enchanted isles by mortal foot untrod, 
And there in humid dells resplendent orchids nod; 
There always from serene horizons blow 
Soul-easing gales and there all spice-trees grow 
That Phoenix robbed to line his fragrant nest 
Each hundred years in Araby the Blest. 

Star of the South that now through orient mist 
At nightfall off Tampico or Belize 
Greetest the sailor rising from those seas 
Where first in me, a fond romanticist, 
The tropic sunset's bloom on cloudy piles 
Cast out industrious cares with dreams of fabulous isles -- 
Thou lamp of the swart lover to his tryst, 
O'er planted acres at the jungle's rim 
Reeking with orange-flower and tuberose, 
Dear to his eyes thy ruddy splendor glows 
Among the palms where beauty waits for him; 
Bliss too thou bringst to our greening North, 
Red scintillant through cherry-blossom rifts, 
Herald of summer-heat, and all the gifts 
And all the joys a summer can bring forth ---- 

Be thou my star, for I have made my aim 
To follow loveliness till autumn-strown 
Sunder the sinews of this flower-like frame 
As rose-leaves sunder when the bud is blown. 
Ay, sooner spirit and sense disintegrate 
Than reconcilement to a common fate 
Strip the enchantment from a world so dressed 
In hues of high romance. I cannot rest 
While aught of beauty in any path untrod 
Swells into bloom and spreads sweet charms abroad 
Unworshipped of my love. I cannot see 
In Life's profusion and passionate brevity 
How hearts enamored of life can strain too much 
In one long tension to hear, to see, to touch. 
Now on each rustling night-wind from the South 
Far music calls; beyond the harbor mouth 
Each outbound argosy with sail unfurled 
May point the path through this fortuitous world 
That holds the heart from its desire. Away! 
Where tinted coast-towns gleam at close of day, 
Where squares are sweet with bells, or shores thick set 
With bloom and bower, with mosque and minaret. 
Blue peaks loom up beyond the coast-plains here, 
White roads wind up the dales and disappear, 
By silvery waters in the plains afar 
Glimmers the inland city like a star, 
With gilded gates and sunny spires ablaze 
And burnished domes half-seen through luminous haze, 
Lo, with what opportunity Earth teems! 
How like a fair its ample beauty seems! 
Fluttering with flags its proud pavilions rise: 
What bright bazaars, what marvelous merchandise, 
Down seething alleys what melodious din, 
What clamor importuning from every booth! 
At Earth's great market where Joy is trafficked in 
Buy while thy purse yet swells with golden Youth!

by Alan Seeger |

All Thats Not Love . . .

 All that's not love is the dearth of my days, 
The leaves of the volume with rubric unwrit, 
The temple in times without prayer, without praise, 
The altar unset and the candle unlit. 

Let me survive not the lovable sway 
Of early desire, nor see when it goes 
The courts of Life's abbey in ivied decay, 
Whence sometime sweet anthems and incense arose. 

The delicate hues of its sevenfold rings 
The rainbow outlives not; their yellow and blue 
The butterfly sees not dissolve from his wings, 
But even with their beauty life fades from them too. 

No more would I linger past Love's ardent bounds 
Nor live for aught else but the joy that it craves, 
That, burden and essence of all that surrounds, 
Is the song in the wind and the smile on the waves.

by Alan Seeger |

After an Epigram of Clement Marot

 The lad I was I longer now 
Nor am nor shall be evermore. 
Spring's lovely blossoms from my brow 
Have shed their petals on the floor. 
Thou, Love, hast been my lord, thy shrine 
Above all gods' best served by me. 
Dear Love, could life again be mine 
How bettered should that service be!

by Alan Seeger |


 The rooks aclamor when one enters here 
Startle the empty towers far overhead; 
Through gaping walls the summer fields appear, 
Green, tan, or, poppy-mingled, tinged with red. 
The courts where revel rang deep grass and moss 
Cover, and tangled vines have overgrown 
The gate where banners blazoned with a cross 
Rolled forth to toss round Tyre and Ascalon. 
Decay consumes it. The old causes fade. 
And fretting for the contest many a heart 
Waits their Tyrtaeus to chant on the new. 
Oh, pass him by who, in this haunted shade 
Musing enthralled, has only this much art, 
To love the things the birds and flowers love too.

by Alan Seeger |

At the Tomb of Napoleon

 I stood beside his sepulchre whose fame, 
Hurled over Europe once on bolt and blast, 
Now glows far off as storm-clouds overpast 
Glow in the sunset flushed with glorious flame. 
Has Nature marred his mould? Can Art acclaim 
No hero now, no man with whom men side 
As with their hearts' high needs personified? 
There are will say, One such our lips could name; 
Columbia gave him birth. Him Genius most 
Gifted to rule. Against the world's great man 
Lift their low calumny and sneering cries 
The Pharisaic multitude, the host 
Of piddling slanderers whose little eyes 
Know not what greatness is and never can.