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by Robert Browning |

Fra Lippo Lippi

 I am poor brother Lippo, by your leave! 
You need not clap your torches to my face. 
Zooks, what's to blame? you think you see a monk! 
What, 'tis past midnight, and you go the rounds, 
And here you catch me at an alley's end 
Where sportive ladies leave their doors ajar? 
The Carmine's my cloister: hunt it up, 
Do,--harry out, if you must show your zeal, 
Whatever rat, there, haps on his wrong hole, 
And nip each softling of a wee white mouse, 
Weke, weke, that's crept to keep him company! 
Aha, you know your betters! Then, you'll take 
Your hand away that's fiddling on my throat, 
And please to know me likewise. Who am I? 
Why, one, sir, who is lodging with a friend 
Three streets off--he's a certain . . . how d'ye call? 
Master--a ...Cosimo of the Medici, 
I' the house that caps the corner. Boh! you were best! 
Remember and tell me, the day you're hanged, 
How you affected such a gullet's-gripe! 
But you, sir, it concerns you that your knaves 
Pick up a manner nor discredit you: 
Zooks, are we pilchards, that they sweep the streets 
And count fair price what comes into their net? 
He's Judas to a tittle, that man is! 
Just such a face! Why, sir, you make amends. 
Lord, I'm not angry! Bid your hang-dogs go 
Drink out this quarter-florin to the health 
Of the munificent House that harbours me 
(And many more beside, lads! more beside!) 
And all's come square again. I'd like his face-- 
His, elbowing on his comrade in the door 
With the pike and lantern,--for the slave that holds 
John Baptist's head a-dangle by the hair 
With one hand ("Look you, now," as who should say) 
And his weapon in the other, yet unwiped! 
It's not your chance to have a bit of chalk, 
A wood-coal or the like? or you should see! 
Yes, I'm the painter, since you style me so. 
What, brother Lippo's doings, up and down, 
You know them and they take you? like enough! 
I saw the proper twinkle in your eye-- 
'Tell you, I liked your looks at very first. 
Let's sit and set things straight now, hip to haunch. 
Here's spring come, and the nights one makes up bands 
To roam the town and sing out carnival, 
And I've been three weeks shut within my mew, 
A-painting for the great man, saints and saints 
And saints again. I could not paint all night-- 
Ouf! I leaned out of window for fresh air. 
There came a hurry of feet and little feet, 
A sweep of lute strings, laughs, and whifts of song, -- 
Flower o' the broom, 
Take away love, and our earth is a tomb! 
Flower o' the quince, 
I let Lisa go, and what good in life since? 
Flower o' the thyme--and so on. Round they went. 
Scarce had they turned the corner when a titter 
Like the skipping of rabbits by moonlight,--three slim shapes, 
And a face that looked up . . . zooks, sir, flesh and blood, 
That's all I'm made of! Into shreds it went, 
Curtain and counterpane and coverlet, 
All the bed-furniture--a dozen knots, 
There was a ladder! Down I let myself, 
Hands and feet, scrambling somehow, and so dropped, 
And after them. I came up with the fun 
Hard by Saint Laurence, hail fellow, well met,-- 
Flower o' the rose, 
If I've been merry, what matter who knows? 
And so as I was stealing back again 
To get to bed and have a bit of sleep 
Ere I rise up to-morrow and go work 
On Jerome knocking at his poor old breast 
With his great round stone to subdue the flesh, 
You snap me of the sudden. Ah, I see! 
Though your eye twinkles still, you shake your head-- 
Mine's shaved--a monk, you say--the sting 's in that! 
If Master Cosimo announced himself, 
Mum's the word naturally; but a monk! 
Come, what am I a beast for? tell us, now! 
I was a baby when my mother died 
And father died and left me in the street. 
I starved there, God knows how, a year or two 
On fig-skins, melon-parings, rinds and shucks, 
Refuse and rubbish. One fine frosty day, 
My stomach being empty as your hat, 
The wind doubled me up and down I went. 
Old Aunt Lapaccia trussed me with one hand, 
(Its fellow was a stinger as I knew) 
And so along the wall, over the bridge, 
By the straight cut to the convent. Six words there, 
While I stood munching my first bread that month: 
"So, boy, you're minded," quoth the good fat father 
Wiping his own mouth, 'twas refection-time,-- 
"To quit this very miserable world? 
Will you renounce" . . . "the mouthful of bread?" thought I; 
By no means! Brief, they made a monk of me; 
I did renounce the world, its pride and greed, 
Palace, farm, villa, shop, and banking-house, 
Trash, such as these poor devils of Medici 
Have given their hearts to--all at eight years old. 
Well, sir, I found in time, you may be sure, 
'T#was not for nothing--the good bellyful, 
The warm serge and the rope that goes all round, 
And day-long blessed idleness beside! 
"Let's see what the urchin's fit for"--that came next. 
Not overmuch their way, I must confess. 
Such a to-do! They tried me with their books: 
Lord, they'd have taught me Latin in pure waste! 
Flower o' the clove. 
All the Latin I construe is, "amo" I love! 
But, mind you, when a boy starves in the streets 
Eight years together, as my fortune was, 
Watching folk's faces to know who will fling 
The bit of half-stripped grape-bunch he desires, 
And who will curse or kick him for his pains,-- 
Which gentleman processional and fine, 
Holding a candle to the Sacrament, 
Will wink and let him lift a plate and catch 
The droppings of the wax to sell again, 
Or holla for the Eight and have him whipped,-- 
How say I?--nay, which dog bites, which lets drop 
His bone from the heap of offal in the street,-- 
Why, soul and sense of him grow sharp alike, 
He learns the look of things, and none the less 
For admonition from the hunger-pinch. 
I had a store of such remarks, be sure, 
Which, after I found leisure, turned to use. 
I drew men's faces on my copy-books, 
Scrawled them within the antiphonary's marge, 
Joined legs and arms to the long music-notes, 
Found eyes and nose and chin for A's and B's, 
And made a string of pictures of the world 
Betwixt the ins and outs of verb and noun, 
On the wall, the bench, the door. The monks looked black. 
"Nay," quoth the Prior, "turn him out, d'ye say? 
In no wise. Lose a crow and catch a lark. 
What if at last we get our man of parts, 
We Carmelites, like those Camaldolese 
And Preaching Friars, to do our church up fine 
And put the front on it that ought to be!" 
And hereupon he bade me daub away. 
Thank you! my head being crammed, the walls a blank, 
Never was such prompt disemburdening. 
First, every sort of monk, the black and white, 
I drew them, fat and lean: then, folk at church, 
From good old gossips waiting to confess 
Their cribs of barrel-droppings, candle-ends,-- 
To the breathless fellow at the altar-foot, 
Fresh from his murder, safe and sitting there 
With the little children round him in a row 
Of admiration, half for his beard and half 
For that white anger of his victim's son 
Shaking a fist at him with one fierce arm, 
Signing himself with the other because of Christ 
(Whose sad face on the cross sees only this 
After the passion of a thousand years) 
Till some poor girl, her apron o'er her head, 
(Which the intense eyes looked through) came at eve 
On tiptoe, said a word, dropped in a loaf, 
Her pair of earrings and a bunch of flowers 
(The brute took growling), prayed, and so was gone. 
I painted all, then cried " `T#is ask and have; 
Choose, for more's ready!"--laid the ladder flat, 
And showed my covered bit of cloister-wall. 
The monks closed in a circle and praised loud 
Till checked, taught what to see and not to see, 
Being simple bodies,--"That's the very man! 
Look at the boy who stoops to pat the dog! 
That woman's like the Prior's niece who comes 
To care about his asthma: it's the life!'' 
But there my triumph's straw-fire flared and funked; 
Their betters took their turn to see and say: 
The Prior and the learned pulled a face 
And stopped all that in no time. "How? what's here? 
Quite from the mark of painting, bless us all! 
Faces, arms, legs, and bodies like the true 
As much as pea and pea! it's devil's-game! 
Your business is not to catch men with show, 
With homage to the perishable clay, 
But lift them over it, ignore it all, 
Make them forget there's such a thing as flesh. 
Your business is to paint the souls of men-- 
Man's soul, and it's a fire, smoke . . . no, it's not . . . 
It's vapour done up like a new-born babe-- 
(In that shape when you die it leaves your mouth) 
It's . . . well, what matters talking, it's the soul! 
Give us no more of body than shows soul! 
Here's Giotto, with his Saint a-praising God, 
That sets us praising--why not stop with him? 
Why put all thoughts of praise out of our head 
With wonder at lines, colours, and what not? 
Paint the soul, never mind the legs and arms! 
Rub all out, try at it a second time. 
Oh, that white smallish female with the breasts, 
She's just my niece . . . Herodias, I would say,-- 
Who went and danced and got men's heads cut off! 
Have it all out!" Now, is this sense, I ask? 
A fine way to paint soul, by painting body 
So ill, the eye can't stop there, must go further 
And can't fare worse! Thus, yellow does for white 
When what you put for yellow's simply black, 
And any sort of meaning looks intense 
When all beside itself means and looks nought. 
Why can't a painter lift each foot in turn, 
Left foot and right foot, go a double step, 
Make his flesh liker and his soul more like, 
Both in their order? Take the prettiest face, 
The Prior's niece . . . patron-saint--is it so pretty 
You can't discover if it means hope, fear, 
Sorrow or joy? won't beauty go with these? 
Suppose I've made her eyes all right and blue, 
Can't I take breath and try to add life's flash, 
And then add soul and heighten them three-fold? 
Or say there's beauty with no soul at all-- 
(I never saw it--put the case the same--) 
If you get simple beauty and nought else, 
You get about the best thing God invents: 
That's somewhat: and you'll find the soul you have missed, 
Within yourself, when you return him thanks. 
"Rub all out!" Well, well, there's my life, in short, 
And so the thing has gone on ever since. 
I'm grown a man no doubt, I've broken bounds: 
You should not take a fellow eight years old 
And make him swear to never kiss the girls. 
I'm my own master, paint now as I please-- 
Having a friend, you see, in the Corner-house! 
Lord, it's fast holding by the rings in front-- 
Those great rings serve more purposes than just 
To plant a flag in, or tie up a horse! 
And yet the old schooling sticks, the old grave eyes 
Are peeping o'er my shoulder as I work, 
The heads shake still--"It's art's decline, my son! 
You're not of the true painters, great and old; 
Brother Angelico's the man, you'll find; 
Brother Lorenzo stands his single peer: 
Fag on at flesh, you'll never make the third!" 
Flower o' the pine, 
You keep your mistr ... manners, and I'll stick to mine! 
I'm not the third, then: bless us, they must know! 
Don't you think they're the likeliest to know, 
They with their Latin? So, I swallow my rage, 
Clench my teeth, suck my lips in tight, and paint 
To please them--sometimes do and sometimes don't; 
For, doing most, there's pretty sure to come 
A turn, some warm eve finds me at my saints-- 
A laugh, a cry, the business of the world-- 
(Flower o' the peach 
Death for us all, and his own life for each!) 
And my whole soul revolves, the cup runs over, 
The world and life's too big to pass for a dream, 
And I do these wild things in sheer despite, 
And play the fooleries you catch me at, 
In pure rage! The old mill-horse, out at grass 
After hard years, throws up his stiff heels so, 
Although the miller does not preach to him 
The only good of grass is to make chaff. 
What would men have? Do they like grass or no-- 
May they or mayn't they? all I want's the thing 
Settled for ever one way. As it is, 
You tell too many lies and hurt yourself: 
You don't like what you only like too much, 
You do like what, if given you at your word, 
You find abundantly detestable. 
For me, I think I speak as I was taught; 
I always see the garden and God there 
A-making man's wife: and, my lesson learned, 
The value and significance of flesh, 
I can't unlearn ten minutes afterwards. 
You understand me: I'm a beast, I know. 
But see, now--why, I see as certainly 
As that the morning-star's about to shine, 
What will hap some day. We've a youngster here 
Comes to our convent, studies what I do, 
Slouches and stares and lets no atom drop: 
His name is Guidi--he'll not mind the monks-- 
They call him Hulking Tom, he lets them talk-- 
He picks my practice up--he'll paint apace. 
I hope so--though I never live so long, 
I know what's sure to follow. You be judge! 
You speak no Latin more than I, belike; 
However, you're my man, you've seen the world 
--The beauty and the wonder and the power, 
The shapes of things, their colours, lights and shades, 
Changes, surprises,--and God made it all! 
--For what? Do you feel thankful, ay or no, 
For this fair town's face, yonder river's line, 
The mountain round it and the sky above, 
Much more the figures of man, woman, child, 
These are the frame to? What's it all about? 
To be passed over, despised? or dwelt upon, 
Wondered at? oh, this last of course!--you say. 
But why not do as well as say,--paint these 
Just as they are, careless what comes of it? 
God's works--paint any one, and count it crime 
To let a truth slip. Don't object, "His works 
Are here already; nature is complete: 
Suppose you reproduce her--(which you can't) 
There's no advantage! you must beat her, then." 
For, don't you mark? we're made so that we love 
First when we see them painted, things we have passed 
Perhaps a hundred times nor cared to see; 
And so they are better, painted--better to us, 
Which is the same thing. Art was given for that; 
God uses us to help each other so, 
Lending our minds out. Have you noticed, now, 
Your cullion's hanging face? A bit of chalk, 
And trust me but you should, though! How much more, 
If I drew higher things with the same truth! 
That were to take the Prior's pulpit-place, 
Interpret God to all of you! Oh, oh, 
It makes me mad to see what men shall do 
And we in our graves! This world's no blot for us, 
Nor blank; it means intensely, and means good: 
To find its meaning is my meat and drink. 
"Ay, but you don't so instigate to prayer!" 
Strikes in the Prior: "when your meaning's plain 
It does not say to folk--remember matins, 
Or, mind you fast next Friday!" Why, for this 
What need of art at all? A skull and bones, 
Two bits of stick nailed crosswise, or, what's best, 
A bell to chime the hour with, does as well. 
I painted a Saint Laurence six months since 
At Prato, splashed the fresco in fine style: 
"How looks my painting, now the scaffold's down?" 
I ask a brother: "Hugely," he returns-- 
"Already not one phiz of your three slaves 
Who turn the Deacon off his toasted side, 
But's scratched and prodded to our heart's content, 
The pious people have so eased their own 
With coming to say prayers there in a rage: 
We get on fast to see the bricks beneath. 
Expect another job this time next year, 
For pity and religion grow i' the crowd-- 
Your painting serves its purpose!" Hang the fools! 
--That is--you'll not mistake an idle word 
Spoke in a huff by a poor monk, God wot, 
Tasting the air this spicy night which turns 
The unaccustomed head like Chianti wine! 
Oh, the church knows! don't misreport me, now! 
It's natural a poor monk out of bounds 
Should have his apt word to excuse himself: 
And hearken how I plot to make amends. 
I have bethought me: I shall paint a piece 
... There's for you! Give me six months, then go, see 
Something in Sant' Ambrogio's! Bless the nuns! 
They want a cast o' my office. I shall paint 
God in the midst, Madonna and her babe, 
Ringed by a bowery, flowery angel-brood, 
Lilies and vestments and white faces, sweet 
As puff on puff of grated orris-root 
When ladies crowd to Church at midsummer. 
And then i' the front, of course a saint or two-- 
Saint John' because he saves the Florentines, 
Saint Ambrose, who puts down in black and white 
The convent's friends and gives them a long day, 
And Job, I must have him there past mistake, 
The man of Uz (and Us without the z, 
Painters who need his patience). Well, all these 
Secured at their devotion, up shall come 
Out of a corner when you least expect, 
As one by a dark stair into a great light, 
Music and talking, who but Lippo! I!-- 
Mazed, motionless, and moonstruck--I'm the man! 
Back I shrink--what is this I see and hear? 
I, caught up with my monk's-things by mistake, 
My old serge gown and rope that goes all round, 
I, in this presence, this pure company! 
Where's a hole, where's a corner for escape? 
Then steps a sweet angelic slip of a thing 
Forward, puts out a soft palm--"Not so fast!" 
--Addresses the celestial presence, "nay-- 
He made you and devised you, after all, 
Though he's none of you! Could Saint John there draw-- 
His camel-hair make up a painting brush? 
We come to brother Lippo for all that, 
Iste perfecit opus! So, all smile-- 
I shuffle sideways with my blushing face 
Under the cover of a hundred wings 
Thrown like a spread of kirtles when you're gay 
And play hot cockles, all the doors being shut, 
Till, wholly unexpected, in there pops 
The hothead husband! Thus I scuttle off 
To some safe bench behind, not letting go 
The palm of her, the little lily thing 
That spoke the good word for me in the nick, 
Like the Prior's niece . . . Saint Lucy, I would say. 
And so all's saved for me, and for the church 
A pretty picture gained. Go, six months hence! 
Your hand, sir, and good-bye: no lights, no lights! 
The street's hushed, and I know my own way back, 
Don't fear me! There's the grey beginning. Zooks!


by Robert Browning |

Old Pictures In Florence

 I.

The morn when first it thunders in March,
The eel in the pond gives a leap, they say:
As I leaned and looked over the aloed arch
Of the villa-gate this warm March day,
No flash snapped, no dumb thunder rolled
In the valley beneath where, white and wide
And washed by the morning water-gold,
Florence lay out on the mountain-side.

II.

River and bridge and street and square
Lay mine, as much at my beck and call,
Through the live translucent bath of air,
As the sights in a magic crystal ball.
And of all I saw and of all I praised,
The most to praise and the best to see
Was the startling bell-tower Giotto raised:
But why did it more than startle me?

III.

Giotto, how, with that soul of yours,
Could you play me false who loved you so?
Some slights if a certain heart endures
Yet it feels, I would have your fellows know!
I' faith, I perceive not why I should care
To break a silence that suits them best,
But the thing grows somewhat hard to bear
When I find a Giotto join the rest.

IV.

On the arch where olives overhead
Print the blue sky with twig and leaf,
(That sharp-curled leaf which they never shed)
'Twixt the aloes, I used to lean in chief,
And mark through the winter afternoons,
By a gift God grants me now and then,
In the mild decline of those suns like moons,
Who walked in Florence, besides her men.

V.

They might chirp and chaffer, come and go
For pleasure or profit, her men alive---
My business was hardly with them, I trow,
But with empty cells of the human hive;
---With the chapter-room, the cloister-porch,
The church's apsis, aisle or nave,
Its crypt, one fingers along with a torch,
Its face set full for the sun to shave.

VI.

Wherever a fresco peels and drops,
Wherever an outline weakens and wanes
Till the latest life in the painting stops,
Stands One whom each fainter pulse-tick pains:
One, wishful each scrap should clutch the brick,
Each tinge not wholly escape the plaster,
---A lion who dies of an ass's kick,
The wronged great soul of an ancient Master.

VII.

For oh, this world and the wrong it does
They are safe in heaven with their backs to it,
The Michaels and Rafaels, you hum and buzz
Round the works of, you of the little wit!
Do their eyes contract to the earth's old scope,
Now that they see God face to face,
And have all attained to be poets, I hope?
'Tis their holiday now, in any case.

VIII.

Much they reck of your praise and you!
But the wronged great souls---can they be quit
Of a world where their work is all to do,
Where you style them, you of the little wit,
Old Master This and Early the Other,
Not dreaming that Old and New are fellows:
A younger succeeds to an elder brother,
Da Vincis derive in good time from Dellos.

IX.

And here where your praise might yield returns,
And a handsome word or two give help,
Here, after your kind, the mastiff girns
And the puppy pack of poodles yelp.
What, not a word for Stefano there,
Of brow once prominent and starry,
Called Nature's Ape and the world's despair
For his peerless painting? (See Vasari.)

X.

There stands the Master. Study, my friends,
What a man's work comes to! So he plans it,
Performs it, perfects it, makes amends
For the toiling and moiling, and then, _sic transit!_
Happier the thrifty blind-folk labour,
With upturned eye while the hand is busy,
Not sidling a glance at the coin of their neighbour!
'Tis looking downward that makes one dizzy.

XI.

``If you knew their work you would deal your dole.''
May I take upon me to instruct you?
When Greek Art ran and reached the goal,
Thus much had the world to boast _in fructu_---
The Truth of Man, as by God first spoken,
Which the actual generations garble,
Was re-uttered, and Soul (which Limbs betoken)
And Limbs (Soul informs) made new in marble.

XII.

So, you saw yourself as you wished you were,
As you might have been, as you cannot be;
Earth here, rebuked by Olympus there:
And grew content in your poor degree
With your little power, by those statues' godhead,
And your little scope, by their eyes' full sway,
And your little grace, by their grace embodied,
And your little date, by their forms that stay.

XIII.

You would fain be kinglier, say, than I am?
Even so, you will not sit like Theseus.
You would prove a model? The Son of Priam
Has yet the advantage in arms' and knees' use.
You're wroth---can you slay your snake like Apollo?
You're grieved---still Niobe's the grander!
You live---there's the Racers' frieze to follow:
You die---there's the dying Alexander.

XIV.

So, testing your weakness by their strength,
Your meagre charms by their rounded beauty,
Measured by Art in your breadth and length,
You learned---to submit is a mortal's duty.
---When I say ``you'' 'tis the common soul,
The collective, I mean: the race of Man
That receives life in parts to live in a whole,
And grow here according to God's clear plan.

XV.

Growth came when, looking your last on them all,
You turned your eyes inwardly one fine day
And cried with a start---What if we so small
Be greater and grander the while than they?
Are they perfect of lineament, perfect of stature?
In both, of such lower types are we
Precisely because of our wider nature;
For time, theirs---ours, for eternity.

XVI.

To-day's brief passion limits their range;
It seethes with the morrow for us and more. 
They are perfect---how else? they shall never change:
We are faulty---why not? we have time in store.
The Artificer's hand is not arrested
With us; we are rough-hewn, nowise polished:
They stand for our copy, and, once invested
With all they can teach, we shall see them abolished.

XVII.

'Tis a life-long toil till our lump be leaven---
The better! What's come to perfection perishes.
Things learned on earth, we shall practise in heaven:
Works done least rapidly, Art most cherishes.
Thyself shalt afford the example, Giotto!
Thy one work, not to decrease or diminish,
Done at a stroke, was just (was it not?) ``O!''
Thy great Campanile is still to finish.

XVIII.

Is it true that we are now, and shall be hereafter,
But what and where depend on life's minute?
Hails heavenly cheer or infernal laughter
Our first step out of the gulf or in it?
Shall Man, such step within his endeavour,
Man's face, have no more play and action
Than joy which is crystallized for ever,
Or grief, an eternal petrifaction?

XIX.

On which I conclude, that the early painters,
To cries of ``Greek Art and what more wish you?''---
Replied, ``To become now self-acquainters,
``And paint man man, whatever the issue!
``Make new hopes shine through the flesh they fray,
``New fears aggrandize the rags and tatters:
``To bring the invisible full into play!
``Let the visible go to the dogs---what matters?''

XX.

Give these, I exhort you, their guerdon and glory
For daring so much, before they well did it. 
The first of the new, in our race's story,
Beats the last of the old; 'tis no idle quiddit. 
The worthies began a revolution,
Which if on earth you intend to acknowledge,
Why, honour them now! (ends my allocution)
Nor confer your degree when the folk leave college.

XXI.

There's a fancy some lean to and others hate---
That, when this life is ended, begins
New work for the soul in another state,
Where it strives and gets weary, loses and wins:
Where the strong and the weak, this world's congeries,
Repeat in large what they practised in small,
Through life after life in unlimited series; 
Only the scale's to be changed, that's all.

XXII.

Yet I hardly know. When a soul has seen
By the means of Evil that Good is best,
And, through earth and its noise, what is heaven's serene,---
When our faith in the same has stood the test---
Why, the child grown man, you burn the rod,
The uses of labour are surely done;
There remaineth a rest for the people of God:
And I have had troubles enough, for one.

XXIII.

But at any rate I have loved the season
Of Art's spring-birth so dim and dewy;
My sculptor is Nicolo the Pisan,
My painter---who but Cimabue?
Nor ever was man of them all indeed,
From these to Ghiberti and Ghirlandaio,
Could say that he missed my critic-meed.
So, now to my special grievance---heigh ho!

XXIV.

Their ghosts still stand, as I said before,
Watching each fresco flaked and rasped,
Blocked up, knocked out, or whitewashed o'er:
---No getting again what the church has grasped!
The works on the wall must take their chance;
``Works never conceded to England's thick clime!''
(I hope they prefer their inheritance
Of a bucketful of Italian quick-lime.)

XXV.

When they go at length, with such a shaking
Of heads o'er the old delusion, sadly
Each master his way through the black streets taking,
Where many a lost work breathes though badly---
Why don't they bethink them of who has merited?
Why not reveal, while their pictures dree
Such doom, how a captive might be out-ferreted?
Why is it they never remember me?

XXVI.

Not that I expect the great Bigordi,
Nor Sandro to hear me, chivalric, bellicose;
Nor the wronged Lippino; and not a word I
Say of a scrap of Fr Angelico's:
But are you too fine, Taddeo Gaddi,
To grant me a taste of your intonaco,
Some Jerome that seeks the heaven with a sad eye?
Not a churlish saint, Lorenzo Monaco?

XXVII.

Could not the ghost with the close red cap,
My Pollajolo, the twice a craftsman,
Save me a sample, give me the hap
Of a muscular Christ that shows the draughtsman?
No Virgin by him the somewhat petty,
Of finical touch and tempera crumbly---
Could not Alesso Baldovinetti
Contribute so much, I ask him humbly?

XXVIII.

Margheritone of Arezzo,
With the grave-clothes garb and swaddling barret
(Why purse up mouth and beak in a pet so,
You bald old saturnine poll-clawed parrot?)
Not a poor glimmering Crucifixion,
Where in the foreground kneels the donor?
If such remain, as is my conviction,
The hoarding it does you but little honour.

XXIX.

They pass; for them the panels may thrill,
The tempera grow alive and tinglish;
Their pictures are left to the mercies still
Of dealers and stealers, Jews and the English,
Who, seeing mere money's worth in their prize,
Will sell it to somebody calm as Zeno
At naked High Art, and in ecstasies
Before some clay-cold vile Carlino!

XXX.

No matter for these! But Giotto, you,
Have you allowed, as the town-tongues babble it,---
Oh, never! it shall not be counted true---
That a certain precious little tablet
Which Buonarroti eyed like a lover,---
Was buried so long in oblivion's womb
And, left for another than I to discover,
Turns up at last! and to whom?---to whom?

XXXI.

I, that have haunted the dim San Spirito,
(Or was it rather the Ognissanti?)
Patient on altar-step planting a weary toe!
Nay, I shall have it yet! _Detur amanti!_
My Koh-i-noor-or (if that's a platitude)
Jewel of Giamschid, the Persian Sofi's eye
So, in anticipative gratitude,
What if I take up my hope and prophesy?

XXXII.

When the hour grows ripe, and a certain dotard
Is pitched, no parcel that needs invoicing,
To the worse side of the Mont Saint Gothard,
We shall begin by way of rejoicing;
None of that shooting the sky (blank cartridge),
Nor a civic guard, all plumes and lacquer,
Hunting Radetzky's soul like a partridge
Over Morello with squib and cracker.

XXXIII.

This time we'll shoot better game and bag 'em hot---
No mere display at the stone of Dante,
But a kind of sober Witanagemot
(Ex: ``Casa Guidi,'' _quod videas ante_)
Shall ponder, once Freedom restored to Florence,
How Art may return that departed with her. 
Go, hated house, go each trace of the Loraine's,
And bring us the days of Orgagna hither!

XXXIV.

How we shall prologize, how we shall perorate,
Utter fit things upon art and history,
Feel truth at blood-heat and falsehood at zero rate,
Make of the want of the age no mystery;
Contrast the fructuous and sterile eras,
Show---monarchy ever its uncouth cub licks
Out of the bear's shape into Chimra's,
While Pure Art's birth is still the republic's.

XXXV.

Then one shall propose in a speech (curt Tuscan,
Expurgate and sober, with scarcely an ``_issimo,_'')
To end now our half-told tale of Cambuscan,
And turn the bell-tower's _alt_ to _altissimo_:
And fine as the beak of a young beccaccia
The Campanile, the Duomo's fit ally,
Shall soar up in gold full fifty braccia,
Completing Florence, as Florence Italy.

XXXVI.

Shall I be alive that morning the scaffold
Is broken away, and the long-pent fire, 
Like the golden hope of the world, unbaffled
Springs from its sleep, and up goes the spire
While ``God and the People'' plain for its motto, 
Thence the new tricolour flaps at the sky?
At least to foresee that glory of Giotto
And Florence together, the first am I!

* 1 A sculptor, died 1278.
* 2 Died 1455. Designed the bronze gates of the Baptistry at Florence.
* 3 A painter, died 1498.
* 4 The son of Fr Lippo Lippi. Wronged, because some of his
* pictures have been attributed to others.
* 5 Died 1366. One of Giotto's pupils and assistants.
* 6 Rough cast.
* 7 Painter, sculptor, and goldsmith.
* 8 Distemper---mixture of water and egg yolk.
* 9 Sculptor and architect, died 1313-
*10 All Saints.
*11 A Florentine painter, died 1576.
*12 Tartar king.
*13 A woodcock


by Conrad Aiken |

The House Of Dust: Part 03: 11: Conversation: Undertones

 What shall we talk of? Li Po? Hokusai?
You narrow your long dark eyes to fascinate me;
You smile a little. . . .Outside, the night goes by.
I walk alone in a forest of ghostly trees . . .
Your pale hands rest palm downwards on your knees.

'These lines—converging, they suggest such distance!
The soul is drawn away, beyond horizons.
Lured out to what? One dares not think.
Sometimes, I glimpse these infinite perspectives
In intimate talk (with such as you) and shrink . . .

'One feels so petty!—One feels such—emptiness!—'
You mimic horror, let fall your lifted hand,
And smile at me; with brooding tenderness . . .
Alone on darkened waters I fall and rise;
Slow waves above me break, faint waves of cries.

'And then these colors . . . but who would dare describe them?
This faint rose-coral pink . . this green—pistachio?—
So insubstantial! Like the dim ghostly things
Two lovers find in love's still-twilight chambers . . .
Old peacock-fans, and fragrant silks, and rings . . .

'Rings, let us say, drawn from the hapless fingers
Of some great lady, many centuries nameless,—
Or is that too sepulchral?—dulled with dust;
And necklaces that crumble if you touch them;
And gold brocades that, breathed on, fall to rust.

'No—I am wrong . . . it is not these I sought for—!
Why did they come to mind? You understand me—
You know these strange vagaries of the brain!—'
—I walk alone in a forest of ghostly trees;
Your pale hands rest palm downwards on your knees;
These strange vagaries of yours are all too plain.

'But why perplex ourselves with tedious problems
Of art or . . . such things? . . . while we sit here, living,
With all that's in our secret hearts to say!—'
Hearts?—Your pale hand softly strokes the satin.
You play deep music—know well what you play.
You stroke the satin with thrilling of finger-tips,
You smile, with faintly perfumed lips,
You loose your thoughts like birds,
Brushing our dreams with soft and shadowy words . .
We know your words are foolish, yet sit here bound
In tremulous webs of sound.

'How beautiful is intimate talk like this!—
It is as if we dissolved grey walls between us,
Stepped through the solid portals, become but shadows,
To hear a hidden music . . . Our own vast shadows
Lean to a giant size on the windy walls,
Or dwindle away; we hear our soft footfalls
Echo forever behind us, ghostly clear,
Music sings far off, flows suddenly near,
And dies away like rain . . .
We walk through subterranean caves again,—
Vaguely above us feeling
A shadowy weight of frescos on the ceiling,
Strange half-lit things,
Soundless grotesques with writhing claws and wings . . .
And here a beautiful face looks down upon us;
And someone hurries before, unseen, and sings . . .
Have we seen all, I wonder, in these chambers—
Or is there yet some gorgeous vault, arched low,
Where sleeps an amazing beauty we do not know? . . '

The question falls: we walk in silence together,
Thinking of that deep vault and of its secret . . .
This lamp, these books, this fire
Are suddenly blown away in a whistling darkness.
Deep walls crash down in the whirlwind of desire.


by Conrad Aiken |

A Letter From Li Po

 Fanfare of northwest wind, a bluejay wind
announces autumn, and the equinox
rolls back blue bays to a far afternoon.
Somewhere beyond the Gorge Li Po is gone,
looking for friendship or an old love's sleeve
or writing letters to his children, lost,
and to his children's children, and to us.
What was his light? of lamp or moon or sun?
Say that it changed, for better or for worse,
sifted by leaves, sifted by snow; on mulberry silk
a slant of witch-light; on the pure text
a slant of genius; emptying mind and heart
for winecups and more winecups and more words.
What was his time? Say that it was a change,
but constant as a changing thing may be,
from chicory's moon-dark blue down the taut scale
to chicory's tenderest pink, in a pink field
such as imagination dreams of thought.
But of the heart beneath the winecup moon
the tears that fell beneath the winecup moon
for children lost, lost lovers, and lost friends,
what can we say but that it never ends?
Even for us it never ends, only begins.
Yet to spell down the poem on her page,
margining her phrases, parsing forth
the sevenfold prism of meaning, up the scale
from chicory pink to blue, is to assume
Li Po himself: as he before assumed
the poets and the sages who were his.
Like him, we too have eaten of the word:
with him are somewhere lost beyond the Gorge:
and write, in rain, a letter to lost children,
a letter long as time and brief as love.

II

And yet not love, not only love. Not caritas
or only that. Nor the pink chicory love,
deep as it may be, even to moon-dark blue,
in which the dragon of his meaning flew
for friends or children lost, or even
for the beloved horse, for Li Po's horse:
not these, in the self's circle so embraced:
too near, too dear, for pure assessment: no,
a letter crammed and creviced, crannied full,
storied and stored as the ripe honeycomb
with other faith than this. As of sole pride
and holy loneliness, the intrinsic face
worn by the always changing shape between
end and beginning, birth and death.
How moves that line of daring on the map?
Where was it yesterday, or where this morning
when thunder struck at seven, and in the bay
the meteor made its dive, and shed its wings,
and with them one more Icarus? Where struck
that lightning-stroke which in your sleep you saw
wrinkling across the eyelid? Somewhere else?
But somewhere else is always here and now.
Each moment crawls that lightning on your eyelid:
each moment you must die. It was a tree
that this time died for you: it was a rock
and with it all its local web of love:
a chimney, spilling down historic bricks:
perhaps a skyful of Ben Franklin's kites.
And with them, us. For we must hear and bear
the news from everywhere: the hourly news,
infinitesimal or vast, from everywhere.

III

Sole pride and loneliness: it is the state
the kingdom rather of all things: we hear
news of the heart in weather of the Bear,
slide down the rungs of Cassiopeia's Chair,
still on the nursery floor, the Milky Way;
and, if we question one, must question all.
What is this ‘man'? How far from him is ‘me'?
Who, in this conch-shell, locked the sound of sea?
We are the tree, yet sit beneath the tree,
among the leaves we are the hidden bird,
we are the singer and are what is heard.
What is this ‘world'? Not Li Po's Gorge alone,
and yet, this too might be. ‘The wind was high
north of the White King City, by the fields
of whistling barley under cuckoo sky,'
where, as the silkworm drew her silk, Li Po
spun out his thoughts of us. ‘Endless as silk'
(he said) ‘these poems for lost loves, and us,'
and, ‘for the peachtree, blooming in the ditch.'
Here is the divine loneliness in which
we greet, only to doubt, a voice, a word,
the smoke of a sweetfern after frost, a face
touched, and loved, but still unknown, and then
a body, still mysterious in embrace.
Taste lost as touch is lost, only to leave
dust on the doorsill or an ink-stained sleeve:
and yet, for the inadmissible, to grieve.
Of leaf and love, at last, only to doubt:
from world within or world without, kept out.

IV

Caucus of robins on an alien shore
as of the Ho-Ho birds at Jewel Gate
southward bound and who knows where and never late
or lost in a roar at sea. Rovers of chaos
each one the ‘Rover of Chao,' whose slight bones
shall put to shame the swords. We fly with these,
have always flown, and they
stay with us here, stand still and stay,
while, exiled in the Land of Pa, Li Po
still at the Wine Spring stoops to drink the moon.
And northward now, for fall gives way to spring,
from Sandy Hook and Kitty Hawk they wing,
and he remembers, with the pipes and flutes,
drunk with joy, bewildered by the chance
that brought a friend, and friendship, how, in vain,
he strove to speak, ‘and in long sentences,' his pain.
Exiled are we. Were exiles born. The ‘far away,'
language of desert, language of ocean, language of sky,
as of the unfathomable worlds that lie
between the apple and the eye,
these are the only words we learn to say.
Each morning we devour the unknown. Each day
we find, and take, and spill, or spend, or lose,
a sunflower splendor of which none knows the source.
This cornucopia of air! This very heaven
of simple day! We do not know, can never know,
the alphabet to find us entrance there.
So, in the street, we stand and stare,
to greet a friend, and shake his hand,
yet know him beyond knowledge, like ourselves;
ocean unknowable by unknowable sand.

V

The locust tree spills sequins of pale gold
in spiral nebulae, borne on the Invisible
earthward and deathward, but in change to find
the cycles to new birth, new life. Li Po
allowed his autumn thoughts like these to flow,
and, from the Gorge, sends word of Chouang's dream.
Did Chouang dream he was a butterfly?
Or did the butterfly dream Chouang? If so,
why then all things can change, and change again,
the sea to brook, the brook to sea, and we
from man to butterfly; and back to man.
This 'I,' this moving ‘I,' this focal ‘I,'
which changes, when it dreams the butterfly,
into the thing it dreams of; liquid eye
in which the thing takes shape, but from within
as well as from without: this liquid ‘I':
how many guises, and disguises, this
nimblest of actors takes, how many names
puts on and off, the costumes worn but once,
the player queen, the lover, or the dunce,
hero or poet, father or friend,
suiting the eloquence to the moment's end;
childlike, or bestial; the language of the kiss
sensual or simple; and the gestures, too,
as slight as that with which an empire falls,
or a great love's abjured; these feignings, sleights,
savants, or saints, or fly-by-nights,
the novice in her cell, or wearing tights
on the high wire above a hell of lights:
what's true in these, or false? which is the ‘I'
of 'I's'? Is it the master of the cadence, who
transforms all things to a hoop of flame, where through
tigers of meaning leap? And are these true,
the language never old and never new,
such as the world wears on its wedding day,
the something borrowed with something chicory blue?
In every part we play, we play ourselves;
even the secret doubt to which we come
beneath the changing shapes of self and thing,
yes, even this, at last, if we should call
and dare to name it, we would find
the only voice that answers is our own.
We are once more defrauded by the mind.

Defrauded? No. It is the alchemy by which we grow.
It is the self becoming word, the word
becoming world. And with each part we play
we add to cosmic Sum and cosmic sum.
Who knows but one day we shall find,
hidden in the prism at the rainbow's foot,
the square root of the eccentric absolute,
and the concentric absolute to come. 

VI

The thousand eyes, the Argus ‘I's' of love,
of these it was, in verse, that Li Po wove
the magic cloak for his last going forth,
into the Gorge for his adventure north.
What is not seen or said? The cloak of words
loves all, says all, sends back the word
whether from Green Spring, and the yellow bird
'that sings unceasing on the banks of Kiang,'
or 'from the Green Moss Path, that winds and winds,
nine turns for every hundred steps it winds,
up the Sword Parapet on the road to Shuh.'
‘Dead pinetrees hang head-foremost from the cliff.
The cataract roars downward. Boulders fall
Splitting the echoes from the mountain wall.
No voice, save when the nameless birds complain,
in stunted trees, female echoing male;
or, in the moonlight, the lost cuckoo's cry,
piercing the traveller's heart. Wayfarer from afar,
why are you here? what brings you here? why here?'

VII

Why here. Nor can we say why here. The peachtree bough
scrapes on the wall at midnight, the west wind
sculptures the wall of fog that slides
seaward, over the Gulf Stream.
 The rat 
comes through the wainscot, brings to his larder
the twinned acorn and chestnut burr. Our sleep
lights for a moment into dream, the eyes
turn under eyelids for a scene, a scene,
o and the music, too, of landscape lost.
And yet, not lost. For here savannahs wave
cressets of pampas, and the kingfisher
binds all that gold with blue.
 Why here? why here?
Why does the dream keep only this, just this C?
Yes, as the poem or the music do?

The timelessness of time takes form in rhyme:
the lotus and the locust tree rehearse
a four-form song, the quatrain of the year:
not in the clock's chime only do we hear
the passing of the Now into the past,
the passing into future of the Now:
hut in the alteration of the bough
time becomes visible, becomes audible,
becomes the poem and the music too:
time becomes still, time becomes time, in rhyme.
Thus, in the Court of Aloes, Lady Yang
called the musicians from the Pear Tree Garden,
called for Li Po, in order that the spring,
tree-peony spring, might so be made immortal.
Li Po, brought drunk to court, took up his brush,
but washed his face among the lilies first,
then wrote the song of Lady Flying Swallow:
which Hsuang Sung, the emperor, forthwith played,
moving quick fingers on a flute of jade.
Who will forget that afternoon? Still, still,
the singer holds his phrase, the rising moon
remains unrisen. Even the fountain's falling blade
hangs in the air unbroken, and says: Wait!

VIII

Text into text, text out of text. Pretext
for scholars or for scholiasts. The living word
springs from the dying, as leaves in spring
spring from dead leaves, our birth from death.
And all is text, is holy text. Sheepfold Hill
becomes its name for us, anti yet is still
unnamed, unnamable, a book of trees
before it was a book for men or sheep,
before it was a book for words. Words, words,
for it is scarlet now, and brown, and red,
and yellow where the birches have not shed,
where, in another week, the rocks will show.
And in this marriage of text and thing how can we know
where most the meaning lies? We climb the hill
through bullbriar thicket and the wild rose, climb
past poverty-grass and the sweet-scented bay
scaring the pheasant from his wall, but can we say
that it is only these, through these, we climb,
or through the words, the cadence, and the rhyme?
Chang Hsu, calligrapher of great renown,
needed to put but his three cupfuls down
to tip his brush with lightning. On the scroll,
wreaths of cloud rolled left and right, the sky
opened upon Forever. Which is which?
The poem? Or the peachtree in the ditch?
Or is all one? Yes, all is text, the immortal text,
Sheepfold Hill the poem, the poem Sheepfold Hill,
and we, Li Po, the man who sings, sings as he climbs,
transposing rhymes to rocks and rocks to rhymes.
The man who sings. What is this man who sings?
And finds this dedicated use for breath
for phrase and periphrase of praise between
the twin indignities of birth and death?
Li Yung, the master of the epitaph,
forgetting about meaning, who himself
had added 'meaning' to the book of >things,'
lies who knows where, himself sans epitaph,
his text, too, lost, forever lost ...
 And yet, no,
text lost and poet lost, these only flow
into that other text that knows no year.
The peachtree in the poem is still here.
The song is in the peachtree and the ear.

IX

The winds of doctrine blow both ways at once.
The wetted finger feels the wind each way,
presaging plums from north, and snow from south.
The dust-wind whistles from the eastern sea
to dry the nectarine and parch the mouth.
The west wind from the desert wreathes the rain
too late to fill our wells, but soon enough,
the four-day rain that bears the leaves away.
Song with the wind will change, but is still song
and pierces to the rightness in the wrong
or makes the wrong a rightness, a delight.
Where are the eager guests that yesterday
thronged at the gate? Like leaves, they could not stay,
the winds of doctrine blew their minds away,
and we shall have no loving-cup tonight.
No loving-cup: for not ourselves are here
to entertain us in that outer year,
where, so they say, we see the Greater Earth.
The winds of doctrine blow our minds away,
and we are absent till another birth.

X

Beyond the Sugar Loaf, in the far wood,
under the four-day rain, gunshot is heard
and with the falling leaf the falling bird
flutters her crimson at the huntsman's foot.
Life looks down at death, death looks up at life,
the eyes exchange the secret under rain,
rain all the way from heaven: and all three
know and are known, share and are shared, a silent
moment of union and communion.
Have we come
this way before, and at some other time?
Is it the Wind Wheel Circle we have come?
We know the eye of death, and in it too
the eye of god, that closes as in sleep,
giving its light, giving its life, away:
clouding itself as consciousness from pain,
clouding itself, and then, the shutter shut.
And will this eye of god awake again?
Or is this what he loses, loses once,
but always loses, and forever lost?
It is the always and unredeemable cost
of his invention, his fatigue. The eye
closes, and no other takes its place.
It is the end of god, each time, each time.

Yet, though the leaves must fall, the galaxies
rattle, detach, and fall, each to his own
perplexed and individual death, Lady Yang
gone with the inkberry's vermilion stalk,
the peony face behind a fan of frost,
the blue-moon eyebrow behind a fan of rain,
beyond recall by any alchemist
or incantation from the Book of Change:
unresumable, as, on Sheepfold Hill,
the fir cone of a thousand years ago:
still, in the loving, and the saying so,
as when we name the hill, and, with the name,
bestow an essence, and a meaning, too:
do we endow them with our lives?
They move
into another orbit: into a time
not theirs: and we become the bell to speak
this time: as we become new eyes
with which they see, the voice
in which they find duration, short or long,
the chthonic and hermetic song.
Beyond Sheepfold Hill,
gunshot again, the bird flies forth to meet
predestined death, to look with conscious sight
into the eye of light
the light unflinching that understands and loves.
And Sheepfold Hill accepts them, and is still.

XI

The landscape and the language are the same.
And we ourselves are language and are land,
together grew with Sheepfold Hill, rock, and hand,
and mind, all taking substance in a thought
wrought out of mystery: birdflight and air
predestined from the first to be a pair:
as, in the atom, the living rhyme
invented her divisions, which in time,
and in the terms of time, would make and break
the text, the texture, and then all remake.
This powerful mind that can by thinking take
the order of the world and all remake,
will it, for joy in breaking, break instead
its own deep thought that thought itself be dead?
Already in our coil of rock and hand,
hidden in the cloud of mind, burning, fading,
under the waters, in the eyes of sand,
was that which in its time would understand.
Already in the Kingdom of the Dead
the scrolls were waiting for the names and dates
and what would there irrevocably be said.
The brush was in the hand, the poem was in the love,
the praise was in the word. The ‘Book of Lives'
listed the name, Li Po, as an Immortal;
and it was time to travel. Not, this year,
north to the Damask City, or the Gorge,
but, by the phoenix borne, swift as the wind,
to the Jade Palace Portal. There
look through the clouded to the clear
and there watch evil like a brush-stroke disappear
in the last perfect rhyme
of the begin-all-end-all poem, time.

XII

Northwest by north. The grasshopper weathervane
bares to the moon his golden breastplate, swings
in his predicted circle, gilded legs and wings
bright with frost, predicting frost. The tide
scales with moon-silver, floods the marsh, fulfils
Payne Creek and Quivett Creek, rises to lift
the fishing-boats against a jetty wall;
and past them floods the plankton and the weed
and limp sea-lettuce for the horseshoe crab
who sleeps till daybreak in his nest of reed.
The hour is open as the mind is open.
Closed as the mind is closed. Opens as the hand opens
to receive the ghostly snowflakes of the moon, closes
to feel the sunbeams of the bloodstream warm
our human inheritance of touch. The air tonight
brings back, to the all-remembering world, its ghosts,
borne from the Great Year on the Wind Wheel Circle.
On that invisible wave we lift, we too,
and drag at secret moorings,
stirred by the ancient currents that gave us birth.
And they are here, Li Po and all the others,
our fathers and our mothers: the dead leaf's footstep
touches the grass: those who were lost at sea
and those the innocents the too-soon dead:
 all mankind
and all it ever knew is here in-gathered,
held in our hands, and in the wind
breathed by the pines on Sheepfold Hill.
How still the Quaker Graveyard, the Meeting House
how still, where Cousin Abiel, on a night like this,
now long since dead, but then how young,
how young, scuffing among the dead leaves after frost
looked up and saw the Wine Star, listened and heard
borne from all quarters the Wind Wheel Circle word:
the father within him, the mother within him, the self
coming to self through love of each for each.
In this small mute democracy of stones
is it Abiel or Li Po who lies
and lends us against death our speech?
They are the same, and it is both who teach.
The poets and the prophecies are ours:
and these are with us as we turn, in turn,
the leaves of love that fill the Book of Change.


by Li Po |

To Tan-Chiu

 My friend is lodging high in the Eastern Range,
Dearly loving the beauty of valleys and hills.
At green Spring he lies in the empty woods,
And is still asleep when the sun shines on igh.
A pine-tree wind dusts his sleeves and coat;
A peebly stream cleans his heart and ears.
I envy you, who far from strife and talk
Are high-propped on a pillow of blue cloud.


by Li Po |

To Tu Fu from Shantung

 You ask how I spend my time--
I nestle against a treetrunk
and listen to autumn winds
in the pines all night and day.

Shantung wine can't get me drunk.
The local poets bore me.
My thoughts remain with you,
like the Wen River, endlessly flowing.


by Li Po |

Going Up Yoyang Tower

 We climbed Yoyang Tower with
all the scene around coming
into vision; looking up the
Great River seeing boats turn
and enter the Tungting Lake; geese
crying farewell to the river
as they flew south; evening falling
as if mountain tops upt up the moon
with their lips; and we in the Yoyang
Tower as if with heads amongst
the cloud, drinking wine as if the cups
came from heaven itself; then
having drunk our fill there blew
a cold wind filling out our
sleeves, it seeming as though
we were dancing in time with it.


by Li Po |

Drinking Alone

 I take my wine jug out among the flowers
to drink alone, without friends.

I raise my cup to entice the moon.
That, and my shadow, makes us three.

But the moon doesn't drink,
and my shadow silently follows.

I will travel with moon and shadow,
happy to the end of spring.

When I sing, the moon dances.
When I dance, my shadow dances, too.

We share life's joys when sober.
Drunk, each goes a separate way.

Constant friends, although we wander,
we'll meet again in the Milky Way.


by Li Po |

Moon over Mountain Pass

 A bright moon rising above Tian Shan Mountain,
Lost in a vast ocean of clouds.
The long wind, across thousands upon thousands of miles,
Blows past the Jade-gate Pass.
The army of Han has gone down the Baiteng Road,
As the barbarian hordes probe at Qinghai Bay.
It is known that from the battlefield
Few ever live to return.
Men at Garrison look on the border scene,
Home thoughts deepen sorrow on their faces.
In the towered chambers tonight,
Ceaseless are the women's sighs.


by Li Po |

Marble Stairs Grievance

 On Marble Stairs
still grows the white dew
That has all night
soaked her silk slippers,

But she lets down
her crystal blind now
And sees through glaze
the moon of autumn.