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Written by Adela Florence Cory Nicolson | Create an image from this poem

Fate Knows no Tears

   Just as the dawn of Love was breaking
          Across the weary world of grey,
   Just as my life once more was waking
          As roses waken late in May,
   Fate, blindly cruel and havoc-making,
          Stepped in and carried you away.

   Memories have I none in keeping
          Of times I held you near my heart,
   Of dreams when we were near to weeping
          That dawn should bid us rise and part;
   Never, alas, I saw you sleeping
          With soft closed eyes and lips apart,

   Breathing my name still through your dreaming.—
          Ah! had you stayed, such things had been!
   But Fate, unheeding human scheming,
          Serenely reckless came between—
   Fate with her cold eyes hard and gleaming
          Unseared by all the sorrow seen.

   Ah! well-beloved, I never told you,
          I did not show in speech or song,
   How at the end I longed to fold you
          Close in my arms; so fierce and strong
   The longing grew to have and hold you,
          You, and you only, all life long.

   They who know nothing call me fickle,
          Keen to pursue and loth to keep.
   Ah, could they see these tears that trickle
          From eyes erstwhile too proud to weep.
   Could see me, prone, beneath the sickle,
          While pain and sorrow stand and reap!

   Unopened scarce, yet overblown, lie
          The hopes that rose-like round me grew,
   The lights are low, and more than lonely
          This life I lead apart from you.
   Come back, come back!  I want you only,
          And you who loved me never knew.

   You loved me, pleaded for compassion
          On all the pain I would not share;
   And I in weary, halting fashion
          Was loth to listen, long to care;
   But now, dear God! I faint with passion
          For your far eyes and distant hair.

   Yes, I am faint with love, and broken
          With sleepless nights and empty days;
   I want your soft words fiercely spoken,
          Your tender looks and wayward ways—
   Want that strange smile that gave me token
          Of many things that no man says.

   Cold was I, weary, slow to waken
          Till, startled by your ardent eyes,
   I felt the soul within me shaken
          And long-forgotten senses rise;
   But in that moment you were taken,
          And thus we lost our Paradise!

   Farewell, we may not now recover
          That golden "Then" misspent, passed by,
   We shall not meet as loved and lover
          Here, or hereafter, you and I.
   My time for loving you is over,
          Love has no future, but to die.

   And thus we part, with no believing
          In any chance of future years.
   We have no idle self-deceiving,
          No half-consoling hopes and fears;
   We know the Gods grant no retrieving
          A wasted chance.  Fate knows no tears.

Written by Adela Florence Cory Nicolson | Create an image from this poem

The Garden by the Bridge

   The Desert sands are heated, parched and dreary,
     The tigers rend alive their quivering prey
   In the near Jungle; here the kites rise, weary,
     Too gorged with living food to fly away.

   All night the hungry jackals howl together
     Over the carrion in the river bed,
   Or seize some small soft thing of fur or feather
     Whose dying shrieks on the night air are shed.

   I hear from yonder Temple in the distance
     Whose roof with obscene carven Gods is piled,
   Reiterated with a sad insistence
     Sobs of, perhaps, some immolated child.

   Strange rites here, where the archway's shade is deeper,
     Are consummated in the river bed;
   Parias steal the rotten railway sleeper
     To burn the bodies of their cholera dead.

   But yet, their lust, their hunger, cannot shame them
     Goaded by fierce desire, that flays and stings;
   Poor beasts, and poorer men.  Nay, who shall blame them?
     Blame the Inherent Cruelty of Things.

   The world is horrible and I am lonely,
     Let me rest here where yellow roses bloom
   And find forgetfulness, remembering only
     Your face beside me in the scented gloom.

   Nay, do not shrink!  I am not here for passion,
     I crave no love, only a little rest,
   Although I would my face lay, lover's fashion,
     Against the tender coolness of your breast.

   I am so weary of the Curse of Living
     The endless, aimless torture, tumult, fears.
   Surely, if life were any God's free giving,
     He, seeing His gift, long since went blind with tears.

   Seeing us; our fruitless strife, our futile praying,
     Our luckless Present and our bloodstained Past.
   Poor players, who make a trick or two in playing,
     But know that death must win the game at last.

   As round the Fowler, red with feathered slaughter,
     The little joyous lark, unconscious, sings,—
   As the pink Lotus floats on azure water,
     Innocent of the mud from whence it springs.

   You walk through life, unheeding all the sorrow,
     The fear and pain set close around your way,
   Meeting with hopeful eyes each gay to-morrow,
     Living with joy each hour of glad to-day.

   I love to have you thus (nay, dear, lie quiet,
     How should these reverent fingers wrong your hair?)
   So calmly careless of the rush and riot
     That rages round is seething everywhere.

   You do not understand.  You think your beauty
     Does but inflame my senses to desire,
   Till all you hold as loyalty and duty,
     Is shrunk and shrivelled in the ardent fire.

   You wrong me, wearied out with thought and grieving
     As though the whole world's sorrow eat my heart,
   I come to gaze upon your face believing
     Its beauty is as ointment to the smart.

   Lie still and let me in my desolation
     Caress the soft loose hair a moment's span.
   Since Loveliness is Life's one Consolation,
     And love the only Lethe left to man.

   Ah, give me here beneath the trees in flower,
     Beside the river where the fireflies pass,
   One little dusky, all consoling hour
     Lost in the shadow of the long grown grass

   Give me, oh you whose arms are soft and slender,
     Whose eyes are nothing but one long caress,
   Against your heart, so innocent and tender,
     A little Love and some Forgetfulness.
Written by Adela Florence Cory Nicolson | Create an image from this poem

This Month the Almonds Bloom at Kandahar

   The singer only sang the Joy of Life,
     For all too well, alas! the singer knew
   How hard the daily toil, how keen the strife,
     How salt the falling tear; the joys how few.

   He who thinks hard soon finds it hard to live,
     Learning the Secret Bitterness of Things:
   So, leaving thought, the singer strove to give
     A level lightness to his lyric strings.

   He only sang of Love; its joy and pain,
     But each man in his early season loves;
   Each finds the old, lost Paradise again,
     Unfolding leaves, and roses, nesting doves.

   And though that sunlit time flies all too fleetly,
     Delightful Days that dance away too soon!
   Its early morning freshness lingers sweetly
     Throughout life's grey and tedious afternoon.

   And he, whose dreams enshrine her tender eyes,
     And she, whose senses wait his waking hand,
   Impatient youth, that tired but sleepless lies,
     Will read perhaps, and reading, understand.

   Oh, roseate lips he would have loved to kiss,
     Oh, eager lovers that he never knew!
   What should you know of him, or words of his?—
     But all the songs he sang were sung for you!
Written by Adela Florence Cory Nicolson | Create an image from this poem

Protest: By Zahir-u-Din

   Second Song

   How much I loved that way you had
   Of smiling most, when very sad,
   A smile which carried tender hints
       Of delicate tints
       And warbling birds,
       Of sun and spring,
   And yet, more than all other thing,
   Of Weariness beyond all Words!

   None other ever smiled that way,
       None that I know,—
   The essence of all Gaiety lay,
   Of all mad mirth that men may know,
   In that sad smile, serene and slow,
   That on your lips was wont to play.

   It needed many delicate lines
   And subtle curves and roseate tints
   To make that weary radiant smile;
   It flickered, as beneath the vines
   The sunshine through green shadow glints
   On the pale path that lies below,
   Flickered and flashed, and died away,
   But the strange thoughts it woke meanwhile
       Were wont to stay.

   Thoughts of Strange Things you used to know
   In dim, dead lives, lived long ago,
   Some madly mirthful Merriment
   Whose lingering light is yet unspent,—
   Some unimaginable Woe,—
   Your strange, sad smile forgets these not,
   Though you, yourself, long since, forgot!
Written by Adela Florence Cory Nicolson | Create an image from this poem

To the Hills!

   The tremulous morning is breaking
     Against the white waste of the sky,
   And hundreds of birds are awaking
     In tamarisk bushes hard by.
   I, waiting alone in the station,
     Can hear in the distance, grey-blue,
   The sound of that iron desolation,
     The train that will bear me from you.

   'T will carry me under your casement,
     You'll feel in your dreams as you lie
   The quiver, from gable to basement,
     The rush of my train sweeping by.
   And I shall look out as I pass it,—
     Your dear, unforgettable door,
   'T was ours till last night, but alas! it
     Will never be mine any more.

   Through twilight blue-grey and uncertain,
     Where frost leaves the window-pane free,
   I'll look at the tinsel-edged curtain
     That hid so much pleasure for me.
   I go to my long undone duty
     Alone in the chill and the gloom,
   My eyes are still full of the beauty
     I leave in your rose-scented room.

   Lie still in your dreams; for your tresses
     Are free of my lingering kiss.
   I keep you awake with caresses
     No longer; be happy in this!
   From passion you told me you hated
     You're now and for ever set free,
   I pass in my train, sorrow-weighted,
     Your house that was Heaven to me.

   You won't find a trace, when you waken,
     Of me or my love of the past,
   Rise up and rejoice!  I have taken
     My longed-for departure at last.
   My fervent and useless persistence
     You never need suffer again,
   Nor even perceive in the distance
     The smoke of my vanishing train!

Written by Adela Florence Cory Nicolson | Create an image from this poem

"Love Lightly"

   Rose Pink am I, the colour gleams and glows
     In many a flower; her lips, those tender doors
   By which, in time of love, love's essence flows
     From him to her, are dyed in delicate Rose.
   Mine is the earliest Ruby light that pours
     Out of the East, when day's white gates unclose.

   On downy peach, and maiden's downier cheek
     I, in a flush of radiant bloom, alight,
   Clinging, at sunset, to the shimmering peak
     I veil its snow in floods of Roseate light.

   Mine is the heavenly hue of Azure skies,
     Where the white clouds lie soft as seraphs' wings,
   Mine the sweet, shadowed light in innocent eyes,
     Whose lovely looks light only on lovely things.

   Mine the Blue Distance, delicate and clear,
     Mine the Blue Glory of the morning sea,
   All that the soul so longs for, finds not here,
     Fond eyes deceive themselves, and find in me.

   Hail! to the Royal Red of living Blood,
     Let loose by steel in spirit-freeing flood,
   Forced from faint forms, by toil or torture torn
     Staining the patient gates of life new born.

   Colour of War and Rage, of Pomp and Show,
     Banners that flash, red flags that flaunt and glow,
   Colour of Carnage, Glory, also Shame,
     Raiment of women women may not name.

   I hide in mines, where unborn Rubies dwell,
     Flicker and flare in fitful fire in Hell,
   The outpressed life-blood of the grape is mine,
     Hail! to the Royal Purple Red of Wine.

   Strong am I, over strong, to eyes that tire,
     In the hot hue of Rapine, Riot, Flame.
   Death and Despair are black, War and Desire,
     The two red cards in Life's unequal game.

   I am the Life of Forests, and Wandering Streams,
     Green as the feathery reeds the Florican love,
   Young as a maiden, who of her marriage dreams,
     Still sweetly inexperienced in ways of Love.

   Colour of Youth and Hope, some waves are mine,
     Some emerald reaches of the evening sky.
   See, in the Spring, my sweet green Promise shine,
     Never to be fulfilled, of by and by.

   Never to be fulfilled; leaves bud, and ever
     Something is wanting, something falls behind;
   The flowered Solstice comes indeed, but never
     That light and lovely summer men divined.

   I were the colour of Things, (if hue they had)
         That are hard to name.
   Of curious, twisted thoughts that men call "mad"
         Or oftener "shame."
   Of that delicate vice, that is hardly vice,
         So reticent, rare,
   Ethereal, as the scent of buds and spice,
         In this Eastern air.

   On palm-fringed shores I colour the Cowrie shell,
         With its edges curled;
   And, deep in Datura poison buds, I dwell
         In a perfumed world.
   My lilac tinges the edge of the evening sky
         Where the sunset clings.
   My purple lends an Imperial Majesty
         To the robes of kings.

   Gold am I, and for me, ever men curse and pray,
     Selling their souls and each other, by night and day.
   A sordid colour, and yet, I make some things fair,
     Dying sunsets, fields of corn, and a maiden's hair.

   Thus they discoursed in the daytime,—Violet, Yellow, and Blue,
     Emerald, Scarlet, and Rose-colour, the pink and perfect hue.
   Thus they spoke in the sunshine, when their beauty was manifest,
     Till the Night came, and the Silence, and gave them an equal rest.
Written by Adela Florence Cory Nicolson | Create an image from this poem

Reverie of Mahomed Akram at the Tamarind Tank

   The Desert is parched in the burning sun
   And the grass is scorched and white.
   But the sand is passed, and the march is done,
   We are camping here to-night.
        I sit in the shade of the Temple walls,
        While the cadenced water evenly falls,
        And a peacock out of the Jungle calls
        To another, on yonder tomb.
       Above, half seen, in the lofty gloom,
       Strange works of a long dead people loom,
   Obscene and savage and half effaced—
   An elephant hunt, a musicians' feast—
   And curious matings of man and beast;
   What did they mean to the men who are long since dust?
        Whose fingers traced,
        In this arid waste,
   These rioting, twisted, figures of love and lust.

   Strange, weird things that no man may say,
   Things Humanity hides away;—
        Secretly done,—
   Catch the light of the living day,
        Smile in the sun.
   Cruel things that man may not name,
   Naked here, without fear or shame,
        Laughed in the carven stone.

   Deep in the Temple's innermost Shrine is set,
       Where the bats and shadows dwell,
   The worn and ancient Symbol of Life, at rest
       In its oval shell,
   By which the men, who, of old, the land possessed,
   Represented their Great Destroying Power.
        I cannot forget
   That, just as my life was touching its fullest flower,
   Love came and destroyed it all in a single hour,
        Therefore the dual Mystery suits me well.

                           Sitting alone,
   The tank's deep water is cool and sweet,
   Soothing and fresh to the wayworn feet,
           Dreaming, under the Tamarind shade,
           One silently thanks the men who made
   So green a place in this bitter land
                Of sunburnt sand.

   The peacocks scream and the grey Doves coo,
   Little green, talkative Parrots woo,
   And small grey Squirrels, with fear askance,
   At alien me, in their furtive glance,
   Come shyly, with quivering fur, to see
   The stranger under their Tamarind tree.
          Daylight dies,
   The Camp fires redden like angry eyes,
          The Tents show white,
           In the glimmering light,
   Spirals of tremulous smoke arise, to the purple skies,
         And the hum of the Camp sounds like the sea,
     Drifting over the sand to me.
          Afar, in the Desert some wild voice sings
          To a jangling zither with minor strings,
            And, under the stars growing keen above,
            I think of the thing that I love.

         A beautiful thing, alert, serene,
   With passionate, dreaming, wistful eyes,
   Dark and deep as mysterious skies,
   Seen from a vessel at sea.
   Alas, you drifted away from me,
   And Time and Space have rushed in between,
   But they cannot undo the Thing-that-has-been,
               Though it never again may be.
   You were mine, from dusk until dawning light,
   For the perfect whole of that bygone night
               You belonged to me!

   They say that Love is a light thing,
   A foolish thing and a slight thing,
               A ripe fruit, rotten at core;
     They speak in this futile fashion
     To me, who am wracked with passion,
     Tormented beyond compassion,
               For ever and ever more.

   They say that Possession lessens a lover's delight,
     As radiant mornings fade into afternoon.
   I held what I loved in my arms for many a night,
     Yet ever the morning lightened the sky too soon.

   Beyond our tents the sands stretch level and far,
   Around this little oasis of Tamarind trees.
   A curious, Eastern fragrance fills the breeze
   From the ruinous Temple garden where roses are.

   I dream of the rose-like perfume that fills your hair,
   Of times when my lips were free of your soft closed eyes,
   While down in the tank the waters ripple and rise
   And the flying foxes silently cleave the air.

   The present is subtly welded into the past,
   My love of you with the purple Indian dusk,
   With its clinging scent of sandal incense and musk,
            And withering jasmin flowers.
   My eyes grow dim and my senses fail at last,
            While the lonely hours
   Follow each other, silently, one by one,
                 Till the night is almost done.

   Then weary, and drunk with dreams, with my garments damp
   And heavy with dew, I wander towards the camp.
     Tired, with a brain in which fancy and fact are blent,
     I stumble across the ropes till I reach my tent
   And then to rest. To ensweeten my sleep with lies,
   To dream I lie in the light of your long lost eyes,
                   My lips set free.
   To love and linger over your soft loose hair—
   To dream I lay your delicate beauty bare
                   To solace my fevered eyes.
   Ah,—if my life might end in a night like this—
   Drift into death from dreams of your granted kiss!
Written by Adela Florence Cory Nicolson | Create an image from this poem

"Less than the Dust"

   Less than the dust, beneath thy Chariot wheel,
   Less than the rust, that never stained thy Sword,
   Less than the trust thou hast in me, O Lord,
                                Even less than these!

   Less than the weed, that grows beside thy door,
   Less than the speed of hours spent far from thee,
   Less than the need thou hast in life of me.
                                Even less am I.

   Since I, O Lord, am nothing unto thee,
   See here thy Sword, I make it keen and bright,
   Love's last reward, Death, comes to me to-night,
                                Farewell,  Zahir-u-din.
Written by Adela Florence Cory Nicolson | Create an image from this poem

Lalila, to the Ferengi Lover

   Kama the Indian Eros

   The daylight is dying,
   The Flying fox flying,
         Amber and amethyst burn in the sky.
   See, the sun throws a late,
   Lingering, roseate
         Kiss to the landscape to bid it good-bye.

   The time of our Trysting!
   Oh, come, unresisting,
         Lovely, expectant, on tentative feet.
   Shadow shall cover us,
   Roses bend over us,
         Making a bride chamber, sacred and sweet.

   We know not life's reason,
   The length of its season,
         Know not if they know, the great Ones above.
   We none of us sought it,
   And few could support it,
         Were it not gilt with the glamour of love.

   But much is forgiven
   To Gods who have given,
         If but for an hour, the Rapture of Youth.
   You do not yet know it,
   But Kama shall show it,
         Changing your dreams to his Exquisite Truth.

   The Fireflies shall light you,
   And naught shall afright you,
         Nothing shall trouble the Flight of the Hours.
   Come, for I wait for you,
   Night is too late for you,
         Come, while the twilight is closing the flowers.

   Every breeze still is,
   And, scented with lilies,
         Cooled by the twilight, refreshed by the dew,
   The garden lies breathless,
   Where Kama, the Deathless,
         In the hushed starlight, is waiting for you.
Written by Adela Florence Cory Nicolson | Create an image from this poem

He Lurks Among the Reeds

   He lurks among the reeds, beside the marsh,
     Red oleanders twisted in His hair,
   His eyes are haggard and His lips are harsh,
     Upon His breast the bones show gaunt and bare.

   The green and stagnant waters lick His feet,
     And from their filmy, iridescent scum
   Clouds of mosquitoes, gauzy in the heat,
     Rise with His gifts: Death and Delirium.

   His messengers: They bear the deadly taint
     On spangled wings aloft and far away,
   Making thin music, strident and yet faint,
     From golden eve to silver break of day.

   The baffled sleeper hears th' incessant whine
     Through his tormented dreams, and finds no rest
   The thirsty insects use his blood for wine,
     Probe his blue veins and pasture on his breast.

   While far away He in the marshes lies,
     Staining the stagnant water with His breath,
   An endless hunger burning in His eyes,
     A famine unassuaged, whose food is Death.

   He hides among the ghostly mists that float
     Over the water, weird and white and chill,
   And peasants, passing in their laden boat,
     Shiver and feel a sense of coming ill.

   A thousand burn and die; He takes no heed,
     Their bones, unburied, strewn upon the plain,
   Only increase the frenzy of His greed
     To add more victims to th' already slain.

   He loves the haggard frame, the shattered mind,
     Gloats with delight upon the glazing eye,
   Yet, in one thing, His cruelty is kind,
     He sends them lovely dreams before they die;

   Dreams that bestow on them their heart's desire,
     Visions that find them mad, and leave them blest,
   To sink, forgetful of the fever's fire,
     Softly, as in a lover's arms, to rest.