Edna St Vincent Millay |
I should like to rise and go
Where the golden apples grow;--
Where below another sky
Parrot islands anchored lie,
And, watched by cockatoos and goats,
Lonely Crusoes building boats;--
Where in sunshine reaching out
Eastern cities, miles about,
Are with mosque and minaret
Among sandy gardens set,
And the rich goods from near and far
Hang for sale in the bazaar;--
Where the Great Wall round China goes,
And on one side the desert blows,
And with the voice and bell and drum,
Cities on the other hum;--
Where are forests hot as fire,
Wide as England, tall as a spire,
Full of apes and cocoa-nuts
And the negro hunters' huts;--
Where the knotty crocodile
Lies and blinks in the Nile,
And the red flamingo flies
Hunting fish before his eyes;--
Where in jungles near and far,
Man-devouring tigers are,
Lying close and giving ear
Lest the hunt be drawing near,
Or a comer-by be seen
Swinging in the palanquin;--
Where among the desert sands
Some deserted city stands,
All its children, sweep and prince,
Grown to manhood ages since,
Not a foot in street or house,
Not a stir of child or mouse,
And when kindly falls the night,
In all the town no spark of light.
There I'll come when I'm a man
With a camel caravan;
Light a fire in the gloom
Of some dusty dining-room;
See the pictures on the walls,
Heroes fights and festivals;
And in a corner find the toys
Of the old Egyptian boys.
Rudyard Kipling |
(It is not for them to criticize too minutely
the methods the Irish followed, though they might deplore some of
During the past few years Ireland had been going
through what was tantamount to a revolution.
-- EARL SPENCER)
Red Earl, and will ye take for guide
The silly camel-birds,
That ye bury your head in an Irish thorn,
On a desert of drifting words?
Ye have followed a man for a God, Red Earl,
As the Lod o' Wrong and Right;
But the day is done with the setting sun
Will ye follow into the night?
He gave you your own old words, Red Earl,
For food on the wastrel way;
Will ye rise and eat in the night, Red Earl,
That fed so full in the day?
Ye have followed fast, ye have followed far,
And where did the wandering lead?
From the day that ye praised the spoken word
To the day ye must gloss the deed.
And as ye have given your hand for gain,
So must ye give in loss;
And as ye ha' come to the brink of the pit,
So must ye loup across.
For some be rogues in grain, Red Earl,
And some be rogues in fact,
And rogues direct and rogues elect;
But all be rogues in pact.
Ye have cast your lot with these, Red Earl;
Take heed to where ye stand.
Ye have tied a knot with your tongue, Red Earl,
That ye cannot loose with your hand.
Ye have travelled fast, ye have travelled far,
In the grip of a tightening tether,
Till ye find at the end ye must take for friend
The quick and their dead together.
Ye have played with the Law between your lips,
And mouthed it daintilee;
But the gist o' the speech is ill to teach,
For ye say: "Let wrong go free.
Red Earl, ye wear the Garter fair,
And gat your place from a King:
Do ye make Rebellion of no account,
And Treason a little thing?
And have ye weighed your words, Red Earl,
That stand and speak so high?
And is it good that the guilt o' blood,
Be cleared at the cost of a sigh?
And is it well for the sake of peace,
Our tattered Honour to sell,
And higgle anew with a tainted crew --
Red Earl, and is it well?
Ye have followed fast, ye have followed far,
On a dark and doubtful way,
And the road is hard, is hard, Red Earl,
And the price is yet to pay.
Ye shall pay that price as ye reap reward
For the toil of your tongue and pen --
In the praise of the blamed and the thanks of the shamed,
And the honour o' knavish men.
They scarce shall veil their scorn, Red Earl,
And the worst at the last shall be,
When you tell your heart that it does not know
And your eye that it does not see.
Walt Whitman |
(The war is completed—the price is paid—the title is settled beyond recall;)
Let every one answer! let those who sleep be waked! let none evade!
Must we still go on with our affectations and sneaking?
Let me bring this to a close—I pronounce openly for a new distribution of roles;
Let that which stood in front go behind! and let that which was behind advance to the
Let murderers, bigots, fools, unclean persons, offer new propositions!
Let the old propositions be postponed!
Let faces and theories be turn’d inside out! let meanings be freely criminal, as well
Let there be no suggestion above the suggestion of drudgery!
Let none be pointed toward his destination! (Say! do you know your destination?)
Let men and women be mock’d with bodies and mock’d with Souls!
Let the love that waits in them, wait! let it die, or pass stillborn to other spheres!
Let the sympathy that waits in every man, wait! or let it also pass, a dwarf, to other
Let contradictions prevail! let one thing contradict another! and let one line of my poems
Let the people sprawl with yearning, aimless hands! let their tongues be broken! let their
be discouraged! let none descend into their hearts with the fresh lusciousness of love!
(Stifled, O days! O lands! in every public and private corruption!
Smother’d in thievery, impotence, shamelessness, mountain-high;
Brazen effrontery, scheming, rolling like ocean’s waves around and upon you, O my
For not even those thunderstorms, nor fiercest lightnings of the war, have purified the
—Let the theory of America still be management, caste, comparison! (Say! what other
Let them that distrust birth and death still lead the rest! (Say! why shall they not lead
Let the crust of hell be neared and trod on! let the days be darker than the nights! let
slumber bring less slumber than waking time brings!
Let the world never appear to him or her for whom it was all made!
Let the heart of the young man still exile itself from the heart of the old man! and let
heart of the old man be exiled from that of the young man!
Let the sun and moon go! let scenery take the applause of the audience! let there be
under the stars!
Let freedom prove no man’s inalienable right! every one who can tyrannize, let him
tyrannize to his satisfaction!
Let none but infidels be countenanced!
Let the eminence of meanness, treachery, sarcasm, hate, greed, indecency, impotence, lust,
taken for granted above all! let writers, judges, governments, households, religions,
philosophies, take such for granted above all!
Let the worst men beget children out of the worst women!
Let the priest still play at immortality!
Let death be inaugurated!
Let nothing remain but the ashes of teachers, artists, moralists, lawyers, and
Let him who is without my poems be assassinated!
Let the cow, the horse, the camel, the garden-bee—let the mudfish, the lobster, the
mussel, eel, the sting-ray, and the grunting pig-fish—let these, and the like of
put on a perfect equality with man and woman!
Let churches accommodate serpents, vermin, and the corpses of those who have died of the
filthy of diseases!
Let marriage slip down among fools, and be for none but fools!
Let men among themselves talk and think forever obscenely of women! and let women among
themselves talk and think obscenely of men!
Let us all, without missing one, be exposed in public, naked, monthly, at the peril of our
lives! let our bodies be freely handled and examined by whoever chooses!
Let nothing but copies at second hand be permitted to exist upon the earth!
Let the earth desert God, nor let there ever henceforth be mention’d the name of God!
Let there be no God!
Let there be money, business, imports, exports, custom, authority, precedents, pallor,
dyspepsia, smut, ignorance, unbelief!
Let judges and criminals be transposed! let the prison-keepers be put in prison! let those
were prisoners take the keys! Say! why might they not just as well be transposed?)
Let the slaves be masters! let the masters become slaves!
Let the reformers descend from the stands where they are forever bawling! let an idiot or
insane person appear on each of the stands!
Let the Asiatic, the African, the European, the American, and the Australian, go armed
the murderous stealthiness of each other! let them sleep armed! let none believe in good
Let there be no unfashionable wisdom! let such be scorn’d and derided off from the
Let a floating cloud in the sky—let a wave of the sea—let growing mint, spinach,
onions, tomatoes—let these be exhibited as shows, at a great price for admission!
Let all the men of These States stand aside for a few smouchers! let the few seize on what
choose! let the rest gawk, giggle, starve, obey!
Let shadows be furnish’d with genitals! let substances be deprived of their genitals!
Let there be wealthy and immense cities—but still through any of them, not a single
savior, knower, lover!
Let the infidels of These States laugh all faith away!
If one man be found who has faith, let the rest set upon him!
Let them affright faith! let them destroy the power of breeding faith!
Let the she-harlots and the he-harlots be prudent! let them dance on, while seeming lasts!
seeming! seeming! seeming!)
Let the preachers recite creeds! let them still teach only what they have been taught!
Let insanity still have charge of sanity!
Let books take the place of trees, animals, rivers, clouds!
Let the daub’d portraits of heroes supersede heroes!
Let the manhood of man never take steps after itself!
Let it take steps after eunuchs, and after consumptive and genteel persons!
Let the white person again tread the black person under his heel! (Say! which is trodden
heel, after all?)
Let the reflections of the things of the world be studied in mirrors! let the things
still continue unstudied!
Let a man seek pleasure everywhere except in himself!
Let a woman seek happiness everywhere except in herself!
(What real happiness have you had one single hour through your whole life?)
Let the limited years of life do nothing for the limitless years of death! (What do you
death will do, then?)
Federico García Lorca |
In the sky there is nobody asleep.
Nobody is asleep.
The creatures of the moon sniff and prowl about their cabins.
The living iguanas will come and bite the men who do not dream,
and the man who rushes out with his spirit broken will meet on the street corner
the unbelievable alligator quiet beneath the tender protest of the
Nobody is asleep on earth.
Nobody is asleep.
In a graveyard far off there is a corpse
who has moaned for three years
because of a dry countryside on his knee;
and that boy they buried this morning cried so much
it was necessary to call out the dogs to keep him quiet.
Life is not a dream.
Careful! Careful! Careful!
We fall down the stairs in order to eat the moist earth
or we climb to the knife edge of the snow with the voices of the dead
But forgetfulness does not exist, dreams do not exist;
Kisses tie our mouths
in a thicket of new veins,
and whoever his pain pains will feel that pain forever
and whoever is afraid of death will carry it on his shoulders.
the horses will live in the saloons
and the enraged ants
will throw themselves on the yellow skies that take refuge in the
eyes of cows.
we will watch the preserved butterflies rise from the dead
and still walking through a country of gray sponges and silent boats
we will watch our ring flash and roses spring from our tongue.
Careful! Be careful! Be careful!
The men who still have marks of the claw and the thunderstorm,
and that boy who cries because he has never heard of the invention of the bridge,
or that dead man who possesses now only his head and a shoe,
we must carry them to the wall where the iguanas and the snakes are waiting,
where the bear's teeth are waiting,
where the mummified hand of the boy is waiting,
and the hair of the camel stands on end with a violent blue shudder.
Nobody is sleeping in the sky.
Nobody is sleeping.
If someone does close his eyes,
a whip, boys, a whip!
Let there be a landscape of open eyes
and bitter wounds on fire.
No one is sleeping in this world.
No one, no one.
I have said it before.
No one is sleeping.
But if someone grows too much moss on his temples during the night,
open the stage trapdoors so he can see in the moonlight
the lying goblets, and the poison, and the skull of the theaters.
T S (Thomas Stearns) Eliot |
'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.
And the camels galled, sore-footed,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and
And running away, and wanting their
liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the
lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns
And the villages dirty and charging high
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears,
That this was all folly.
Then at dawn we came down to a
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of
With a running stream and a water-mill
beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped in
away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with
vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for
pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no imformation, and so
And arrived at evening, not a moment
Finding the place; it was (you may say)
All this was a long time ago, I
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth,
We had evidence and no doubt.
seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different;
this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like
Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these
But no longer at ease here, in the old
With an alien people clutching their
I should be glad of another death.
A R Ammons |
You'll rejoice at how many kinds of **** there are:
gosling **** (which J.
Williams said something
was as green as), fish **** (the generality), trout
****, rainbow trout **** (for the nice), mullet ****,
sand dab ****, casual sloth ****, elephant ****
(awesome as process or payload), wildebeest ****,
horse **** (a favorite), caterpillar **** (so many dark
kinds, neatly pelleted as mint seed), baby rhinoceros
****, splashy jaybird ****, mockingbird ****
(dive-bombed with the aim of song), robin **** that
oozes white down lawnchairs or down roots under roosts,
chicken **** and chicken mite ****, pelican ****, gannet
**** (wholesome guano), fly **** (periodic), cockatoo
****, dog **** (past catalog or assimilation),
cricket ****, elk (high plains) ****, and
tiny scribbled little shrew ****, whale **** (what
a sight, deep assumption), mandril **** (blazing
blast off), weasel **** (wiles' waste), gazelle ****,
magpie **** (total protein), tiger **** (too acid
to contemplate), moral eel and manta ray ****, eerie
shark ****, earthworm **** (a soilure), crab ****,
wolf **** upon the germicidal ice, snake ****, giraffe
**** that accelerates, secretary bird ****, turtle
**** suspension invites, remora **** slightly in
advance of the shark ****, hornet **** (difficult to
assess), camel **** that slaps the ghastly dry
siliceous, frog ****, beetle ****, bat **** (the
marmoreal), contemptible cat ****, penguin ****,
hermit crab ****, prairie hen ****, cougar ****, eagle
**** (high totem stuff), buffalo **** (hardly less
lofty), otter ****, beaver **** (from the animal of
alluvial dreams)—a vast ordure is a broken down
cloaca—macaw ****, alligator **** (that floats the Nile
along), louse ****, macaque, koala, and coati ****,
antelope ****, chuck-will's-widow ****, alpaca ****
(very high stuff), gooney bird ****, chigger ****, bull
**** (the classic), caribou ****, rasbora, python, and
razorbill ****, scorpion ****, man ****, laswing
fly larva ****, chipmunk ****, other-worldly wallaby
****, gopher **** (or broke), platypus ****, aardvark
****, spider ****, kangaroo and peccary ****, guanaco
****, dolphin ****, aphid ****, baboon **** (that leopards
induce), albatross ****, red-headed woodpecker (nine
inches long) ****, tern ****, hedgehog ****, panda ****,
seahorse ****, and the **** of the wasteful gallinule.
James Joyce |
Have you heard of one Humpty Dumpty
How he fell with a roll and a rumble
And curled up like Lord Olofa Crumple
By the butt of the Magazine Wall,
(Chorus) Of the Magazine Wall,
Hump, helmet and all?
He was one time our King of the Castle
Now he's kicked about like a rotten old parsnip.
And from Green street he'll be sent by order of His Worship
To the penal jail of Mountjoy
(Chorus) To the jail of Mountjoy!
Jail him and joy.
He was fafafather of all schemes for to bother us
Slow coaches and immaculate contraceptives for the populace,
Mare's milk for the sick, seven dry Sundays a week,
Openair love and religion's reform,
(Chorus) And religious reform,
Hideous in form.
Arrah, why, says you, couldn't he manage it?
I'll go bail, my fine dairyman darling,
Like the bumping bull of the Cassidys
All your butter is in your horns.
(Chorus) His butter is in his horns.
Butter his horns!
(Repeat) Hurrah there, Hosty, frosty Hosty, change that shirt
Rhyme the rann, the king of all ranns!
We had chaw chaw chops, chairs, chewing gum, the chicken-pox
and china chambers
Universally provided by this soffsoaping salesman.
Small wonder He'll Cheat E'erawan our local lads nicknamed him.
When Chimpden first took the floor
(Chorus) With his bucketshop store
Down Bargainweg, Lower.
So snug he was in his hotel premises sumptuous
But soon we'll bonfire all his trash, tricks and trumpery
And 'tis short till sheriff Clancy'll be winding up his unlimited
With the bailiff's bom at the door,
(Chorus) Bimbam at the door.
Then he'll bum no more.
Sweet bad luck on the waves washed to our island
The hooker of that hammerfast viking
And Gall's curse on the day when Eblana bay
Saw his black and tan man-o'-war.
(Chorus) Saw his man-o'-war
On the harbour bar.
Where from? roars Poolbeg.
Cookingha'pence, he bawls
Donnez-moi scampitle, wick an wipin'fampiny
Fingal Mac Oscar Onesine Bargearse Boniface
Thok's min gammelhole Norveegickers moniker
Og as ay are at gammelhore Norveegickers cod.
(Chorus) A Norwegian camel old cod.
He is, begod.
Lift it, Hosty, lift it, ye devil, ye! up with the rann,
the rhyming rann!
It was during some fresh water garden pumping
Or, according to the Nursing Mirror, while admiring the monkeys
That our heavyweight heathen Humpharey
Made bold a maid to woo
(Chorus) Woohoo, what'll she doo!
The general lost her maidenloo!
He ought to blush for himself, the old hayheaded philosopher,
For to go and shove himself that way on top of her.
Begob, he's the crux of the catalogue
Of our antediluvial zoo,
(Chorus) Messrs Billing and Coo.
Noah's larks, good as noo.
He was joulting by Wellinton's monument
Our rotorious hippopopotamuns
When some bugger let down the backtrap of the omnibus
And he caught his death of fusiliers,
(Chorus) With his rent in his rears.
Give him six years.
'Tis sore pity for his innocent poor children
But look out for his missus legitimate!
When that frew gets a grip of old Earwicker
Won't there be earwigs on the green?
(Chorus) Big earwigs on the green,
The largest ever you seen.
Suffoclose! Shikespower! Seudodanto! Anonymoses!
Then we'll have a free trade Gael's band and mass meeting
For to sod him the brave son of Scandiknavery.
And we'll bury him down in Oxmanstown
Along with the devil and the Danes,
(Chorus) With the deaf and dumb Danes,
And all their remains.
And not all the king's men nor his horses
Will resurrect his corpus
For there's no true spell in Connacht or hell
(bis) That's able to raise a Cain.
Robinson Jeffers |
When I considered it too closely, when I wore it like an element
and smelt it like water,
Life is become less lovely, the net nearer than the skin, a
little troublesome, a little terrible.
I pledged myself awhile ago not to seek refuge, neither in death
nor in a walled garden,
In lies nor gated loyalties, nor in the gates of contempt, that
easily lock the world out of doors.
Here on the rock it is great and beautiful, here on the foam-wet
granite sea-fang it is easy to praise
Life and water and the shining stones: but whose cattle are the
herds of the people that one should love them?
If they were yours, then you might take a cattle-breeder's
delight in the herds of the future.
Where the power ends let love, before it sours to jealousy.
Leave the joys of government to Caesar.
Who is born when the world wanes, when the brave soul of the
world falls on decay in the flesh increasing
Comes one with a great level mind, sufficient vision, sufficient
blindness, and clemency for love.
This is the breath of rottenness I smelt; from the world
waiting, stalled between storms, decaying a little,
Bitterly afraid to be hurt, but knowing it cannot draw the
savior Caesar but out of the blood-bath.
The apes of Christ lift up their hands to praise love: but
wisdom without love is the present savior,
Power without hatred, mind like a many-bladed machine subduing
the world with deep indifference.
The apes of Christ itch for a sickness they have never known;
words and the little envies will hardly
Measure against that blinding fire behind the tragic eyes they
have never dared to confront.
Point Lobos lies over the hollowed water like a humped whale
swimming to shoal; Point Lobos
Was wounded with that fire; the hills at Point Sur endured it;
the palace at Thebes; the hill Calvary.
Out of incestuous love power and then ruin.
A man forcing the
imaginations of men,
Possessing with love and power the people: a man defiling his
own household with impious desire.
King Oedipus reeling blinded from the palace doorway, red tears
pouring from the torn pits
Under the forehead; and the young Jew writhing on the domed hill
in the earthquake, against the eclipse
Frightfully uplifted for having turned inward to love the
people: -that root was so sweet O dreadful agonist? -
I saw the same pierced feet, that walked in the same crime to
its expiation; I heard the same cry.
A bad mountain to build your world on.
Am I another keeper of
the people, that on my own shore,
On the gray rock, by the grooved mass of the ocean, the
sicknesses I left behind me concern me?
Here where the surf has come incredible ways out of the splendid
west, over the deeps
Light nor life sounds forever; here where enormous sundowns
flower and burn through color to quietness;
Then the ecstasy of the stars is present? As for the people, I
have found my rock, let them find theirs.
Let them lie down at Caesar's feet and be saved; and he in his
time reap their daggers of gratitude.
Yet I am the one made pledges against the refuge contempt, that
easily locks the world out of doors.
This people as much as the sea-granite is part of the God from
whom I desire not to be fugitive.
I see them: they are always crying.
The shored Pacific makes
perpetual music, and the stone mountains
Their music of silence, the stars blow long pipings of light:
the people are always crying in their hearts.
One need not pity; certainly one must not love.
But who has seen
peace, if he should tell them where peace
Lives in the world.
they would be powerless to understand; and
he is not willing to be reinvolved.
How should one caught in the stone of his own person dare tell
the people anything but relative to that?
But if a man could hold in his mind all the conditions at once,
of man and woman, of civilized
And barbarous, of sick and well, of happy and under torture, of
living and dead, of human and not
Human, and dimly all the human future: -what should persuade him
to speak? And what could his words change?
The mountain ahead of the world is not forming but fixed.
the man's words would be fixed also,
Part of that mountain, under equal compulsion; under the same
present compulsion in the iron consistency.
And nobody sees good or evil but out of a brain a hundred
centuries quieted, some desert
Prophet's, a man humped like a camel, gone mad between the mud-
walled village and the mountain sepulchres.
Broad wagons before sunrise bring food into the city from the
open farms, and the people are fed.
They import and they consume reality.
Before sunrise a hawk in
the desert made them their thoughts.
Here is an anxious people, rank with suppressed
Among the mild and unwarlike
Gautama needed but live greatly and be heard, Confucius needed
but live greatly and be heard:
This people has not outgrown blood-sacrifice, one must writhe on
the high cross to catch at their memories;
The price is known.
I have quieted love; for love of the people
I would not do it.
For power I would do it.
--But that stands against reason: what is power to a dead man,
dead under torture? --What is power to a man
Living, after the flesh is content? Reason is never a root,
neither of act nor desire.
For power living I would never do it; they'are not delightful to
touch, one wants to be separate.
After the nerves are put away underground, to lighten the
abstract unborn children toward peace.
A man might have paid anguish indeed.
Except he had found the
standing sea-rock that even this last
Temptation breaks on; quieter than death but lovelier; peace
that quiets the desire even of praising it.
Yet look: are they not pitiable? No: if they lived forever they
would be pitiable:
But a huge gift reserved quite overwhelms them at the end; they
are able then to be still and not cry.
And having touched a little of the beauty and seen a little of
the beauty of things, magically grow
Across the funeral fire or the hidden stench of burial
themselves into the beauty they admired,
Themselves into the God, themselves into the sacred steep
unconsciousness they used to mimic
Asleep between lamp's death and dawn, while the last drunkard
stumbled homeward down the dark street.
They are not to be pitied but very fortunate; they need no
savior, salvation comes and takes them by force,
It gathers them into the great kingdoms of dust and stone, the
blown storms, the stream's-end ocean.
With this advantage over their granite grave-marks, of having
realized the petulant human consciousness
Before, and then the greatness, the peace: drunk from both
pitchers: these to be pitied? These not fortunate
But while he lives let each man make his health in his mind, to
love the coast opposite humanity
And so be freed of love, laying it like bread on the waters; it
is worst turned inward, it is best shot farthest.
Love, the mad wine of good and evil, the saint's and murderer's,
the mote in the eye that makes its object
Shine the sun black; the trap in which it is better to catch the
inhuman God than the hunter's own image.
Rudyard Kipling |
When spring-time flushes the desert grass,
Our kafilas wind through the Khyber Pass.
Lean are the camels but fat the frails,
Light are the purses but heavy the bales,
As the snowbound trade of the North comes down
To the market-square of Peshawur town.
In a turquoise twilight, crisp and chill,
A kafila camped at the foot of the hill.
Then blue smoke-haze of the cooking rose,
And tent-peg answered to hammer-nose;
And the picketed ponies, shag and wild,
Strained at their ropes as the feed was piled;
And the bubbling camels beside the load
Sprawled for a furlong adown the road;
And the Persian pussy-cats, brought for sale,
Spat at the dogs from the camel-bale;
And the tribesmen bellowed to hasten the food;
And the camp-fires twinkled by Fort Jumrood;
And there fled on the wings of the gathering dusk
A savour of camels and carpets and musk,
A murmur of voices, a reek of smoke,
To tell us the trade of the Khyber woke.
The lid of the flesh-pot chattered high,
The knives were whetted and -- then came I
To Mahbub Ali the muleteer,
Patching his bridles and counting his gear,
Crammed with the gossip of half a year.
But Mahbub Ali the kindly said,
"Better is speech when the belly is fed.
So we plunged the hand to the mid-wrist deep
In a cinnamon stew of the fat-tailed sheep,
And he who never hath tasted the food,
By Allah! he knoweth not bad from good.
We cleansed our beards of the mutton-grease,
We lay on the mats and were filled with peace,
And the talk slid north, and the talk slid south,
With the sliding puffs from the hookah-mouth.
Four things greater than all things are, --
Women and Horses and Power and War.
We spake of them all, but the last the most,
For I sought a word of a Russian post,
Of a shifty promise, an unsheathed sword
And a gray-coat guard on the Helmund ford.
Then Mahbub Ali lowered his eyes
In the fashion of one who is weaving lies.
Quoth he: "Of the Russians who can say?
When the night is gathering all is gray.
But we look that the gloom of the night shall die
In the morning flush of a blood-red sky.
Friend of my heart, is it meet or wise
To warn a King of his enemies?
We know what Heaven or Hell may bring,
But no man knoweth the mind of the King.
That unsought counsel is cursed of God
Attesteth the story of Wali Dad.
"His sire was leaky of tongue and pen,
His dam was a clucking Khuttuck hen;
And the colt bred close to the vice of each,
For he carried the curse of an unstanched speech.
Therewith madness -- so that he sought
The favour of kings at the Kabul court;
And travelled, in hope of honour, far
To the line where the gray-coat squadrons are.
There have I journeyed too -- but I
Saw naught, said naught, and -- did not die!
He harked to rumour, and snatched at a breath
Of `this one knoweth' and `that one saith', --
Legends that ran from mouth to mouth
Of a gray-coat coming, and sack of the South.
These have I also heard -- they pass
With each new spring and the winter grass.
"Hot-foot southward, forgotten of God,
Back to the city ran Wali Dad,
Even to Kabul -- in full durbar
The King held talk with his Chief in War.
Into the press of the crowd he broke,
And what he had heard of the coming spoke.
"Then Gholam Hyder, the Red Chief, smiled,
As a mother might on a babbling child;
But those who would laugh restrained their breath,
When the face of the King showed dark as death.
Evil it is in full durbar
To cry to a ruler of gathering war!
Slowly he led to a peach-tree small,
That grew by a cleft of the city wall.
And he said to the boy: `They shall praise thy zeal
So long as the red spurt follows the steel.
And the Russ is upon us even now?
Great is thy prudence -- await them, thou.
Watch from the tree.
Thou art young and strong,
Surely thy vigil is not for long.
The Russ is upon us, thy clamour ran?
Surely an hour shall bring their van.
Wait and watch.
When the host is near,
Shout aloud that my men may hear.
"Friend of my heart, is it meet or wise
To warn a King of his enemies?
A guard was set that he might not flee --
A score of bayonets ringed the tree.
The peach-bloom fell in showers of snow,
When he shook at his death as he looked below.
By the power of God, who alone is great,
Till the seventh day he fought with his fate.
Then madness took him, and men declare
He mowed in the branches as ape and bear,
And last as a sloth, ere his body failed,
And he hung as a bat in the forks, and wailed,
And sleep the cord of his hands untied,
And he fell, and was caught on the points and died.
"Heart of my heart, is it meet or wise
To warn a King of his enemies?
We know what Heaven or Hell may bring,
But no man knoweth the mind of the King.
Of the gray-coat coming who can say?
When the night is gathering all is gray.
Two things greater than all things are,
The first is Love, and the second War.
And since we know not how War may prove,
Heart of my heart, let us talk of Love!"
Joseph Brodsky |
Everything has its limit, including sorrow.
A windowpane stalls a stare.
Nor does a grill abandon
One may rattle the keys, gurgle down a swallow.
Loneless cubes a man at random.
A camel sniffs at the rail with a resentful nostril;
a perspective cuts emptiness deep and even.
And what is space anyway if not the
body's absence at every given
point? That's why Urania's older sister Clio!
in daylight or with the soot-rich lantern,
you see the globe's pate free of any bio,
you see she hides nothing, unlike the latter.
There they are, blueberry-laden forests,
rivers where the folk with bare hands catch sturgeon
or the towns in whose soggy phone books
you are starring no longer; father eastward surge on
brown mountain ranges; wild mares carousing
in tall sedge; the cheeckbones get yellower
as they turn numerous.
And still farther east, steam dreadnoughts
and the expanse grows blue like lace underwear.