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by Robert Seymour Bridges | |

Melancholia

 the history of melancholia
includes all of us.
me, I writhe in dirty sheets while staring at blue walls and nothing.
I have gotten so used to melancholia that I greet it like an old friend.
I will now do 15 minutes of grieving for the lost redhead, I tell the gods.
I do it and feel quite bad quite sad, then I rise CLEANSED even though nothing is solved.
that's what I get for kicking religion in the ass.
I should have kicked the redhead in the ass where her brains and her bread and butter are at .
.
.
but, no, I've felt sad about everything: the lost redhead was just another smash in a lifelong loss .
.
.
I listen to drums on the radio now and grin.
there is something wrong with me besides melancholia.


by Robert Seymour Bridges | |

Absence

 HERE, ever since you went abroad, 
 If there be change no change I see: 
I only walk our wonted road, 
 The road is only walk'd by me.
Yes; I forgot; a change there is-- Was it of that you bade me tell? I catch at times, at times I miss The sight, the tone, I know so well.
Only two months since you stood here? Two shortest months? Then tell me why Voices are harsher than they were, And tears are longer ere they dry.


by Robert Seymour Bridges | |

Nimium Fortunatus

 I have lain in the sun
I have toil'd as I might,
I have thought as I would,
And now it is night.
My bed full of sleep, My heart full of content For friends that I met The way that I went.
I welcome fatigue While frenzy and care Like thin summer clouds Go melting in air.
To dream as I may And awake when I will With the song of the birds And the sun on the hill.
Or death - were it death - To what would I wake Who loved in my home All life for its sake? What good have I wrought? I laugh to have learned That joy cannot come Unless it be earned; For a happier lot Than God giveth me It never hath been Nor ever shall be.


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by Robert Seymour Bridges | |

To the President of Magdalen College Oxford

 Since now from woodland mist and flooded clay 
I am fled beside the steep Devonian shore, 
Nor stand for welcome at your gothic door, 
'Neath the fair tower of Magdalen and May, 
Such tribute, Warren, as fond poets pay 
For generous esteem, I write, not more 
Enhearten'd than my need is, reckoning o'er 
My life-long wanderings on the heavenly way: 
But well-befriended we become good friends, 
Well-honour'd honourable; and all attain 
Somewhat by fathering what fortune sends.
I bid your presidency a long reign, True friend; and may your praise to greater ends Aid better men than I, nor me in vain.


by Robert Seymour Bridges | |

When Death to Either shall come

 When Death to either shall come,— 
I pray it be first to me,— 
Be happy as ever at home, 
If so, as I wish, it be.
Possess thy heart, my own; And sing to the child on thy knee, Or read to thyself alone The songs that I made for thee.


by Robert Seymour Bridges | |

While yet we wait for spring and from the dry

 While yet we wait for spring, and from the dry 
And blackening east that so embitters March, 
Well-housed must watch grey fields and meadows parch, 
And driven dust and withering snowflake fly; 
Already in glimpses of the tarnish'd sky 
The sun is warm and beckons to the larch, 
And where the covert hazels interarch 
Their tassell'd twigs, fair beds of primrose lie.
Beneath the crisp and wintry carpet hid A million buds but stay their blossoming; And trustful birds have built their nests amid The shuddering boughs, and only wait to sing Till one soft shower from the south shall bid, And hither tempt the pilgrim steps of spring.


by Robert Seymour Bridges | |

Winter Nightfall

 The day begins to droop,-- 
Its course is done: 
But nothing tells the place 
Of the setting sun.
The hazy darkness deepens, And up the lane You may hear, but cannot see, The homing wain.
An engine pants and hums In the farm hard by: Its lowering smoke is lost In the lowering sky.
The soaking branches drip, And all night through The dropping will not cease In the avenue.
A tall man there in the house Must keep his chair: He knows he will never again Breathe the spring air: His heart is worn with work; He is giddy and sick If he rise to go as far As the nearest rick: He thinks of his morn of life, His hale, strong years; And braves as he may the night Of darkness and tears.


by Robert Seymour Bridges | |

To Joseph Joachim

 Belov'd of all to whom that Muse is dear 
Who hid her spirit of rapture from the Greek, 
Whereby our art excelleth the antique, 
Perfecting formal beauty to the ear; 
Thou that hast been in England many a year 
The interpreter who left us nought to seek, 
Making Beethoven's inmost passion speak, 
Bringing the soul of great Sebastian near.
Their music liveth ever, and 'tis just That thou, good Joachim, so high thy skill, Rank (as thou shalt upon the heavenly hill) Laurel'd with them, for thy ennobling trust Remember'd when thy loving hand is still And every ear that heard thee stopt with dust.


by Robert Seymour Bridges | |

To Thos. Floyd

 How fares it, friend, since I by Fate annoy'd 
Left the old home in need of livelier play 
For body and mind? How fare, this many a day, 
The stubborn thews and ageless heart of Floyd? 
If not too well with country sport employ'd, 
Visit my flock, the breezy hill that they 
Choose for their fold; and see, for thence you may, 
From rising walls all roofless yet and void, 
The lovely city, thronging tower and spire, 
The mind of the wide landscape, dreaming deep, 
Grey-silvery in the vale; a shrine where keep 
Memorian hopes their pale celestial fire: 
Like man's immortal conscience of desire, 
The spirit that watcheth in me ev'n in my sleep.


by Robert Seymour Bridges | |

To the United States of America

 Brothers in blood! They who this wrong began 
To wreck our commonwealth, will rue the day 
When first they challenged freeman to the fray, 
And with the Briton dared the American.
Now are we pledged to win the Rights of man: Labour and Justice now shall have their way, And in a League of Peace -- God grant we may -- Transform the earth, not patch up the old plan.
Sure is our hope since he who led your nation Spake for mankind, and ye arose in awe Of that high call to work the world's salvation; Clearing your minds of all estrangling blindness In the vision of Beauty and the Spirit's law, Freedom and Honour and sweet Lovingkindness.


by Robert Seymour Bridges | |

A Passer-by

 Whither, O splendid ship, thy white sails crowding, 
Leaning across the bosom of the urgent West, 
That fearest nor sea rising, nor sky clouding, 
Whither away, fair rover, and what thy quest? 
Ah! soon, when Winter has all our vales opprest, 
When skies are cold and misty, and hail is hurling, 
Wilt thoù glìde on the blue Pacific, or rest 
In a summer haven asleep, thy white sails furling.
I there before thee, in the country that well thou knowest, Already arrived am inhaling the odorous air: I watch thee enter unerringly where thou goest, And anchor queen of the strange shipping there, Thy sails for awnings spread, thy masts bare: Nor is aught from the foaming reef to the snow-capp'd grandest Peak, that is over the feathery palms, more fair Than thou, so upright, so stately and still thou standest.
And yet, O splendid ship, unhail'd and nameless, I know not if, aiming a fancy, I rightly divine That thou hast a purpose joyful, a courage blameless, Thy port assured in a happier land than mine.
But for all I have given thee, beauty enough is thine, As thou, aslant with trim tackle and shrouding, From the proud nostril curve of a prow's line In the offing scatterest foam, thy white sails crowding.


by Robert Seymour Bridges | |

Absence

 When my love was away, 
Full three days were not sped, 
I caught my fancy astray 
Thinking if she were dead, 

And I alone, alone: 
It seem'd in my misery 
In all the world was none 
Ever so lone as I.
I wept; but it did not shame Nor comfort my heart: away I rode as I might, and came To my love at close of day.
The sight of her still'd my fears, My fairest-hearted love: And yet in her eyes were tears: Which when I question'd of, 'O now thou art come,' she cried, ''Tis fled: but I thought to-day I never could here abide, If thou wert longer away.
'


by Robert Seymour Bridges | |

Awake My Heart

 Awake, my heart, to be loved, awake, awake!

The darkness silvers away, the morn doth break,
It leaps in the sky: unrisen lustres slake
The o'ertaken moon.
Awake, O heart, awake! She too that loveth awaketh and hopes for thee: Her eyes already have sped the shades that flee, Already they watch the path thy feet shall take: Awake, O heart, to be loved, awake, awake! And if thou tarry from her, - if this could be, - She cometh herself, O heart, to be loved, to thee; For thee would unashamed herself forsake: Awake, to be loved, my heart, awake, awake! Awake! The land is scattered with light, and see, Uncanopied sleep is flying from field and tree; And blossoming boughs of April in laughter shake: Awake, O heart, to be loved, awake, awake! Lo, all things wake and tarry and look for thee: She looketh and saith, "O sun, now bring him to me.
Come, more adored, O adored, for his coming's sake, And awake, my heart, to be loved, awake, awake!"


by Robert Seymour Bridges | |

I Will Not Let Thee Go

 I will not let thee go.
Ends all our month-long love in this? Can it be summed up so, Quit in a single kiss? I will not let thee go.
I will not let thee go.
If thy words' breath could scare thy deeds, As the soft south can blow And toss the feathered seeds, Then might I let thee go.
I will not let thee go.
Had not the great sun seen, I might; Or were he reckoned slow To bring the false to light, Then might I let thee go.
I will not let thee go.
The stars that crowd the summer skies Have watched us so below With all their million eyes, I dare not let thee go.
I will not let thee go.
Have we chid the changeful moon, Now rising late, and now Because she set too soon, And shall I let thee go? I will not let thee go.
Have not the young flowers been content, Plucked ere their buds could blow, To seal our sacrament? I cannot let thee go.
I will not let thee go.
I hold thee by too many bands: Thou sayest farewell, and lo! I have thee by the hands, And will not let thee go.


by Robert Seymour Bridges | |

In autumn moonlight when the white air wan

 In autumn moonlight, when the white air wan 
Is fragrant in the wake of summer hence, 
'Tis sweet to sit entranced, and muse thereon 
In melancholy and godlike indolence: 
When the proud spirit, lull'd by mortal prime 
To fond pretence of immortality, 
Vieweth all moments from the birth of time, 
All things whate'er have been or yet shall be.
And like the garden, where the year is spent, The ruin of old life is full of yearning, Mingling poetic rapture of lament With flowers and sunshine of spring's sure returning; Only in visions of the white air wan By godlike fancy seized and dwelt upon.


by Robert Seymour Bridges | |

Lord Kitchner

 Unflinching hero, watchful to foresee 
And face thy country's peril wheresoe'er, 
Directing war and peace with equal care, 
Till by long toil ennobled thou wert he 
Whom England call'd and bade "Set my arm free 
To obey my will and save my honour fair," -- 
What day the foe presumed on her despair 
And she herself had trust in none but thee: 

Among Herculean deeds the miracle 
That mass'd the labour of ten years in one 
Shall be thy monument.
Thy work was done Ere we could thank thee; and the high sea swell Surgeth unheeding where thy proud ship fell By the lone Orkneys, at the set of sun.


by Robert Seymour Bridges | |

Low Barometer

 The south-wind strengthens to a gale,
Across the moon the clouds fly fast,
The house is smitten as with a flail,
The chimney shudders to the blast.
On such a night, when Air has loosed Its guardian grasp on blood and brain, Old terrors then of god or ghost Creep from their caves to life again; And Reason kens he herits in A haunted house.
Tenants unknown Assert their squalid lease of sin With earlier title than his own.
Unbodied presences, the packed Pollution and remorse of Time, Slipped from oblivion re-enact The horrors of unhousehold crime.
Some men would quell the thing with prayer Whose sightless footsteps pad the floor, Whose fearful trespass mounts the stair Or burst the locked forbidden door.
Some have seen corpses long interred Escape from hallowing control, Pale charnel forms - nay even have heard The shrilling of a troubled soul, That wanders till the dawn has crossed The dolorous dark, or Earth has wound Closer her storm-spread cloak, and thrust The baleful phantoms underground.


by Robert Seymour Bridges | |

Melancholia

 The sickness of desire, that in dark days 
Looks on the imagination of despair, 
Forgetteth man, and stinteth God his praise; 
Nor but in sleep findeth a cure for care.
Incertainty that once gave scope to dream Of laughing enterprise and glory untold, Is now a blackness that no stars redeem, A wall of terror in a night of cold.
Fool! thou that hast impossibly desired And now impatiently despairest, see How nought is changed: Joy's wisdom is attired Splendid for others' eyes if not for thee: Not love or beauty or youth from earth is fled: If they delite thee not, 'tis thou art dead.


by Robert Seymour Bridges | |

My Delight and Thy Delight

 My delight and thy delight 
Walking, like two angels white, 
In the gardens of the night: 

My desire and thy desire 
Twining to a tongue of fire, 
Leaping live, and laughing higher: 

Thro' the everlasting strife 
In the mystery of life.
Love, from whom the world begun, Hath the secret of the sun.
Love can tell, and love alone, Whence the million stars were strewn, Why each atom knows its own, How, in spite of woe and death, Gay is life, and sweet is breath: This he taught us, this we knew, Happy in his science true, Hand in hand as we stood 'Neath the shadows of the wood, Heart to heart as we lay In the dawning of the day.


by Robert Seymour Bridges | |

Nightingales

 Beautiful must be the mountains whence ye come, 
And bright in the fruitful valleys the streams, wherefrom 
Ye learn your song: 
Where are those starry woods? O might I wander there, 
Among the flowers, which in that heavenly air 
Bloom the year long! 

Nay, barren are those mountains and spent the streams: 
Our song is the voice of desire, that haunts our dreams, 
A throe of the heart, 
Whose pining visions dim, forbidden hopes profound, 
No dying cadence nor long sigh can sound, 
For all our art.
Alone, aloud in the raptured ear of men We pour our dark nocturnal secret; and then, As night is withdrawn From these sweet-springing meads and bursting boughs of May, Dream, while the innumerable choir of day Welcome the dawn.


by Robert Seymour Bridges | |

On a Dead Child

 Perfect little body, without fault or stain on thee, 
With promise of strength and manhood full and fair! 
Though cold and stark and bare, 
The bloom and the charm of life doth awhile remain on thee.
Thy mother's treasure wert thou;—alas! no longer To visit her heart with wondrous joy; to be Thy father's pride:—ah, he Must gather his faith together, and his strength make stronger.
To me, as I move thee now in the last duty, Dost thou with a turn or gesture anon respond; Startling my fancy fond With a chance attitude of the head, a freak of beauty.
Thy hand clasps, as 'twas wont, my finger, and holds it: But the grasp is the clasp of Death, heartbreaking and stiff; Yet feels to my hand as if 'Twas still thy will, thy pleasure and trust that enfolds it.
So I lay thee there, thy sunken eyelids closing,— Go lie thou there in thy coffin, thy last little bed!— Propping thy wise, sad head, Thy firm, pale hands across thy chest disposing.
So quiet! doth the change content thee?—Death, whither hath he taken thee? To a world, do I think, that rights the disaster of this? The vision of which I miss, Who weep for the body, and wish but to warm thee and awaken thee? Ah! little at best can all our hopes avail us To lift this sorrow, or cheer us, when in the dark, Unwilling, alone we embark, And the things we have seen and have known and have heard of, fail us.


by Robert Seymour Bridges | |

Pater Filio

 Sense with keenest edge unusèd, 
Yet unsteel'd by scathing fire; 
Lovely feet as yet unbruisèd 
On the ways of dark desire; 
Sweetest hope that lookest smiling
O'er the wilderness defiling! 

Why such beauty, to be blighted 
By the swarm of foul destruction? 
Why such innocence delighted, 
When sin stalks to thy seduction? 
All the litanies e'er chaunted 
Shall not keep thy faith undaunted.
I have pray'd the sainted Morning To unclasp her hands to hold thee; From resignful Eve's adorning Stol'n a robe of peace to enfold thee; With all charms of man's contriving Arm'd thee for thy lonely striving.
Me too once unthinking Nature, —Whence Love's timeless mockery took me,— Fashion'd so divine a creature, Yea, and like a beast forsook me.
I forgave, but tell the measure Of her crime in thee, my treasure.


by Robert Seymour Bridges | |

So sweet love seemed that April morn

 So sweet love seemed that April morn,
When first we kissed beside the thorn,
So strangely sweet, it was not strange
We thought that love could never change.
But I can tell--let truth be told-- That love will change in growing old; Though day by day is naught to see, So delicate his motions be.
And in the end 'twill come to pass Quite to forget what once he was, Nor even in fancy to recall The pleasure that was all in all.
His little spring, that sweet we found, So deep in summer floods is drowned, I wonder, bathed in joy complete, How love so young could be so sweet.


by Robert Seymour Bridges | |

Spirits

 Angel spirits of sleep, 
White-robed, with silver hair, 
In your meadows fair, 
Where the willows weep, 
And the sad moonbeam 
On the gliding stream 
Writes her scatter'd dream: 

Angel spirits of sleep, 
Dancing to the weir 
In the hollow roar 
Of its waters deep; 
Know ye how men say 
That ye haunt no more 
Isle and grassy shore 
With your moonlit play; 
That ye dance not here, 
White-robed spirits of sleep, 
All the summer night 
Threading dances light?


by Robert Seymour Bridges | |

Absence

 I visited the place where we last met.
Nothing was changed, the gardens were well-tended, The fountains sprayed their usual steady jet; There was no sign that anything had ended And nothing to instruct me to forget.
The thoughtless birds that shook out of the trees, Singing an ecstasy I could not share, Played cunning in my thoughts.
Surely in these Pleasures there could not be a pain to bear Or any discord shake the level breeze.
It was because the place was just the same That made your absence seem a savage force, For under all the gentleness there came An earthquake tremor: Fountain, birds and grass Were shaken by my thinking of your name.