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Best Famous Alan Seeger Poems

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Written by Alan Seeger | Create an image from this poem


 First, London, for its myriads; for its height, 
Manhattan heaped in towering stalagmite; 
But Paris for the smoothness of the paths 
That lead the heart unto the heart's delight.
Fair loiterer on the threshold of those days When there's no lovelier prize the world displays Than, having beauty and your twenty years, You have the means to conquer and the ways, And coming where the crossroads separate And down each vista glories and wonders wait, Crowning each path with pinnacles so fair You know not which to choose, and hesitate -- Oh, go to Paris.
In the midday gloom Of some old quarter take a little room That looks off over Paris and its towers From Saint Gervais round to the Emperor's Tomb, -- So high that you can hear a mating dove Croon down the chimney from the roof above, See Notre Dame and know how sweet it is To wake between Our Lady and our love.
And have a little balcony to bring Fair plants to fill with verdure and blossoming, That sparrows seek, to feed from pretty hands, And swallows circle over in the Spring.
There of an evening you shall sit at ease In the sweet month of flowering chestnut-trees, There with your little darling in your arms, Your pretty dark-eyed Manon or Louise.
And looking out over the domes and towers That chime the fleeting quarters and the hours, While the bright clouds banked eastward back of them Blush in the sunset, pink as hawthorn flowers, You cannot fail to think, as I have done, Some of life's ends attained, so you be one Who measures life's attainment by the hours That Joy has rescued from oblivion.
II Come out into the evening streets.
The green light lessens in the west.
The city laughs and liveliest her fervid pulse of pleasure beats.
The belfry on Saint Severin strikes eight across the smoking eaves: Come out under the lights and leaves to the Reine Blanche on Saint Germain.
Now crowded diners fill the floor of brasserie and restaurant.
Shrill voices cry "L'Intransigeant," and corners echo "Paris-Sport.
" Where rows of tables from the street are screened with shoots of box and bay, The ragged minstrels sing and play and gather sous from those that eat.
And old men stand with menu-cards, inviting passers-by to dine On the bright terraces that line the Latin Quarter boulevards.
But, having drunk and eaten well, 'tis pleasant then to stroll along And mingle with the merry throng that promenades on Saint Michel.
Here saunter types of every sort.
The shoddy jostle with the chic: Turk and Roumanian and Greek; student and officer and sport; Slavs with their peasant, Christ-like heads, and courtezans like powdered moths, And peddlers from Algiers, with cloths bright-hued and stitched with golden threads; And painters with big, serious eyes go rapt in dreams, fantastic shapes In corduroys and Spanish capes and locks uncut and flowing ties; And lovers wander two by two, oblivious among the press, And making one of them no less, all lovers shall be dear to you: All laughing lips you move among, all happy hearts that, knowing what Makes life worth while, have wasted not the sweet reprieve of being young.
"Comment ca va!" "Mon vieux!" "Mon cher!" Friends greet and banter as they pass.
'Tis sweet to see among the mass comrades and lovers everywhere, A law that's sane, a Love that's free, and men of every birth and blood Allied in one great brotherhood of Art and Joy and Poverty.
The open cafe-windows frame loungers at their liqueurs and beer, And walking past them one can hear fragments of Tosca and Boheme.
And in the brilliant-lighted door of cinemas the barker calls, And lurid posters paint the walls with scenes of Love and crime and war.
But follow past the flaming lights, borne onward with the stream of feet, Where Bullier's further up the street is marvellous on Thursday nights.
Here all Bohemia flocks apace; you could not often find elsewhere So many happy heads and fair assembled in one time and place.
Under the glare and noise and heat the galaxy of dancing whirls, Smokers, with covered heads, and girls dressed in the costume of the street.
From tables packed around the wall the crowds that drink and frolic there Spin serpentines into the air far out over the reeking hall, That, settling where the coils unroll, tangle with pink and green and blue The crowds that rag to "Hitchy-koo" and boston to the "Barcarole".
Here Mimi ventures, at fifteen, to make her debut in romance, And join her sisters in the dance and see the life that they have seen.
Her hair, a tight hat just allows to brush beneath the narrow brim, Docked, in the model's present whim, `frise' and banged above the brows.
Uncorseted, her clinging dress with every step and turn betrays, In pretty and provoking ways her adolescent loveliness, As guiding Gaby or Lucile she dances, emulating them In each disturbing stratagem and each lascivious appeal.
Each turn a challenge, every pose an invitation to compete, Along the maze of whirling feet the grave-eyed little wanton goes, And, flaunting all the hue that lies in childish cheeks and nubile waist, She passes, charmingly unchaste, illumining ignoble eyes.
But now the blood from every heart leaps madder through abounding veins As first the fascinating strains of "El Irresistible" start.
Caught in the spell of pulsing sound, impatient elbows lift and yield The scented softnesses they shield to arms that catch and close them round, Surrender, swift to be possessed, the silken supple forms beneath To all the bliss the measures breathe and all the madness they suggest.
Crowds congregate and make a ring.
Four deep they stand and strain to see The tango in its ecstasy of glowing lives that clasp and cling.
Lithe limbs relaxed, exalted eyes fastened on vacancy, they seem To float upon the perfumed stream of some voluptuous Paradise, Or, rapt in some Arabian Night, to rock there, cradled and subdued, In a luxurious lassitude of rhythm and sensual delight.
And only when the measures cease and terminate the flowing dance They waken from their magic trance and join the cries that clamor "Bis!" .
Midnight adjourns the festival.
The couples climb the crowded stair, And out into the warm night air go singing fragments of the ball.
Close-folded in desire they pass, or stop to drink and talk awhile In the cafes along the mile from Bullier's back to Montparnasse: The "Closerie" or "La Rotonde", where smoking, under lamplit trees, Sit Art's enamored devotees, chatting across their `brune' and `blonde'.
Make one of them and come to know sweet Paris -- not as many do, Seeing but the folly of the few, the froth, the tinsel, and the show -- But taking some white proffered hand that from Earth's barren every day Can lead you by the shortest way into Love's florid fairyland.
And that divine enchanted life that lurks under Life's common guise -- That city of romance that lies within the City's toil and strife -- Shall, knocking, open to your hands, for Love is all its golden key, And one's name murmured tenderly the only magic it demands.
And when all else is gray and void in the vast gulf of memory, Green islands of delight shall be all blessed moments so enjoyed: When vaulted with the city skies, on its cathedral floors you stood, And, priest of a bright brotherhood, performed the mystic sacrifice, At Love's high altar fit to stand, with fire and incense aureoled, The celebrant in cloth of gold with Spring and Youth on either hand.
III Choral Song Have ye gazed on its grandeur Or stood where it stands With opal and amber Adorning the lands, And orcharded domes Of the hue of all flowers? Sweet melody roams Through its blossoming bowers, Sweet bells usher in from its belfries the train of the honey-sweet hour.
A city resplendent, Fulfilled of good things, On its ramparts are pendent The bucklers of kings.
Broad banners unfurled Are afloat in its air.
The lords of the world Look for harborage there.
None finds save he comes as a bridegroom, having roses and vine in his hair.
'Tis the city of Lovers, There many paths meet.
Blessed he above others, With faltering feet, Who past its proud spires Intends not nor hears The noise of its lyres Grow faint in his ears! Men reach it through portals of triumph, but leave through a postern of tears.
It was thither, ambitious, We came for Youth's right, When our lips yearned for kisses As moths for the light, When our souls cried for Love As for life-giving rain Wan leaves of the grove, Withered grass of the plain, And our flesh ached for Love-flesh beside it with bitter, intolerable pain.
Under arbor and trellis, Full of flutes, full of flowers, What mad fortunes befell us, What glad orgies were ours! In the days of our youth, In our festal attire, When the sweet flesh was smooth, When the swift blood was fire, And all Earth paid in orange and purple to pavilion the bed of Desire!

Written by Alan Seeger | Create an image from this poem

The Wanderer

 To see the clouds his spirit yearned toward so 
Over new mountains piled and unploughed waves, 
Back of old-storied spires and architraves 
To watch Arcturus rise or Fomalhaut,

And roused by street-cries in strange tongues when day 
Flooded with gold some domed metropolis, 
Between new towers to waken and new bliss 
Spread on his pillow in a wondrous way:

These were his joys.
Oft under bulging crates, Coming to market with his morning load, The peasant found him early on his road To greet the sunrise at the city-gates,--- There where the meadows waken in its rays, Golden with mist, and the great roads commence, And backward, where the chimney-tops are dense, Cathedral-arches glimmer through the haze.
White dunes that breaking show a strip of sea, A plowman and his team against the blue Swiss pastures musical with cowbells, too, And poplar-lined canals in Picardie, And coast-towns where the vultures back and forth Sail in the clear depths of the tropic sky, And swallows in the sunset where they fly Over gray Gothic cities in the north, And the wine-cellar and the chorus there, The dance-hall and a face among the crowd,--- Were all delights that made him sing aloud For joy to sojourn in a world so fair.
Back of his footsteps as he journeyed fell Range after range; ahead blue hills emerged.
Before him tireless to applaud it surged The sweet interminable spectacle.
And like the west behind a sundown sea Shone the past joys his memory retraced, And bright as the blue east he always faced Beckoned the loves and joys that were to be.
From every branch a blossom for his brow He gathered, singing down Life's flower-lined road, And youth impelled his spirit as he strode Like winged Victory on the galley's prow.
That Loveliness whose being sun and star, Green Earth and dawn and amber evening robe, That lamp whereof the opalescent globe The season's emulative splendors are, That veiled divinity whose beams transpire From every pore of universal space, As the fair soul illumes the lovely face--- That was his guest, his passion, his desire.
His heart the love of Beauty held as hides One gem most pure a casket of pure gold.
It was too rich a lesser thing to bold; It was not large enough for aught besides.
Written by Alan Seeger | Create an image from this poem

A Message to America

 You have the grit and the guts, I know; 
You are ready to answer blow for blow 
You are virile, combative, stubborn, hard, 
But your honor ends with your own back-yard; 
Each man intent on his private goal, 
You have no feeling for the whole; 
What singly none would tolerate 
You let unpunished hit the state, 
Unmindful that each man must share 
The stain he lets his country wear, 
And (what no traveller ignores) 
That her good name is often yours.
You are proud in the pride that feels its might; From your imaginary height Men of another race or hue Are men of a lesser breed to you: The neighbor at your southern gate You treat with the scorn that has bred his hate.
To lend a spice to your disrespect You call him the "greaser".
But reflect! The greaser has spat on you more than once; He has handed you multiple affronts; He has robbed you, banished you, burned and killed; He has gone untrounced for the blood he spilled; He has jeering used for his bootblack's rag The stars and stripes of the gringo's flag; And you, in the depths of your easy-chair -- What did you do, what did you care? Did you find the season too cold and damp To change the counter for the camp? Were you frightened by fevers in Mexico? I can't imagine, but this I know -- You are impassioned vastly more By the news of the daily baseball score Than to hear that a dozen countrymen Have perished somewhere in Darien, That greasers have taken their innocent lives And robbed their holdings and raped their wives.
Not by rough tongues and ready fists Can you hope to jilt in the modern lists.
The armies of a littler folk Shall pass you under the victor's yoke, Sobeit a nation that trains her sons To ride their horses and point their guns -- Sobeit a people that comprehends The limit where private pleasure ends And where their public dues begin, A people made strong by discipline Who are willing to give -- what you've no mind to -- And understand -- what you are blind to -- The things that the individual Must sacrifice for the good of all.
You have a leader who knows -- the man Most fit to be called American, A prophet that once in generations Is given to point to erring nations Brighter ideals toward which to press And lead them out of the wilderness.
Will you turn your back on him once again? Will you give the tiller once more to men Who have made your country the laughing-stock For the older peoples to scorn and mock, Who would make you servile, despised, and weak, A country that turns the other cheek, Who care not how bravely your flag may float, Who answer an insult with a note, Whose way is the easy way in all, And, seeing that polished arms appal Their marrow of milk-fed pacifist, Would tell you menace does not exist? Are these, in the world's great parliament, The men you would choose to represent Your honor, your manhood, and your pride, And the virtues your fathers dignified? Oh, bury them deeper than the sea In universal obloquy; Forget the ground where they lie, or write For epitaph: "Too proud to fight.
" I have been too long from my country's shores To reckon what state of mind is yours, But as for myself I know right well I would go through fire and shot and shell And face new perils and make my bed In new privations, if ROOSEVELT led; But I have given my heart and hand To serve, in serving another land, Ideals kept bright that with you are dim; Here men can thrill to their country's hymn, For the passion that wells in the Marseillaise Is the same that fires the French these days, And, when the flag that they love goes by, With swelling bosom and moistened eye They can look, for they know that it floats there still By the might of their hands and the strength of their will, And through perils countless and trials unknown Its honor each man has made his own.
They wanted the war no more than you, But they saw how the certain menace grew, And they gave two years of their youth or three The more to insure their liberty When the wrath of rifles and pennoned spears Should roll like a flood on their wrecked frontiers.
They wanted the war no more than you, But when the dreadful summons blew And the time to settle the quarrel came They sprang to their guns, each man was game; And mark if they fight not to the last For their hearths, their altars, and their past: Yea, fight till their veins have been bled dry For love of the country that WILL not die.
O friends, in your fortunate present ease (Yet faced by the self-same facts as these), If you would see how a race can soar That has no love, but no fear, of war, How each can turn from his private role That all may act as a perfect whole, How men can live up to the place they claim And a nation, jealous of its good name, Be true to its proud inheritance, Oh, look over here and learn from FRANCE!
Written by Alan Seeger | Create an image from this poem

The Need to Love

 The need to love that all the stars obey
Entered my heart and banished all beside.
Bare were the gardens where I used to stray; Faded the flowers that one time satisfied.
Before the beauty of the west on fire, The moonlit hills from cloister-casements viewed Cloud-like arose the image of desire, And cast out peace and maddened solitude.
I sought the City and the hopes it held: With smoke and brooding vapors intercurled, As the thick roofs and walls close-paralleled Shut out the fair horizons of the world--- A truant from the fields and rustic joy, In my changed thought that image even so Shut out the gods I worshipped as a boy And all the pure delights I used to know.
Often the veil has trembled at some tide Of lovely reminiscence and revealed How much of beauty Nature holds beside Sweet lips that sacrifice and arms that yield: Clouds, window-framed, beyond the huddled eaves When summer cumulates their golden chains, Or from the parks the smell of burning leaves, Fragrant of childhood in the country lanes, An organ-grinder's melancholy tune In rainy streets, or from an attic sill The blue skies of a windy afternoon Where our kites climbed once from some grassy hill: And my soul once more would be wrapped entire In the pure peace and blessing of those years.
Before the fierce infection of Desire Had ravaged all the flesh.
Through starting tears Shone that lost Paradise; but, if it did, Again ere long the prison-shades would fall That Youth condemns itself to walk amid, So narrow, but so beautiful withal.
And I have followed Fame with less devotion, And kept no real ambition but to see Rise from the foam of Nature's sunlit ocean My dream of palpable divinity; And aught the world contends for to mine eye Seemed not so real a meaning of success As only once to clasp before I die My vision of embodied happiness.
Written by Alan Seeger | Create an image from this poem

The Rendezvous

 He faints with hope and fear.
It is the hour.
Distant, across the thundering organ-swell, In sweet discord from the cathedral-tower, Fall the faint chimes and the thrice-sequent bell.
Over the crowd his eye uneasy roves.
He sees a plume, a fur; his heart dilates -- Soars .
and then sinks again.
It is not hers he loves.
She will not come, the woman that he waits.
Braided with streams of silver incense rise The antique prayers and ponderous antiphones.
`Gloria Patri' echoes to the skies; `Nunc et in saecula' the choir intones.
He marks not the monotonous refrain, The priest that serves nor him that celebrates, But ever scans the aisle for his blonde head.
In vain! She will not come, the woman that he waits.
How like a flower seemed the perfumed place Where the sweet flesh lay loveliest to kiss; And her white hands in what delicious ways, With what unfeigned caresses, answered his! Each tender charm intolerable to lose, Each happy scene his fancy recreates.
And he calls out her name and spreads his arms .
No use! She will not come, the woman that he waits.
But the long vespers close.
The priest on high Raises the thing that Christ's own flesh enforms; And down the Gothic nave the crowd flows by And through the portal's carven entry swarms.
Maddened he peers upon each passing face Till the long drab procession terminates.
No princess passes out with proud majestic pace.
She has not come, the woman that he waits.
Back in the empty silent church alone He walks with aching heart.
A white-robed boy Puts out the altar-candles one by one, Even as by inches darkens all his joy.
He dreams of the sweet night their lips first met, And groans -- and turns to leave -- and hesitates .
Poor stricken heart, he will, he can not fancy yet She will not come, the woman that he waits.
But in an arch where deepest shadows fall He sits and studies the old, storied panes, And the calm crucifix that from the wall Looks on a world that quavers and complains.
Hopeless, abandoned, desolate, aghast, On modes of violent death he meditates.
And the tower-clock tolls five, and he admits at last, She will not come, the woman that he waits.
Through the stained rose the winter daylight dies, And all the tide of anguish unrepressed Swells in his throat and gathers in his eyes; He kneels and bows his head upon his breast, And feigns a prayer to hide his burning tears, While the satanic voice reiterates `Tonight, tomorrow, nay, nor all the impending years, She will not come,' the woman that he waits.
Fond, fervent heart of life's enamored spring, So true, so confident, so passing fair, That thought of Love as some sweet, tender thing, And not as war, red tooth and nail laid bare, How in that hour its innocence was slain, How from that hour our disillusion dates, When first we learned thy sense, ironical refrain, She will not come, the woman that he waits.

Written by Alan Seeger | Create an image from this poem

Do You Remember Once . .

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

The city's voice was hushed; the placid, lustrous waters 
Mirrored the walls across where orange windows burned.
Out of the starry south provoking rumors brought us Far promise of the spring already northward turned.
And breast drew near to breast, and round its soft desire My arm uncertain stole and clung there unrepelled.
I thought that nevermore my heart would hover nigher To the last flower of bliss that Nature's garden held.
There, in your beauty's sweet abandonment to pleasure, The mute, half-open lips and tender, wondering eyes, I saw embodied first smile back on me the treasure Long sought across the seas and back of summer skies.
Dear face, when courted Death shall claim my limbs and find them Laid in some desert place, alone or where the tides Of war's tumultuous waves on the wet sands behind them Leave rifts of gasping life when their red flood subsides, Out of the past's remote delirious abysses Shine forth once more as then you shone, -- beloved head, Laid back in ecstasy between our blinding kisses, Transfigured with the bliss of being so coveted.
And my sick arms will part, and though hot fever sear it, My mouth will curve again with the old, tender flame.
And darkness will come down, still finding in my spirit The dream of your brief love, and on my lips your name.
II You loved me on that moonlit night long since.
You were my queen and I the charming prince Elected from a world of mortal men.
You loved me once.
What pity was it, then, You loved not Love.
Deep in the emerald west, Like a returning caravel caressed By breezes that load all the ambient airs With clinging fragrance of the bales it bears From harbors where the caravans come down, I see over the roof-tops of the town The new moon back again, but shall not see The joy that once it had in store for me, Nor know again the voice upon the stair, The little studio in the candle-glare, And all that makes in word and touch and glance The bliss of the first nights of a romance When will to love and be beloved casts out The want to question or the will to doubt.
You loved me once.
Under the western seas The pale moon settles and the Pleiades.
The firelight sinks; outside the night-winds moan -- The hour advances, and I sleep alone.
III Farewell, dear heart, enough of vain despairing! If I have erred I plead but one excuse -- The jewel were a lesser joy in wearing That cost a lesser agony to lose.
I had not bid for beautifuller hours Had I not found the door so near unsealed, Nor hoped, had you not filled my arms with flowers, For that one flower that bloomed too far afield.
If I have wept, it was because, forsaken, I felt perhaps more poignantly than some The blank eternity from which we waken And all the blank eternity to come.
And I betrayed how sweet a thing and tender (In the regret with which my lip was curled) Seemed in its tragic, momentary splendor My transit through the beauty of the world.
Written by Alan Seeger | Create an image from this poem

Sonnet 03

 Why should you be astonished that my heart, 
Plunged for so long in darkness and in dearth, 
Should be revived by you, and stir and start 
As by warm April now, reviving Earth? 
I am the field of undulating grass 
And you the gentle perfumed breath of Spring, 
And all my lyric being, when you pass, 
Is bowed and filled with sudden murmuring.
I asked you nothing and expected less, But, with that deep, impassioned tenderness Of one approaching what he most adores, I only wished to lose a little space All thought of my own life, and in its place To live and dream and have my joy in yours.
Written by Alan Seeger | Create an image from this poem


 A shell surprised our post one day 
And killed a comrade at my side.
My heart was sick to see the way He suffered as he died.
I dug about the place he fell, And found, no bigger than my thumb, A fragment of the splintered shell In warm aluminum.
I melted it, and made a mould, And poured it in the opening, And worked it, when the cast was cold, Into a shapely ring.
And when my ring was smooth and bright, Holding it on a rounded stick, For seal, I bade a Turco write Maktoob in Arabic.
Maktoob! "'Tis written!" .
So they think, These children of the desert, who From its immense expanses drink Some of its grandeur too.
Within the book of Destiny, Whose leaves are time, whose cover, space, The day when you shall cease to be, The hour, the mode, the place, Are marked, they say; and you shall not By taking thought or using wit Alter that certain fate one jot, Postpone or conjure it.
Learn to drive fear, then, from your heart.
If you must perish, know, O man, 'Tis an inevitable part Of the predestined plan.
And, seeing that through the ebon door Once only you may pass, and meet Of those that have gone through before The mighty, the elite -- --- Guard that not bowed nor blanched with fear You enter, but serene, erect, As you would wish most to appear To those you most respect.
So die as though your funeral Ushered you through the doors that led Into a stately banquet hall Where heroes banqueted; And it shall all depend therein Whether you come as slave or lord, If they acclaim you as their kin Or spurn you from their board.
So, when the order comes: "Attack!" And the assaulting wave deploys, And the heart trembles to look back On life and all its joys; Or in a ditch that they seem near To find, and round your shallow trough Drop the big shells that you can hear Coming a half mile off; When, not to hear, some try to talk, And some to clean their guns, or sing, And some dig deeper in the chalk -- - I look upon my ring: And nerves relax that were most tense, And Death comes whistling down unheard, As I consider all the sense Held in that mystic word.
And it brings, quieting like balm My heart whose flutterings have ceased, The resignation and the calm And wisdom of the East.
Written by Alan Seeger | Create an image from this poem


 In that fair capital where Pleasure, crowned 
Amidst her myriad courtiers, riots and rules, 
I too have been a suitor.
Radiant eyes Were my life's warmth and sunshine, outspread arms My gilded deep horizons.
I rejoiced In yielding to all amorous influence And multiple impulsion of the flesh, To feel within my being surge and sway The force that all the stars acknowledge too.
Amid the nebulous humanity Where I an atom crawled and cleaved and sundered, I saw a million motions, but one law; And from the city's splendor to my eyes The vapors passed and there was nought but Love, A ferment turbulent, intensely fair, Where Beauty beckoned and where Strength pursued.
II There was a time when I thought much of Fame, And laid the golden edifice to be That in the clear light of eternity Should fitly house the glory of my name.
But swifter than my fingers pushed their plan, Over the fair foundation scarce begun, While I with lovers dallied in the sun, The ivy clambered and the rose-vine ran.
And now, too late to see my vision, rise, In place of golden pinnacles and towers, Only some sunny mounds of leaves and flowers, Only beloved of birds and butterflies.
My friends were duped, my favorers deceived; But sometimes, musing sorrowfully there, That flowered wreck has seemed to me so fair I scarce regret the temple unachieved.
III For there were nights .
my love to him whose brow Has glistened with the spoils of nights like those, Home turning as a conqueror turns home, What time green dawn down every street uprears Arches of triumph! He has drained as well Joy's perfumed bowl and cried as I have cried: Be Fame their mistress whom Love passes by.
This only matters: from some flowery bed, Laden with sweetness like a homing bee, If one have known what bliss it is to come, Bearing on hands and breast and laughing lips The fragrance of his youth's dear rose.
To him The hills have bared their treasure, the far clouds Unveiled the vision that o'er summer seas Drew on his thirsting arms.
This last thing known, He can court danger, laugh at perilous odds, And, pillowed on a memory so sweet, Unto oblivious eternity Without regret yield his victorious soul, The blessed pilgrim of a vow fulfilled.
IV What is Success? Out of the endless ore Of deep desire to coin the utmost gold Of passionate memory; to have lived so well That the fifth moon, when it swims up once more Through orchard boughs where mating orioles build And apple flowers unfold, Find not of that dear need that all things tell The heart unburdened nor the arms unfilled.
O Love, whereof my boyhood was the dream, My youth the beautiful novitiate, Life was so slight a thing and thou so great, How could I make thee less than all-supreme! In thy sweet transports not alone I thought Mingled the twain that panted breast to breast.
The sun and stars throbbed with them; they were caught Into the pulse of Nature and possessed By the same light that consecrates it so.
Love! -- 'tis the payment of the debt we owe The beauty of the world, and whensoe'er In silks and perfume and unloosened hair The loveliness of lovers, face to face, Lies folded in the adorable embrace, Doubt not as of a perfect sacrifice That soul partakes whose inspiration fills The springtime and the depth of summer skies, The rainbow and the clouds behind the hills, That excellence in earth and air and sea That makes things as they are the real divinity.
Written by Alan Seeger | Create an image from this poem

The Torture of Cuauhtemoc

 Their strength had fed on this when Death's white arms 
Came sleeved in vapors and miasmal dew, 
Curling across the jungle's ferny floor, 
Becking each fevered brain.
On bleak divides, Where Sleep grew niggardly for nipping cold That twinged blue lips into a mouthed curse, Not back to Seville and its sunny plains Winged their brief-biding dreams, but once again, Lords of a palace in Tenochtitlan, They guarded Montezuma's treasure-hoard.
Gold, like some finny harvest of the sea, Poured out knee deep around the rifted floors, Shiny and sparkling, -- arms and crowns and rings: Gold, sweet to toy with as beloved hair, -- To plunge the lustful, crawling fingers down, Arms elbow deep, and draw them out again, And watch the glinting metal trickle off, Even as at night some fisherman, home bound With speckled cargo in his hollow keel Caught off Campeche or the Isle of Pines, Dips in his paddle, lifts it forth again, And laughs to see the luminous white drops Fall back in flakes of fire.
Gold was the dream That cheered that desperate enterprise.
And now? .
Victory waited on the arms of Spain, Fallen was the lovely city by the lake, The sunny Venice of the western world; There many corpses, rotting in the wind, Poked up stiff limbs, but in the leprous rags No jewel caught the sun, no tawny chain Gleamed, as the prying halberds raked them o'er.
Pillage that ran red-handed through the streets Came railing home at evening empty-palmed; And they, on that sad night a twelvemonth gone, Who, ounce by ounce, dear as their own life's blood Retreating, cast the cumbrous load away: They, when brown foemen lopped the bridges down, Who tipped thonged chests into the stream below And over wealth that might have ransomed kings Passed on to safety; -- cheated, guerdonless -- Found (through their fingers the bright booty slipped) A city naked, of that golden dream Shorn in one moment like a sunset sky.
Deep in a chamber that no cheerful ray Purged of damp air, where in unbroken night Black scorpions nested in the sooty beams, Helpless and manacled they led him down -- Cuauhtemotzin -- and other lords beside -- All chieftains of the people, heroes all -- And stripped their feathered robes and bound them there On short stone settles sloping to the head, But where the feet projected, underneath Heaped the red coals.
Their swarthy fronts illumed, The bearded Spaniards, helmed and haubergeoned, Paced up and down beneath the lurid vault.
Some kneeling fanned the glowing braziers; some Stood at the sufferers' heads and all the while Hissed in their ears: "The gold .
the gold .
the gold.
Where have ye hidden it -- the chested gold? Speak -- and the torments cease!" They answered not.
Past those proud lips whose key their sovereign claimed No accent fell to chide or to betray, Only it chanced that bound beside the king Lay one whom Nature, more than other men Framing for delicate and perfumed ease, Not yet, along the happy ways of Youth, Had weaned from gentle usages so far To teach that fortitude that warriors feel And glory in the proof.
He answered not, But writhing with intolerable pain, Convulsed in every limb, and all his face Wrought to distortion with the agony, Turned on his lord a look of wild appeal, The secret half atremble on his lips, Livid and quivering, that waited yet For leave -- for leave to utter it -- one sign -- One word -- one little word -- to ease his pain.
As one reclining in the banquet hall, Propped on an elbow, garlanded with flowers, Saw lust and greed and boisterous revelry Surge round him on the tides of wine, but he, Staunch in the ethic of an antique school -- Stoic or Cynic or of Pyrrho's mind -- With steady eyes surveyed the unbridled scene, Himself impassive, silent, self-contained: So sat the Indian prince, with brow unblanched, Amid the tortured and the torturers.
He who had seen his hopes made desolate, His realm despoiled, his early crown deprived him, And watched while Pestilence and Famine piled His stricken people in their reeking doors, Whence glassy eyes looked out and lean brown arms Stretched up to greet him in one last farewell As back and forth he paced along the streets With words of hopeless comfort -- what was this That one should weaken now? He weakened not.
Whate'er was in his heart, he neither dealt In pity nor in scorn, but, turning round, Met that racked visage with his own unmoved, Bent on the sufferer his mild calm eyes, And while the pangs smote sharper, in a voice, As who would speak not all in gentleness Nor all disdain, said: "Yes! And am -I- then Upon a bed of roses?" Stung with shame -- Shame bitterer than his anguish -- to betray Such cowardice before the man he loved, And merit such rebuke, the boy grew calm; And stilled his struggling limbs and moaning cries, And shook away his tears, and strove to smile, And turned his face against the wall -- and died.