Robert Seymour Bridges |
'Twas at that hour of beauty when the setting sun
squandereth his cloudy bed with rosy hues, to flood
his lov'd works as in turn he biddeth them Good-night;
and all the towers and temples and mansions of men
face him in bright farewell, ere they creep from their pomp
naked beneath the darkness;- while to mortal eyes
'tis given, ifso they close not of fatigue, nor strain
at lamplit tasks-'tis given, as for a royal boon
to beggarly outcasts in homeless vigil, to watch
where uncurtain's behind the great windows of space
Heav'n's jewel'd company circleth unapproachably-
'Twas at sunset that I, fleeing to hide my soul
in refuge of beauty from a mortal distress,
walk'd alone with the Muse in her garden of thought,
discoursing at liberty with the mazy dreams
that came wavering pertinaciously about me; as when
the small bats, issued from their hangings, flitter o'erhead
thru' the summer twilight, with thin cries to and fro
hunting in muffled flight atween the stars and flowers.
Then fell I in strange delusion, illusion strange to tell;
for as a man who lyeth fast asleep in his bed
may dream he waketh, and that he walketh upright
pursuing some endeavour in full conscience-so 'twas
with me; but contrawise; for being in truth awake
methought I slept and dreamt; and in thatt dream methought
I was telling a dream; nor telling was I as one
who, truly awaked from a true sleep, thinketh to tell
his dream to a friend, but for his scant remembrances
findeth no token of speech-it was not so with me;
for my tale was my dream and my dream the telling,
and I remember wondring the while I told it
how I told it so tellingly.
And yet now 'twould seem
that Reason inveighed me with her old orderings;
as once when she took thought to adjust theology,
peopling the inane that vex'd her between God and man
with a hierarchy of angels; like those asteroids
wherewith she later fill'd the gap 'twixt Jove and Mars.
Verily by Beauty it is that we come as WISDOM,
yet not by Reason at Beauty; and now with many words
pleasing myself betimes I am fearing lest in the end
I play the tedious orator who maundereth on
for lack of heart to make an end of his nothings.
Wherefor as when a runner who hath run his round
handeth his staff away, and is glad of his rest,
here break I off, knowing the goal was not for me
the while I ran on telling of what cannot be told.
For not the Muse herself can tell of Goddes love;
which cometh to the child from the Mother's embrace,
an Idea spacious as the starry firmament's
inescapable infinity of radiant gaze,
that fadeth only as it outpasseth mortal sight:
and this direct contact is 't with eternities,
this springtide miracle of the soul's nativity
that oft hath set philosophers adrift in dream;
which thing Christ taught, when he set up a little child
to teach his first Apostles and to accuse their pride,
saying, 'Unless ye shall receive it as a child,
ye cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.
So thru'out all his young mental apprenticehood
the child of very simplicity, and in the grace
and beauteous attitude of infantine wonder,
is apt to absorb Ideas in primal purity,
and by the assimilation of thatt immortal food
may build immortal life; but ever with the growth
of understanding, as the sensible images
are more and more corrupt, troubled by questioning thought,
or with vainglory alloy'd, 'tis like enought the boy
in prospect of his manhood wil hav cast to th' winds
his Baptism with his Babyhood; nor might he escape
the fall of Ev'ryman, did not a second call
of nature's Love await him to confirm his Faith
or to revoke him if he is whollylapsed therefrom.
And so mighty is this second vision, which cometh
in puberty of body and adolescence of mind
that, forgetting his Mother, he calleth it 'first Love';
for it mocketh at suasion or stubbornness of heart,
as the oceantide of the omnipotent Pleasur of God,
flushing all avenues of life, and unawares
by thousandfold approach forestalling its full flood
with divination of the secret contacts of Love,--
of faintest ecstasies aslumber in Nature's calm,
like thought in a closed book, where some poet long since
sang his throbbing passion to immortal sleep-with coy
tenderness delicat as the shifting hues
that sanctify the silent dawn with wonder-gleams,
whose evanescence is the seal of their glory,
consumed in self-becoming of eternity;
til every moment as it flyeth, cryeth 'Seize!
Seize me ere I die! I am the Life of Life.
'Tis thus by near approach to an eternal presence
man's heart with divine furor kindled and possess'd
falleth in blind surrender; and finding therewithal
in fullest devotion the full reconcilement
betwixt his animal and spiritual desires,
such welcome hour of bliss standeth for certain pledge
of happiness perdurable: and coud he sustain
this great enthusiasm, then the unbounded promise
would keep fulfilment; since the marriage of true minds
is thatt once fabled garden, amidst of which was set
the single Tree that bore such med'cinable fruit
that if man ate thereof he should liv for ever.
Friendship is in loving rather than in being lov'd,
which is its mutual benediction and recompense;
and tho' this be, and tho' love is from lovers learn'd,
it springeth none the less from the old essence of self.
No friendless man ('twas well said) can be truly himself;
what a man looketh for in his friend and findeth,
and loving self best, loveth better than himself,
is his own better self, his live lovable idea,
flowering by expansion in the loves of his life.
And in the nobility of our earthly friendships
we hav al grades of attainment, and the best may claim
perfection of kind; and so, since ther be many bonds
other than breed (friendships of lesser motiv, found
even in the brutes) and since our politick is based
on actual association of living men, 'twil come
that the spiritual idea of Friendship, the huge
vastidity of its essence, is fritter'd away
in observation of the usual habits of men;
as happ'd with the great moralist, where his book saith
that ther can be no friendship betwixt God and man
because of their unlimited disparity.
From this dilemma of pagan thought, this poison of faith,
Man-soul made glad escape in the worship of Christ;
for his humanity is God's Personality,
and communion with him is the life of the soul.
Of which living ideas (when in the struggle of thought
harden'd by language they became symbols of faith)
Reason builded her maze, wherefrom none should escape,
wandering intent to map and learn her tortuous clews,
chanting their clerkly creed to the high-echoing stones
of their hand-fashion'd temple: but the Wind of heav'n
bloweth where it listeth, and Christ yet walketh the earth,
and talketh still as with those two disciples once
on the road to Emmaus-where they walk and are sad;
whose vision of him then was his victory over death,
thatt resurrection which all his lovers should share,
who in loving him had learn'd the Ethick of happiness;
whereby they too should come where he was ascended
to reign over men's hearts in the Kingdom of God.
Our happiest earthly comradeships hold a foretaste
of the feast of salvation and by thatt virtue in them
provoke desire beyond them to out-reach and surmount
their humanity in some superhumanity
and ultimat perfection: which, howe'ever 'tis found
or strangeley imagin'd, answereth to the need of each
and pulleth him instinctivly as to a final cause.
Thus unto all who hav found their high ideal in Christ,
Christ is to them the essence discern'd or undeiscern'd
of all their human friendships; and each lover of him
and of his beauty must be as a bud on the Vine
and hav participation in him; for Goddes love
is unescapable as nature's environment,
which if a man ignore or think to thrust it off
he is the ill-natured fool that runneth blindly on death.
This Individualism is man's true Socialism.
This is the rife Idea whose spiritual beauty
multiplieth in communion to transcendant might.
This is thatt excelent way whereon if we wil walk
all things shall be added unto us-thatt Love which inspired
the wayward Visionary in his doctrinal ode
to the three christian Graces, the Church's first hymn
and only deathless athanasian creed,--the which
'except a man believe he cannot be saved.
This is the endearing bond whereby Christ's company
yet holdeth together on the truth of his promise
that he spake of his grat pity and trust in man's love,
'Lo, I am with you always ev'n to the end of the world.
Truly the Soul returneth the body's loving
where it hath won it.
and God so loveth the world.
and in the fellowship of the friendship of Christ
God is seen as the very self-essence of love,
Creator and mover of all as activ Lover of all,
self-express'd in not-self, mind and body, mother and child,
'twixt lover and loved, God and man: but ONE ETERNAL
in the love of Beauty and in the selfhood of Love.
Ernest Lawrence Thayer |
The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville nine that day,
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play.
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.
A straggling few got up to go in deep despair.
The rest clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast.
They thought, "if only Casey could but get a whack at that.
We'd put up even money now, with Casey at the bat.
But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake;
and the former was a hoodoo, while the latter was a cake.
So upon that stricken multitude, grim melancholy sat;
for there seemed but little chance of Casey getting to the bat.
But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all.
And Blake, the much despised, tore the cover off the ball.
And when the dust had lifted,
and men saw what had occurred,
there was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.
Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
it rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
it pounded through on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat;
for Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.
There was ease in Casey's manner as he stepped into his place,
there was pride in Casey's bearing and a smile lit Casey's face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
no stranger in the crowd could doubt t'was Casey at the bat.
Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt.
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.
Then, while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
defiance flashed in Casey's eye, a sneer curled Casey's lip.
And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
and Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped --
"That ain't my style," said Casey.
"Strike one!" the umpire said.
From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
like the beating of the storm waves on a stern and distant shore.
"Kill him! Kill the umpire!" shouted someone on the stand,
and it's likely they'd have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.
With a smile of Christian charity, great Casey's visage shone,
he stilled the rising tumult, he bade the game go on.
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the dun sphere flew,
but Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, "Strike two!"
"Fraud!" cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered "Fraud!"
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
and they knew that Casey wouldn't let that ball go by again.
The sneer has fled from Casey's lip, the teeth are clenched in hate.
He pounds, with cruel violence, his bat upon the plate.
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
and now the air is shattered by the force of Casey's blow.
Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright.
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light.
And, somewhere men are laughing, and little children shout,
but there is no joy in Mudville
mighty Casey has struck out.
Robert William Service |
Sitting in the dentist's chair,
Wishing that I wasn't there,
To forget and pass the time
I have made this bit of rhyme.
I had a rendez-vous at ten;
I rushed to get in line,
But found a lot of dames and men
Had waited there since nine;
I stared at them, then in an hour
Was blandly ushered in;
But though my face was grim and sour
He met me with a grin.
He told me of his horse of blood,
And how it "also ran",
He plans to own a racing stud -
(He seems a wealthy man.
And then he left me there until
I growled: "At any rate,
I hope he'll not charge in his bill
For all the time I wait.
His wife has sables on her back,
With jewels she's ablaze;
She drives a stately Cadillac,
And I'm the mug who pays:
At least I'm one of those who peer
With pessimistic gloom
At magazines of yester-year
In his damn waiting room.
I am a Christian Scientist;
I don't believe in pain;
My dentist had a powerful wrist,
He tries and tries in vain
To make me grunt or groan or squeal
With probe or rasp or drill.
But oh, what agony I feel
When HE PRESENTS HIS BILL!
Sitting in the dental chair,
Don't you wish you weren't there:
Well, your cup of woe to fill,
Just think of his infernal bill.
Rudyard Kipling |
This ballad appears to refer to one of the exploits of the notorious
Paul Jones, the American pirate.
It is founded on fact.
At the close of a winter day,
Their anchors down, by London town, the Three Great Captains lay;
And one was Admiral of the North from Solway Firth to Skye,
And one was Lord of the Wessex coast and all the lands thereby,
And one was Master of the Thames from Limehouse to Blackwall,
And he was Captain of the Fleet -- the bravest of them all.
Their good guns guarded their great gray sides that were thirty foot in the sheer,
When there came a certain trading-brig with news of a privateer.
Her rigging was rough with the clotted drift that drives in a Northern breeze,
Her sides were clogged with the lazy weed that spawns in the Eastern seas.
Light she rode in the rude tide-rip, to left and right she rolled,
And the skipper sat on the scuttle-butt and stared at an empty hold.
"I ha' paid Port dues for your Law," quoth he, "and where is the Law ye boast
If I sail unscathed from a heathen port to be robbed on a Christian coast?
Ye have smoked the hives of the Laccadives as we burn the lice in a bunk,
We tack not now to a Gallang prow or a plunging Pei-ho junk;
I had no fear but the seas were clear as far as a sail might fare
Till I met with a lime-washed Yankee brig that rode off Finisterre.
There were canvas blinds to his bow-gun ports to screen the weight he bore,
And the signals ran for a merchantman from Sandy Hook to the Nore.
He would not fly the Rovers' flag -- the bloody or the black,
But now he floated the Gridiron and now he flaunted the Jack.
He spoke of the Law as he crimped my crew -- he swore it was only a loan;
But when I would ask for my own again, he swore it was none of my own.
He has taken my little parrakeets that nest beneath the Line,
He has stripped my rails of the shaddock-frails and the green unripened pine;
He has taken my bale of dammer and spice I won beyond the seas,
He has taken my grinning heathen gods -- and what should he want o' these?
My foremast would not mend his boom, my deckhouse patch his boats;
He has whittled the two, this Yank Yahoo, to peddle for shoe-peg oats.
I could not fight for the failing light and a rough beam-sea beside,
But I hulled him once for a clumsy crimp and twice because he lied.
Had I had guns (as I had goods) to work my Christian harm,
I had run him up from his quarter-deck to trade with his own yard-arm;
I had nailed his ears to my capstan-head, and ripped them off with a saw,
And soused them in the bilgewater, and served them to him raw;
I had flung him blind in a rudderless boat to rot in the rocking dark,
I had towed him aft of his own craft, a bait for his brother shark;
I had lapped him round with cocoa husk, and drenched him with the oil,
And lashed him fast to his own mast to blaze above my spoil;
I had stripped his hide for my hammock-side, and tasselled his beard i' the mesh,
And spitted his crew on the live bamboo that grows through the gangrened flesh;
I had hove him down by the mangroves brown, where the mud-reef sucks and draws,
Moored by the heel to his own keel to wait for the land-crab's claws!
He is lazar within and lime without, ye can nose him far enow,
For he carries the taint of a musky ship -- the reek of the slaver's dhow!"
The skipper looked at the tiering guns and the bulwarks tall and cold,
And the Captains Three full courteously peered down at the gutted hold,
And the Captains Three called courteously from deck to scuttle-butt: --
"Good Sir, we ha' dealt with that merchantman or ever your teeth were cut.
Your words be words of a lawless race, and the Law it standeth thus:
He comes of a race that have never a Law, and he never has boarded us.
We ha' sold him canvas and rope and spar -- we know that his price is fair,
And we know that he weeps for the lack of a Law as he rides off Finisterre.
And since he is damned for a gallows-thief by you and better than you,
We hold it meet that the English fleet should know that we hold him true.
The skipper called to the tall taffrail: -- "And what is that to me?
Did ever you hear of a Yankee brig that rifled a Seventy-three?
Do I loom so large from your quarter-deck that I lift like a ship o' the Line?
He has learned to run from a shotted gun and harry such craft as mine.
There is never a Law on the Cocos Keys to hold a white man in,
But we do not steal the niggers' meal, for that is a ******'s sin.
Must he have his Law as a quid to chaw, or laid in brass on his wheel?
Does he steal with tears when he buccaneers? 'Fore Gad, then, why does he steal?"
The skipper bit on a deep-sea word, and the word it was not sweet,
For he could see the Captains Three had signalled to the Fleet.
But three and two, in white and blue, the whimpering flags began: --
"We have heard a tale of a -- foreign sail, but he is a merchantman.
The skipper peered beneath his palm and swore by the Great Horn Spoon: --
"'Fore Gad, the Chaplain of the Fleet would bless my picaroon!"
By two and three the flags blew free to lash the laughing air: --
"We have sold our spars to the merchantman -- we know that his price is fair.
The skipper winked his Western eye, and swore by a China storm: --
"They ha' rigged him a Joseph's jury-coat to keep his honour warm.
The halliards twanged against the tops, the bunting bellied broad,
The skipper spat in the empty hold and mourned for a wasted cord.
Masthead -- masthead, the signal sped by the line o' the British craft;
The skipper called to his Lascar crew, and put her about and laughed: --
"It's mainsail haul, my bully boys all -- we'll out to the seas again --
Ere they set us to paint their pirate saint, or scrub at his grapnel-chain.
It's fore-sheet free, with her head to the sea, and the swing of the unbought brine --
We'll make no sport in an English court till we come as a ship o' the Line:
Till we come as a ship o' the Line, my lads, of thirty foot in the sheer,
Lifting again from the outer main with news of a privateer;
Flying his pluck at our mizzen-truck for weft of Admiralty,
Heaving his head for our dipsey-lead in sign that we keep the sea.
Then fore-sheet home as she lifts to the foam -- we stand on the outward tack,
We are paid in the coin of the white man's trade -- the bezant is hard, ay, and black.
The frigate-bird shall carry my word to the Kling and the Orang-Laut
How a man may sail from a heathen coast to be robbed in a Christian port;
How a man may be robbed in Christian port while Three Great Captains there
Shall dip their flag to a slaver's rag -- to show that his trade is fair!"
Kathleen Raine |
Earth no longer
hymns the Creator,
the seven days of wonder,
the Garden is over —
all the stories are told,
the seven seals broken
all that begins
must have its ending,
our striving, desiring,
our living and dying,
for Time, the bringer
of abundant days
is Time the destroyer —
In the Iron Age
the Kali Yuga
To whom can we pray
at the end of an era
but the Lord Shiva,
the Liberator, the purifier?
Our forests are felled,
our mountains eroded,
the wild places
where the beautiful animals
found food and sanctuary
we have desolated,
a third of our seas,
a third of our rivers
we have polluted
and the sea-creatures dying.
in wrong courses
through wrong choices
has brought us to nightmare
where what seems,
is, to the dreamer,
the collective mind
of the twentieth century —
this world of wonders
not divine creation
but a big bang
of blind chance,
mother earth’s children,
their living and loving,
their delight in being
not joy but chemistry,
while to our machines
we impute intelligence,
in computers and robots
we store information
and call it knowledge,
we seek guidance
by dialling numbers,
in place of family
our companions are shadows,
cast on a screen,
bodiless voices, fleshless faces,
where was the Garden
of virtual reality,
in place of angels
the human imagination
is peopled with foot-ballers
with cartoon faces —
To whom can we pray
for release from illusion,
from the world-cave,
but Time the destroyer,
the liberator, the purifier?
The curse of Midas
has changed at a touch,
a golden handshake
to lifeless matter,
where once was seed-time,
summer and winter,
food-chain, factory farming,
monocrops for supermarkets,
battery-hens, hormone injections,
implants, transplants, sterilization,
surrogate births, contraception,
cloning, genetic engineering, abortion,
and our days shall be short
in the land we have sown
with the Dragon’s teeth
where our armies arise
fully armed on our killing-fields
with land-mines and missiles,
tanks and artillery,
gas-masks and body-bags,
our air-craft rain down
fire and destruction,
our space-craft broadcast
lies and corruption,
our elected parliaments
parrot their rhetoric
of peace and democracy
while the truth we deny
returns in our dreams
the death-wish, the arms-trade,
hatred and slaughter
of our thriving cities,
to the end of the world
of our postmodern,
progress to the nihil
of our spent civilization.
But cause and effect,
just and inexorable
law of the universe
no fix of science,
nor amenable god
can save from ourselves
the selves we have become —
At the end of history
to whom can we pray
but to the destroyer,
the liberator, the purifier?
In the beginning
the stars sang together
the cosmic harmony,
but Time, imperceptible
of all that has been,
all that will be,
our heart-beat your drum,
our dance of life
your dance of death
in the crematorium,
our high-rise dreams,
Xanadu, Shangri-la, world revolution
Time has taken, and soon will be gone
Cambridge, Princeton and M.
Nalanda, Athens and Alexandria
all for the holocaust
of civilization —
To whom shall we pray
when our vision has faded
but the world-destroyer,
the liberator, the purifier?
But great is the realm
of the world-creator,
from whom we come,
in whom we move
and have our being,
about us, within us
the wonders of wisdom,
the trees and the fountains,
the stars and the mountains,
all the children of joy,
the loved and the known,
the unknowable mystery
to whom we return
through the world-destroyer, —
at the end of the world
the purging fire
of the purifier, the liberator!
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.
Anais Nin |
"Am I, at bottom, that fervent little Spanish Catholic child who chastised herself for loving toys, who forbade herself the enjoyment of sweet foods, who practiced silence, who humiliated her pride, who adored symbols, statues, burning candles, incense, the caress of nuns, organ music, for whom Communion was a great event? I was so exalted by the idea of eating Jesus's flesh and drinking His blood that I couldn't swallow the host well, and I dreaded harming the it.
I visualized Christ descending into my heart so realistically (I was a realist then!) that I could see Him walking down the stairs and entering the room of my heart like a sacred Visitor.
That state of this room was a subject of great preoccupation for me.
At the ages of nine, ten, eleven, I believe I approximated sainthood.
And then, at sixteen, resentful of controls, disillusioned with a God who had not granted my prayers (the return of my father), who performed no miracles, who left me fatherless in a strange country, I rejected all Catholicism with exaggeration.
Goodness, virtue, charity, submission, stifled me.
I took up the words of Lawrence: "They stress only pain, sacrifice, suffering and death.
They do not dwell enough on the resurrection, on joy and life in the present.
" Today I feel my past like an unbearable weight, I feel that it interferes with my present life, that it must be the cause for this withdrawal, this closing of doors.
I am embalmed because a nun leaned over me, enveloped me in her veils, kissed me.
The chill curse of Christianity.
I do not confess any more, I have no remorse, yet am I doing penance for my enjoyments? Nobody knows what a magnificent prey I was for Christian legends, because of my compassion and my tenderness for human beings.
Today it divides me from enjoyment in life.
"As June walked towards me from the darkness of the garden into the light of the door, I saw for the first time the most beautiful woman on earth.
A startling white face, burning dark eyes, a face so alive I felt it would consume itself before my eyes.
Years ago I tried to imagine true beauty; I created in my mind an image of just such a woman.
I had never seen her until last night.
Yet I knew long ago the phosphorescent color of her skin, her huntress profile, the evenness of her teeth.
She is bizarre, fantastic, nervous, like someone in a high fever.
Her beauty drowned me.
As I sat before her, I felt I would do anything she asked of me.
Henry suddenly faded.
She was color and brilliance and strangeness.
By the end of the evening I had extricated myself from her power.
She killed my admiration by her talk.
The enormous ego, false, weak, posturing.
She lacks the courage of her personality, which is sensual, heavy with experience.
Her role alone preoccupies her.
She invents dramas in which she always stars.
I am sure she creates genuine dramas, genuine chaos and whirlpools of feelings, but I feel that her share in it is a pose.
That night, in spite of my response to her, she sought to be whatever she felt I wanted her to be.
She is an actress every moment.
I cannot grasp the core of June.
Everything Henry has said about her is true.
I wanted to run out and kiss her fanatastic beauty and say: 'June, you have killed my sincerity too.
I will never know again who I am, what I am, what I love, what I want.
Your beauty has drowned me, the core of me.
You carry away with you a part of me reflected in you.
When your beauty struck me, it dissolved me.
Deep down, I am not different from you.
I dreamed you, I wished for your existance.
You are the woman I want to be.
I see in you that part of me which is you.
I feel compassion for your childlike pride, for your trembling unsureness, your dramatization of events, your enhancing of the loves given to you.
I surrender my sincerity because if I love you it means we share the same fantasies, the same madnesses"
Anne Sexton |
Mother, my Mary Gray,
once resident of Gloucester
and Essex County,
a photostat of your will
arrived in the mail today.
This is the division of money.
I am one third
of your daughters counting my bounty
or I am a queen alone
in the parlor still,
eating the bread and honey.
It is Good Friday.
Black birds pick at my window sill.
Your coat in my closet,
your bright stones on my hand,
the gaudy fur animals
I do not know how to use,
settle on me like a debt.
A week ago, while the hard March gales
beat on your house,
we sorted your things: obstacles
of letters, family silver,
eyeglasses and shoes.
Like some unseasoned Christmas, its scales
rigged and reset,
I bundled out gifts I did not choose.
Now the houts of The Cross
In Boston, the devout
work their cold knees
toward that sweet martyrdom
that Christ planned.
My timely loss
is too customary to note; and yet
I planned to suffer
and I cannot.
It does not please
my yankee bones to watch
where the dying is done
in its usly hours.
Black birds peck
at my window glass
and Easter will take its ragged son.
The clutter of worship
that you taught me, Mary Gray,
a memory of belief
that I do not own.
on your death and jesus, my stranger
floats up over
my Christian home, wearing his straight
I have cast my lot
and am one third thief
Time, that rearranger
of estates, equips
me with your garments, but not with grief.
This winter when
cancer began its ugliness
I grieved with you each day
for three months
and found you in your private nook
of the medicinal palace
for New England Women
and never once
forgot how long it took.
I read to you
from The New Yorker, ate suppers
you wouldn't eat, fussed
with your flowers,
joked with your nurses, as if I
were the balm among lepers,
as if I could undo
a life in hours
if I never said goodbye.
But you turned old,
all your fifty-eight years sliding
like masks from your skull;
and at the end
I packed your nightgowns in suitcases,
paid the nurses, came riding
home as if I'd been told
I could pretend
people live in places.
Since then I have pretended ease,
loved with the trickeries of need, but not enough
to shed my daughterhood
or sweeten him as a man.
I drink the five o' clock martinis
and poke at this dry page like a rough
Fool! I fumble my lost childhood
for a mother and lounge in sad stuff
with love to catch and catch as catch can.
And Christ still waits.
I have tried
to exorcise the memory of each event
and remain still, a mixed child,
heavy with cloths of you.
Sweet witch, you are my worried guide.
Such dangerous angels walk through Lent.
Their walls creak Anne! Convert! Convert!
My desk moves.
Its cavr murmurs Boo
and I am taken and beguiled.
For all the way I've come
I'll have to go again.
Instead, I must convert
to love as reasonable
as Latin, as sold as earthenware:
I never knew.
And Lent will keep its hurt
for someone else.
Christ knows enough
staunch guys have hitched him in trouble.
thinking his sticks were badges to wear.
Spring rusts on its skinny branch
and last summer's lawn
is soggy and brown.
Yesterday is just a number.
All of its winters avalanche
out of sight.
What was, is gone.
Mother, last night I slept
in your Bonwit Teller nightgown.
Divided, you climbed into my head.
There in my jabbering dream
I heard my own angry cries
and I cursed you, Dame
keep out of my slumber.
My good Dame, you are dead.
And Mother, three stones
slipped from your glittering eyes.
Now it's Friday's noon
and I would still curse
you with my rhyming words
and bring you flapping back, old love,
old circus knitting, god-in-her-moon,
all fairest in my lang syne verse,
the gauzy bride among the children,
the fancy amid the absurd
and awkward, that horn for hounds
that skipper homeward, that museum
keeper of stiff starfish, that blaze
within the pilgrim woman,
a clown mender, a dove's
cheek among the stones,
my Lady of first words,
this is the division of ways.
And now, while Christ stays
fastened to his Crucifix
so that love may praise
and not the grotesque metaphor,
you come, a brave ghost, to fix
in my mind without praise
to make me your inheritor.
Thomas Hood |
One more Unfortunate,
Weary of breath,
Gone to her death!
Take her up tenderly,
Lift her with care;
Fashion'd so slenderly
Young, and so fair!
Look at her garments
Clinging like cerements;
Whilst the wave constantly
Drips from her clothing;
Take her up instantly,
Loving, not loathing.
Touch her not scornfully;
Think of her mournfully,
Gently and humanly;
Not of the stains of her,
All that remains of her
Now is pure womanly.
Make no deep scrutiny
Into her mutiny
Rash and undutiful:
Past all dishonour,
Death has left on her
Only the beautiful.
Still, for all slips of hers,
One of Eve's family—
Wipe those poor lips of hers
Oozing so clammily.
Loop up her tresses
Escaped from the comb,
Her fair auburn tresses;
Whilst wonderment guesses
Where was her home?
Who was her father?
Who was her mother?
Had she a sister?
Had she a brother?
Or was there a dearer one
Still, and a nearer one
Yet, than all other?
Alas! for the rarity
Of Christian charity
Under the sun!
O, it was pitiful!
Near a whole city full,
Home she had none.
Feelings had changed:
Love, by harsh evidence,
Thrown from its eminence;
Even God's providence
Where the lamps quiver
So far in the river,
With many a light
From window and casement,
From garret to basement,
She stood, with amazement,
Houseless by night.
The bleak wind of March
Made her tremble and shiver;
But not the dark arch,
Or the black flowing river:
Mad from life's history,
Glad to death's mystery,
Swift to be hurl'd—
Out of the world!
In she plunged boldly—
No matter how coldly
The rough river ran—
Over the brink of it,
Picture it—think of it,
Lave in it, drink of it,
Then, if you can!
Take her up tenderly,
Lift her with care;
Fashion'd so slenderly,
Young, and so fair!
Ere her limbs frigidly
Stiffen too rigidly,
Smooth and compose them;
And her eyes, close them,
Staring so blindly!
Thro' muddy impurity,
As when with the daring
Last look of despairing
Fix'd on futurity.
Spurr'd by contumely,
Into her rest.
Cross her hands humbly
As if praying dumbly,
Over her breast!
Owning her weakness,
Her evil behaviour,
And leaving, with meekness,
Her sins to her Saviour!
Friedrich von Schiller |
I, too, at length discerned great Hercules' energy mighty,--
Saw his shade.
He himself was not, alas, to be seen.
Round him were heard, like the screaming of birds,
the screams of tragedians,
And, with the baying of dogs, barked dramaturgists around.
There stood the giant in all his terrors; his bow was extended,
And the bolt, fixed on the string, steadily aimed at the heart.
"What still hardier action, unhappy one, dost thou now venture,
Thus to descend to the grave of the departed souls here?"--
"'Tis to see Tiresias I come, to ask of the prophet
Where I the buskin of old, that now has vanished, may find?"
"If they believe not in Nature, nor the old Grecian, but vainly
Wilt thou convey up from hence that dramaturgy to them.
"Oh, as for Nature, once more to tread our stage she has ventured,
Ay, and stark-naked beside, so that each rib we count.
"What? Is the buskin of old to be seen in truth on your stage, then,
Which even I came to fetch, out of mid-Tartarus' gloom?"--
"There is now no more of that tragic bustle, for scarcely
Once in a year on the boards moves thy great soul, harness-clad.
"Doubtless 'tis well! Philosophy now has refined your sensations,
And from the humor so bright fly the affections so black.
"Ay, there is nothing that beats a jest that is stolid and barren,
But then e'en sorrow can please, if 'tis sufficiently moist.
"But do ye also exhibit the graceful dance of Thalia,
Joined to the solemn step with which Melpomene moves?"--
"Neither! For naught we love but what is Christian and moral;
And what is popular, too, homely, domestic, and plain.
"What? Does no Caesar, does no Achilles, appear on your stage now,
Not an Andromache e'en, not an Orestes, my friend?"
"No! there is naught to be seen there but parsons,
and syndics of commerce,
Secretaries perchance, ensigns, and majors of horse.
"But, my good friend, pray tell me, what can such people e'er meet with
That can be truly called great?--what that is great can they do?"
"What? Why they form cabals, they lend upon mortgage, they pocket
Silver spoons, and fear not e'en in the stocks to be placed.
"Whence do ye, then, derive the destiny, great and gigantic,
Which raises man up on high, e'en when it grinds him to dust?"--
"All mere nonsense! Ourselves, our worthy acquaintances also,
And our sorrows and wants, seek we, and find we, too, here.
"But all this ye possess at home both apter and better,--
Wherefore, then, fly from yourselves, if 'tis yourselves that ye seek?"
"Be not offended, great hero, for that is a different question;
Ever is destiny blind,--ever is righteous the bard.
"Then one meets on your stage your own contemptible nature,
While 'tis in vain one seeks there nature enduring and great?"
"There the poet is host, and act the fifth is the reckoning;
And, when crime becomes sick, virtue sits down to the feast!"