Charles Baudelaire |
CARRYING bouquet, and handkerchief, and gloves,
Proud of her height as when she lived, she moves
With all the careless and high-stepping grace,
And the extravagant courtesan's thin face.
Was slimmer waist e'er in a ball-room wooed?
Her floating robe, in royal amplitude,
Falls in deep folds around a dry foot, shod
With a bright flower-like shoe that gems the sod.
The swarms that hum about her collar-bones
As the lascivious streams caress the stones,
Conceal from every scornful jest that flies,
Her gloomy beauty; and her fathomless eyes
Are made of shade and void; with flowery sprays
Her skull is wreathed artistically, and sways,
Feeble and weak, on her frail vertebrae.
O charm of nothing decked in folly! they
Who laugh and name you a Caricature,
They see not, they whom flesh and blood allure,
The nameless grace of every bleached, bare bone,
That is most dear to me, tall skeleton!
Come you to trouble with your potent sneer
The feast of Life! or are you driven here,
To Pleasure's Sabbath, by dead lusts that stir
And goad your moving corpse on with a spur?
Or do you hope, when sing the violins,
And the pale candle-flame lights up our sins,
To drive some mocking nightmare far apart,
And cool the flame hell lighted in your heart?
Fathomless well of fault and foolishness!
Eternal alembic of antique distress!
Still o'er the curved, white trellis of your sides
The sateless, wandering serpent curls and glides.
And truth to tell, I fear lest you should find,
Among us here, no lover to your mind;
Which of these hearts beat for the smile you gave?
The charms of horror please none but the brave.
Your eyes' black gulf, where awful broodings stir,
Brings giddiness; the prudent reveller
Sees, while a horror grips him from beneath,
The eternal smile of thirty-two white teeth.
For he who has not folded in his arms
A skeleton, nor fed on graveyard charms,
Recks not of furbelow, or paint, or scent,
When Horror comes the way that Beauty went.
O irresistible, with fleshless face,
Say to these dancers in their dazzled race:
"Proud lovers with the paint above your bones,
Ye shall taste death, musk scented skeletons!
Withered Antino?s, dandies with plump faces,
Ye varnished cadavers, and grey Lovelaces,
Ye go to lands unknown and void of breath,
Drawn by the rumour of the Dance of Death.
From Seine's cold quays to Ganges' burning stream,
The mortal troupes dance onward in a dream;
They do not see, within the opened sky,
The Angel's sinister trumpet raised on high.
In every clime and under every sun,
Death laughs at ye, mad mortals, as ye run;
And oft perfumes herself with myrrh, like ye
And mingles with your madness, irony!"
Siegfried Sassoon |
EVENING was in the wood, louring with storm.
A time of drought had sucked the weedy pool
And baked the channels; birds had done with song.
Thirst was a dream of fountains in the moon,
Or willow-music blown across the water 5
Leisurely sliding on by weir and mill.
Uneasy was the man who wandered, brooding,
His face a little whiter than the dusk.
A drone of sultry wings flicker¡¯d in his head.
The end of sunset burning thro¡¯ the boughs 10
Died in a smear of red; exhausted hours
Cumber¡¯d, and ugly sorrows hemmed him in.
He thought: ¡®Somewhere there¡¯s thunder,¡¯ as he strove
To shake off dread; he dared not look behind him,
But stood, the sweat of horror on his face.
He blunder¡¯d down a path, trampling on thistles,
In sudden race to leave the ghostly trees.
And: ¡®Soon I¡¯ll be in open fields,¡¯ he thought,
And half remembered starlight on the meadows,
Scent of mown grass and voices of tired men, 20
Fading along the field-paths; home and sleep
And cool-swept upland spaces, whispering leaves,
And far off the long churring night-jar¡¯s note.
But something in the wood, trying to daunt him,
Led him confused in circles through the thicket.
He was forgetting his old wretched folly,
And freedom was his need; his throat was choking.
Barbed brambles gripped and clawed him round his legs,
And he floundered over snags and hidden stumps.
Mumbling: ¡®I will get out! I must get out!¡¯ 30
Butting and thrusting up the baffling gloom,
Pausing to listen in a space ¡¯twixt thorns,
He peers around with peering, frantic eyes.
An evil creature in the twilight looping,
Flapped blindly in his face.
Beating it off, 35
He screeched in terror, and straightway something clambered
Heavily from an oak, and dropped, bent double,
To shamble at him zigzag, squat and bestial.
Headlong he charges down the wood, and falls
With roaring brain¡ªagony¡ªthe snap¡¯t spark¡ª 40
And blots of green and purple in his eyes.
Then the slow fingers groping on his neck,
And at his heart the strangling clasp of death.
Allen Ginsberg |
At gauzy dusk, thin haze like cigarette smoke
ribbons past Chrysler Building's silver fins
tapering delicately needletopped, Empire State's
taller antenna filmed milky lit amid blocks
black and white apartmenting veil'd sky over Manhattan,
offices new built dark glassed in blueish heaven--The East
50's & 60's covered with castles & watertowers, seven storied
tar-topped house-banks over York Avenue, late may-green trees
surrounding Rockefellers' blue domed medical arbor--
Geodesic science at the waters edge--Cars running up
East River Drive, & parked at N.
Hospital's oval door
where perfect tulips flower the health of a thousand sick souls
trembling inside hospital rooms.
Triboro bridge steel-spiked
penthouse orange roofs, sunset tinges the river and in a few
Bronx windows, some magnesium vapor brilliances're
spotted five floors above E 59th St under grey painted bridge
Way downstream along the river, as Monet saw Thames
100 years ago, Con Edison smokestacks 14th street,
& Brooklyn Bridge's skeined dim in modern mists--
Pipes sticking up to sky nine smokestacks huge visible--
Building hangs under an orange crane, & red lights on
vertical avenues below the trees turn green at the nod
of a skull with a mild nerve ache.
Dim dharma, I return
to this spectacle after weeks of poisoned lassitude, my thighs
belly chest & arms covered with poxied welts,
head pains fading back of the neck, right eyebrow cheek
mouth paralyzed--from taking the wrong medicine, sweated
too much in the forehead helpless, covered my rage from
gorge to prostate with grinding jaw and tightening anus
not released the weeping scream of horror at robot Mayaguez
World self ton billions metal grief unloaded
Pnom Penh to Nakon Thanom, Santiago & Tehran.
Fresh warm breeze in the window, day's release
>from pain, cars float downside the bridge trestle
and uncounted building-wall windows multiplied a mile
deep into ash-delicate sky beguile
my empty mind.
A seagull passes alone wings
spread silent over roofs.
- May 20, 1975 Mayaguez Crisis
More great poems below...
Robert Graves |
Through long nursery nights he stood
By my bed unwearying,
Loomed gigantic, formless, queer,
Purring in my haunted ear
That same hideous nightmare thing,
Talking, as he lapped my blood,
In a voice cruel and flat,
Saying for ever, "Cat! .
That one word was all he said,
That one word through all my sleep,
In monotonous mock despair.
Nonsense may be light as air,
But there's Nonsense that can keep
Horror bristling round the head,
When a voice cruel and flat
Says for ever, "Cat! .
He had faded, he was gone
Years ago with Nursery Land,
When he leapt on me again
From the clank of a night train,
Overpowered me foot and head,
Lapped my blood, while on and on
The old voice cruel and flat
Says for ever, "Cat! .
Morphia drowsed, again I lay
In a crater by High Wood:
He was there with straddling legs,
Staring eyes as big as eggs,
Purring as he lapped my blood,
His black bulk darkening the day,
With a voice cruel and flat,
" he said, "Cat! .
When I'm shot through heart and head,
And there's no choice but to die,
The last word I'll hear, no doubt,
Won't be "Charge!" or "Bomb them out!"
Nor the stretcher-bearer's cry,
"Let that body be, he's dead!"
But a voice cruel and flat
Saying for ever, "Cat! .
Edgar Allan Poe |
Lo! 't is a gala night
Within the lonesome latter years!
An angel throng bewinged bedight
In veils and drowned in tears
Sit in a theatre to see
A play of hopes and fears
While the orchestra breathes fitfully
The music of the spheres.
Mimes in the form of God on high
Mutter and mumble low
And hither and thither fly -
Mere puppets they who come and go
At bidding of vast formless things
That shift the scenery to and fro
Flapping from out their Condor wings
That motley drama! - oh be sure
It shall not be forgot!
With its Phantom chased for evermore
By a crowd that seize it not
Through a circle that ever returneth in
To the self-same spot
And much of Madness and more of Sin
And Horror the soul of the plot.
But see amid the mimic rout
A crawling shape intrude!
A blood-red thing that writhes from out
The scenic solitude!
It writhes! - it writhes! - with mortal pangs
The mimes become its food
And the seraphs sob at vermin fangs
In human gore imbued.
Out - out are the lights - out all!
And over each quivering form
The curtain a funeral pall
Comes down with the rush of a storm
And the angels all pallid and wan
Uprising unveiling affirm
That the play is the tragedy "Man"
And its hero the Conqueror Worm.
Aleister Crowley |
[Dedicated to Austin Osman Spare]
Have pity ! show no pity !
Those eyes that send such shivers
Into my brain and spine : oh let them
Flame like the ancient city
Swallowed up by the sulphurous rivers
When men let angels fret them !
Yea ! let the south wind blow,
And the Turkish banner advance,
And the word go out : No quarter !
But I shall hod thee -so !
While the boys and maidens dance
About the shambles of slaughter !
I know thee who thou art,
The inmost fiend that curlest
Thy vampire tounge about
Earth's corybantic heart,
Hell's warrior that whirlest
The darts of horror and doubt !
Thou knowest me who I am
The inmost soul and saviour
Of man ; what hieroglyph
Of the dragon and the lamb
Shall thou and I engrave here
On Time's inscandescable cliff ?
Look ! in the plished granite,
Black as thy cartouche is with sins,
I read the searing sentence
That blasts the eyes that scan it :
"HOOR and SET be TWINS.
A fico for repentance !
Ay ! O Son of my mother
That snarled and clawed in her womb
As now we rave in our rapture,
I know thee, I love thee, brother !
Incestuous males that consumes
The light and the life that we capture.
Starve thou the soul of the world,
Brother, as I the body !
Shall we not glut our lust
On these wretches whom Fate hath hurled
To a hell of jesus and shoddy,
Dung and ethics and dust ?
Thou as I art Fate.
Coe then, conquer and kiss me !
Come ! what hinders? Believe me :
This is the thought we await.
The mark is fair ; can you miss me ?
See, how subtly I writhe !
Strange runes and unknown sigils
I trace in the trance that thrills us.
Death ! how lithe, how blithe
Are these male incestuous vigils !
Ah ! this is the spasm that kills us !
Wherefore I solemnly affirm
This twofold Oneness at the term.
Asar on Asi did beget
Horus twin brother unto Set.
Now Set and Horus kiss, to call
The Soul of the Unnatural
Forth from the dusk ; then nature slain
Lets the Beyond be born again.
This weird is of the tongue of Khem,
The Conjuration used of them.
Whoso shall speak it, let him die,
His bowels rotting inwardly,
Save he uncover and caress
The God that lighteth his liesse.
Thomas Campbell |
When first the fiery-mantled sun
His heavenly race begun to run;
Round the earth and ocean blue,
His children four the Seasons flew.
First, in green apparel dancing,
The young Spring smiled with angel grace;
Rosy summer next advancing,
Rushed into her sire's embrace:-
Her blue-haired sire, who bade her keep
For ever nearest to his smile,
On Calpe's olive-shaded steep,
On India's citron-covered isles:
More remote and buxom-brown,
The Queen of vintage bowed before his throne,
A rich pomegranate gemmed her gown,
A ripe sheaf bound her zone.
But howling Winter fled afar,
To hills that prop the polar star,
And lives on deer-borne car to ride
With barren darkness at his side,
Round the shore where loud Lofoden
Whirls to death the roaring whale,
Round the hall where runic Odin
Howls his war-song to the gale;
Save when adown the ravaged globe
He travels on his native storm,
Deflowering Nature's grassy robe,
And trampling on her faded form:-
Till light's returning lord assume
The shaft the drives him to his polar field,
Of power to pierce his raven plume
And crystal-covered shield.
Oh, sire of storms! whose savage ear
The Lapland drum delights to hear,
When frenzy with her blood-shot eye
Implores thy dreadful deity,
Archangel! power of desolation!
Fast descending as thou art,
Say, hath mortal invocation
Spells to touch thy stony heart?
Then, sullen Winter, hear my prayer,
And gently rule the ruined year;
Nor chill the wanders bosom bare,
Nor freeze the wretch's falling tear;-
To shuddering Want's unmantled bed
Thy horror-breathing agues cease to lead,
And gently on the orphan head
Of innocence descend.
But chiefly spare, O king of clouds!
The sailor on his airy shrouds;
When wrecks and beacons strew the steep,
And specters walk along the deep.
Milder yet thy snowy breezes
Pour on yonder tented shores,
Where the Rhine's broad billow freezes,
Or the Dark-brown Danube roars.
Oh, winds of winter! List ye there
To many a deep and dying groan;
Or start, ye demons of the midnight air,
At shrieks and thunders louder than your own.
Alas! Even unhallowed breath
May spare the victim fallen low;
But man will ask no truce of death,-
No bounds to human woe.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning |
We sow the glebe, we reap the corn,
We build the house where we may rest,
And then, at moments, suddenly,
We look up to the great wide sky,
Inquiring wherefore we were born…
For earnest or for jest?
The senses folding thick and dark
About the stifled soul within,
We guess diviner things beyond,
And yearn to them with yearning fond;
We strike out blindly to a mark
Believed in, but not seen.
We vibrate to the pant and thrill
Wherewith Eternity has curled
In serpent-twine about God’s seat;
While, freshening upward to His feet,
In gradual growth His full-leaved will
Expands from world to world.
And, in the tumult and excess
Of act and passion under sun,
We sometimes hear—oh, soft and far,
As silver star did touch with star,
The kiss of Peace and Righteousness
Through all things that are done.
God keeps His holy mysteries
Just on the outside of man’s dream;
In diapason slow, we think
To hear their pinions rise and sink,
While they float pure beneath His eyes,
Like swans adown a stream.
Abstractions, are they, from the forms
Of His great beauty?—exaltations
From His great glory?—strong previsions
Of what we shall be?—intuitions
Of what we are—in calms and storms,
Beyond our peace and passions?
Things nameless! which, in passing so,
Do stroke us with a subtle grace.
We say, ‘Who passes?’—they are dumb.
We cannot see them go or come:
Their touches fall soft, cold, as snow
Upon a blind man’s face.
Yet, touching so, they draw above
Our common thoughts to Heaven’s unknown,
Our daily joy and pain advance
To a divine significance,
Our human love—O mortal love,
That light is not its own!
And sometimes horror chills our blood
To be so near such mystic Things,
And we wrap round us for defence
Our purple manners, moods of sense—
As angels from the face of God
Stand hidden in their wings.
And sometimes through life’s heavy swound
We grope for them!—with strangled breath
We stretch our hands abroad and try
To reach them in our agony,—
And widen, so, the broad life-wound
Which soon is large enough for death.
Robert William Service |
The cruel war was over -- oh, the triumph was so sweet!
We watched the troops returning, through our tears;
There was triumph, triumph, triumph down the scarlet glittering street,
And you scarce could hear the music for the cheers.
And you scarce could see the house-tops for the flags that flew between;
The bells were pealing madly to the sky;
And everyone was shouting for the Soldiers of the Queen,
And the glory of an age was passing by.
And then there came a shadow, swift and sudden, dark and drear;
The bells were silent, not an echo stirred.
The flags were drooping sullenly, the men forgot to cheer;
We waited, and we never spoke a word.
The sky grew darker, darker, till from out the gloomy rack
There came a voice that checked the heart with dread:
"Tear down, tear down your bunting now, and hang up sable black;
They are coming -- it's the Army of the Dead.
They were coming, they were coming, gaunt and ghastly, sad and slow;
They were coming, all the crimson wrecks of pride;
With faces seared, and cheeks red smeared, and haunting eyes of woe,
And clotted holes the khaki couldn't hide.
Oh, the clammy brow of anguish! the livid, foam-flecked lips!
The reeling ranks of ruin swept along!
The limb that trailed, the hand that failed, the bloody finger tips!
And oh, the dreary rhythm of their song!
"They left us on the veldt-side, but we felt we couldn't stop
On this, our England's crowning festal day;
We're the men of Magersfontein, we're the men of Spion Kop,
Colenso -- we're the men who had to pay.
We're the men who paid the blood-price.
Shall the grave be all our gain?
You owe us.
Long and heavy is the score.
Then cheer us for our glory now, and cheer us for our pain,
And cheer us as ye never cheered before.
The folks were white and stricken, and each tongue seemed weighted with lead;
Each heart was clutched in hollow hand of ice;
And every eye was staring at the horror of the dead,
The pity of the men who paid the price.
They were come, were come to mock us, in the first flush of our peace;
Through writhing lips their teeth were all agleam;
They were coming in their thousands -- oh, would they never cease!
I closed my eyes, and then -- it was a dream.
There was triumph, triumph, triumph down the scarlet gleaming street;
The town was mad; a man was like a boy.
A thousand flags were flaming where the sky and city meet;
A thousand bells were thundering the joy.
There was music, mirth and sunshine; but some eyes shone with regret;
And while we stun with cheers our homing braves,
O God, in Thy great mercy, let us nevermore forget
The graves they left behind, the bitter graves.
Sylvia Plath |
The photographic chamber of the eye
records bare painted walls, while an electric light
lays the chromium nerves of plumbing raw;
such poverty assaults the ego; caught
naked in the merely actual room,
the stranger in the lavatory mirror
puts on a public grin, repeats our name
but scrupulously reflects the usual terror.
Just how guilty are we when the ceiling
reveals no cracks that can be decoded? when washbowl
maintains it has no more holy calling
than physical ablution, and the towel
dryly disclaims that fierce troll faces lurk
in its explicit folds? or when the window,
blind with steam, will not admit the dark
which shrouds our prospects in ambiguous shadow?
Twenty years ago, the familiar tub
bred an ample batch of omens; but now
water faucets spawn no danger; each crab
and octopus -- scrabbling just beyond the view,
waiting for some accidental break
in ritual, to strike -- is definitely gone;
the authentic sea denies them and will pluck
fantastic flesh down to the honest bone.
We take the plunge; under water our limbs
waver, faintly green, shuddering away
from the genuine color of skin; can our dreams
ever blur the intransigent lines which draw
the shape that shuts us in? absolute fact
intrudes even when the revolted eye
is closed; the tub exists behind our back;
its glittering surfaces are blank and true.
Yet always the ridiculous nude flanks urge
the fabrication of some cloth to cover
such starkness; accuracy must not stalk at large:
each day demands we create our whole world over,
disguising the constant horror in a coat
of many-colored fictions; we mask our past
in the green of Eden, pretend future's shining fruit
can sprout from the navel of this present waste.
In this particular tub, two knees jut up
like icebergs, while minute brown hairs rise
on arms and legs in a fringe of kelp; green soap
navigates the tidal slosh of seas
breaking on legendary beaches; in faith
we shall board our imagined ship and wildly sail
among sacred islands of the mad till death
shatters the fabulous stars and makes us real.
Christina Rossetti |
Sleeping at last, the trouble and tumult over,
Sleeping at last, the struggle and horror past,
Cold and white, out of sight of friend and of lover,
Sleeping at last.
No more a tired heart downcast or overcast,
No more pangs that wring or shifting fears that hover,
Sleeping at last in a dreamless sleep locked fast.
Singing birds in their leafy cover
Cannot wake her, nor shake her the gusty blast.
Under the purple thyme and the purple clover
Sleeping at last.
Charles Baudelaire |
My impoverished muse, alas! What have you for me this morning?
Your empty eyes are stocked with nocturnal visions,
In your cheek's cold and taciturn reflection,
I see insanity and horror forming.
The green succubus and the red urchin,
Have they poured you fear and love from their urns?
The nightmare of a mutinous fist that despotically turns,
Does it drown you at the bottom of a loch beyond searching?
I wish that your breast exhaled the scent of sanity,
That your womb of thought was not a tomb more frequently
And that your Christian blood flowed around a buoy that was rhythmical,
Like the numberless sounds of antique syllables,
Where reigns in turn the father of songs,
Phoebus, and the great Pan, the harvest sovereign.
Isaac Watts |
Up from my youth, may Isr'el say,
Have I been nursed in tears;
My griefs were constant as the day,
And tedious as the years.
Up from my youth I bore the rage
Of all the sons of strife;
Oft they assailed my riper age,
But not destroyed my life.
Their cruel plow had torn my flesh
With furrows long and deep;
Hourly they vexed my wounds afresh,
Nor let my sorrows sleep.
The Lord grew angry on his throne,
And, with impartial eye,
Measured the mischiefs they had done,
Then let his arrows fly.
How was their insolence surprised
To hear his thunders roll!
And all the foes of Zion seized
With horror to the soul!
Thus shall the men that hate the saints
Be blasted from the sky;
Their glory fades, their courage faints
And all their projects die.
[What though they flourish tall and fair,
They have no root beneath;
Their growth shall perish in despair,
And lie despised in death.
[So corn that on the house-top stands
No hope of harvest gives;
The reaper ne'er shall fill his hands,
Nor binder fold the sheaves.
It springs and withers on the place;
No traveller bestows
A word of blessing on the grass,
Nor minds it as he goes.
Thomas Gray |
Now the storm begins to lower,
(Haste, the loom of Hell prepares!)
Iron-sleet of arrowy shower
Hurtles in the darkened air.
Glittering lances are the loom,
Where the dusky warp we strain,
Weaving many a soldier's doom,
Orkney's woe and Randver's bane.
See the grisly texture grow,
('Tis of human entrails made!)
And the weights that play below,
Each a gasping warrior's head.
Shafts for shuttles, dipped in gore,
Shoot the trembling cords along.
Sword, that once a monarch bore,
Keep the tissue close and strong.
Mista, black, terrific maid,
Sangrida, and Hilda, see,
Join the wayward work to aid;
'Tis the woof of victory.
Ere the ruddy sun be set,
Pikes must shiver, javelins sing,
Blade with clattering buckler meet,
Hauberk crash, and helmet ring.
(Weave the crimson web of war!)
Let us go, and let us fly
Where our friends the conflict share,
Where they triumph, where they die.
As the paths of fate we tread,
Wading through the ensanguined field,
Gondula and Geira, spread
O'er the youthful king your shield.
We the reins to slaughter give;
Ours to kill, and ours to spare;
Spite the dangers he shall live.
(Weave the crimson web of war!)
They whom once the desert beach
Pent within its bleak domain,
Soon their ample sway shall stretch
O'er the plenty of the plain.
Low the dauntless earl is laid,
Gored with many a gaping wound;
Fate demands a nobler head;
Soon a king shall bite the ground.
Long his loss shall Eirin weep
Ne'er again his likeness see;
Long her strains in sorrow steep,
Strains of immortality!
Horror covers all the heath;
Clouds of carnage blot the sun.
Sisters, weave the web of death;
Sisters, cease, the work is done.
Hail the task, and hail the hands!
Songs of joy and triumph sing!
Joy to the victorious bands
Triumph to the younger king.
Mortal, thou that hear'st the tale,
Learn the tenor of our song.
Scotland, through each winding vale
Far and wide the notes prolong.
Sisters, hence with spurs of speed;
Each her thundering falchion wield;
Each bestride her sable steed.
Hurry, hurry to the field!
Sharon Olds |
On the then-below-zero day, it was on,
near the patients' chair, the old heater
kept by the analyst's couch, at the end,
like the infant's headstone that was added near the foot
of my father's grave.
And it was hot, with the almost
laughing satire of a fire's heat,
the little coils like hairs in Hell.
And it was making a group of sick noises-
I wanted the doctor to turn it off
but I couldn't seem to ask, so I just
stared, but it did not budge.
turned his heavy, soft palm
outward, toward me, inviting me to speak, I
said, "If you're cold-are you cold? But if it's on
" He held his palm out toward me,
I tried to ask, but I only muttered,
but he said, "Of course," as if I had asked,
and he stood up and approached the heater, and then
stood on one foot, and threw himself
toward the wall with one hand, and with the other hand
reached down, behind the couch, to pull
the plug out.
I looked away,
I had not known he would have to bend
And I was so moved, that he
would act undignified, to help me,
that I cried, not trying to stop, but as if
the moans made sentences which bore
some human message.
If he would cast himself toward the
outlet for me, as if bending with me in my old
shame and horror, then I would rest
on his art-and the heater purred, like a creature
or the familiar of a creature, or the child of a familiar,
the father of a child, the spirit of a father,
the healing of a spirit, the vision of healing,
the heat of vision, the power of heat,
the pleasure of power.