Wallace Stevens |
Complacencies of the peignoir, and late
Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair,
And the green freedom of a cockatoo
Upon a rug mingle to dissipate
The holy hush of ancient sacrifice.
She dreams a little, and she feels the dark
Encroachment of that old catastrophe,
As a calm darkens among water-lights.
The pungent oranges and bright, green wings
Seem things in some procession of the dead,
Winding across wide water, without sound.
The day is like wide water, without sound,
Stilled for the passion of her dreaming feet
Over the seas, to silent Palestine,
Dominion of the blood and sepulchre.
Why should she give her bounty to the dead?
What is divinity if it can come
Only in silent shadows and in dreams?
Shall she not find in the comforts of sun,
In pungent fruit and bright, green wings, or else
In any balm or beauty of the earth,
Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven?
Divinity must live within herself:
Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow;
Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued
Elations when the forest blooms; gusty
Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights;
All pleasures and all pains, remembering
The bough of summer and the winter branch.
These are the measures destined for her soul.
Jove in the clouds had his inhuman birth.
No mother suckled him, no sweet land gave
Large-mannered motions to his mythy mind
He moved among us, as a muttering king,
Magnificent, would move among his hinds,
Until our blood, commingling, virginal,
With heaven, brought such requital to desire
The very hinds discerned it, in a star.
Shall our blood fail? Or shall it come to be
The blood of paradise? And shall the earth
Seem all of paradise that we shall know?
The sky will be much friendlier then than now,
A part of labor and a part of pain,
And next in glory to enduring love,
Not this dividing and indifferent blue.
She says, "I am content when wakened birds,
Before they fly, test the reality
Of misty fields, by their sweet questionings;
But when the birds are gone, and their warm fields
Return no more, where, then, is paradise?"
There is not any haunt of prophecy,
Nor any old chimera of the grave,
Neither the golden underground, nor isle
Melodious, where spirits gat them home,
Nor visionary south, nor cloudy palm
Remote as heaven's hill, that has endured
As April's green endures; or will endure
Like her rememberance of awakened birds,
Or her desire for June and evening, tipped
By the consummation of the swallow's wings.
She says, "But in contentment I still feel
The need of some imperishable bliss.
Death is the mother of beauty; hence from her,
Alone, shall come fulfillment to our dreams
And our desires.
Although she strews the leaves
Of sure obliteration on our paths,
The path sick sorrow took, the many paths
Where triumph rang its brassy phrase, or love
Whispered a little out of tenderness,
She makes the willow shiver in the sun
For maidens who were wont to sit and gaze
Upon the grass, relinquished to their feet.
She causes boys to pile new plums and pears
On disregarded plate.
The maidens taste
And stray impassioned in the littering leaves.
Is there no change of death in paradise?
Does ripe fruit never fall? Or do the boughs
Hang always heavy in that perfect sky,
Unchanging, yet so like our perishing earth,
With rivers like our own that seek for seas
They never find, the same receeding shores
That never touch with inarticulate pang?
Why set the pear upon those river-banks
Or spice the shores with odors of the plum?
Alas, that they should wear our colors there,
The silken weavings of our afternoons,
And pick the strings of our insipid lutes!
Death is the mother of beauty, mystical,
Within whose burning bosom we devise
Our earthly mothers waiting, sleeplessly.
Supple and turbulent, a ring of men
Shall chant in orgy on a summer morn
Their boisterous devotion to the sun,
Not as a god, but as a god might be,
Naked among them, like a savage source.
Their chant shall be a chant of paradise,
Out of their blood, returning to the sky;
And in their chant shall enter, voice by voice,
The windy lake wherein their lord delights,
The trees, like serafin, and echoing hills,
That choir among themselves long afterward.
They shall know well the heavenly fellowship
Of men that perish and of summer morn.
And whence they came and whither they shall go
The dew upon their feet shall manifest.
She hears, upon that water without sound,
A voice that cries, "The tomb in Palestine
Is not the porch of spirits lingering.
It is the grave of Jesus, where he lay.
We live in an old chaos of the sun,
Or old dependency of day and night,
Or island solitude, unsponsered, free,
Of that wide water, inescapable.
Deer walk upon our mountains, and the quail
Whistle about us their spontaneous cries;
Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness;
And, in the isolation of the sky,
At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make
Abiguous undulations as they sink,
Downward to darkness, on extended wings.
William Butler Yeats |
Epilogue to "A Vision'
MIDNIGHT has come, and the great Christ Church Bell
And may a lesser bell sound through the room;
And it is All Souls' Night,
And two long glasses brimmed with muscatel
Bubble upon the table.
A ghost may come;
For it is a ghost's right,
His element is so fine
Being sharpened by his death,
To drink from the wine-breath
While our gross palates drink from the whole wine.
I need some mind that, if the cannon sound
From every quarter of the world, can stay
Wound in mind's pondering
As mummies in the mummy-cloth are wound;
Because I have a marvellous thing to say,
A certain marvellous thing
None but the living mock,
Though not for sober ear;
It may be all that hear
Should laugh and weep an hour upon the clock.
Horton's the first I call.
He loved strange thought
And knew that sweet extremity of pride
That's called platonic love,
And that to such a pitch of passion wrought
Nothing could bring him, when his lady died,
Anodyne for his love.
Words were but wasted breath;
One dear hope had he:
Of that or the next winter would be death.
Two thoughts were so mixed up I could not tell
Whether of her or God he thought the most,
But think that his mind's eye,
When upward turned, on one sole image fell;
And that a slight companionable ghost,
Wild with divinity,
Had so lit up the whole
Immense miraculous house
The Bible promised us,
It seemed a gold-fish swimming in a bowl.
On Florence Emery I call the next,
Who finding the first wrinkles on a face
Admired and beautiful,
And knowing that the future would be vexed
With 'minished beauty, multiplied commonplace,
preferred to teach a school
Away from neighbour or friend,
Among dark skins, and there
permit foul years to wear
Hidden from eyesight to the unnoticed end.
Before that end much had she ravelled out
From a discourse in figurative speech
By some learned Indian
On the soul's journey.
How it is whirled about,
Wherever the orbit of the moon can reach,
Until it plunge into the sun;
And there, free and yet fast,
Being both Chance and Choice,
Forget its broken toys
And sink into its own delight at last.
And I call up MacGregor from the grave,
For in my first hard springtime we were friends.
Although of late estranged.
I thought him half a lunatic, half knave,
And told him so, but friendship never ends;
And what if mind seem changed,
And it seem changed with the mind,
When thoughts rise up unbid
On generous things that he did
And I grow half contented to be blind!
He had much industry at setting out,
Much boisterous courage, before loneliness
Had driven him crazed;
For meditations upon unknown thought
Make human intercourse grow less and less;
They are neither paid nor praised.
but he d object to the host,
The glass because my glass;
A ghost-lover he was
And may have grown more arrogant being a ghost.
But names are nothing.
What matter who it be,
So that his elements have grown so fine
The fume of muscatel
Can give his sharpened palate ecstasy
No living man can drink from the whole wine.
I have mummy truths to tell
Whereat the living mock,
Though not for sober ear,
For maybe all that hear
Should laugh and weep an hour upon the clock.
Such thought -- such thought have I that hold it tight
Till meditation master all its parts,
Nothing can stay my glance
Until that glance run in the world's despite
To where the damned have howled away their hearts,
And where the blessed dance;
Such thought, that in it bound
I need no other thing,
Wound in mind's wandering
As mummies in the mummy-cloth are wound.
Oxford, Autumn 1920
Alan Seeger |
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.
Derek Walcott |
A wind is ruffling the tawny pelt
Of Africa, Kikuyu, quick as flies,
Batten upon the bloodstreams of the veldt.
Corpses are scattered through a paradise.
Only the worm, colonel of carrion, cries:
"Waste no compassion on these separate dead!"
Statistics justify and scholars seize
The salients of colonial policy.
What is that to the white child hacked in bed?
To savages, expendable as Jews?
Threshed out by beaters, the long rushes break
In a white dust of ibises whose cries
Have wheeled since civilizations dawn
>From the parched river or beast-teeming plain.
The violence of beast on beast is read
As natural law, but upright man
Seeks his divinity by inflicting pain.
Delirious as these worried beasts, his wars
Dance to the tightened carcass of a drum,
While he calls courage still that native dread
Of the white peace contracted by the dead.
Again brutish necessity wipes its hands
Upon the napkin of a dirty cause, again
A waste of our compassion, as with Spain,
The gorilla wrestles with the superman.
I who am poisoned with the blood of both,
Where shall I turn, divided to the vein?
I who have cursed
The drunken officer of British rule, how choose
Between this Africa and the English tongue I love?
Betray them both, or give back what they give?
How can I face such slaughter and be cool?
How can I turn from Africa and live?
Countee Cullen |
"Lord, being dark," I said, "I cannot bear
The further touch of earth, the scented air;
Lord, being dark, forewilled to that despair
My color shrouds me in, I am as dirt
Beneath my brother's heel; there is a hurt
In all the simple joys which to a child
Are sweet; they are contaminate, defiled
By truths of wrongs the childish vision fails
To see; too great a cost this birth entails.
I strangle in this yoke drawn tighter than
The worth of bearing it, just to be man.
I am not brave enough to pay the price
In full; I lack the strength to sacrifice
I who have burned my hands upon a star,
And climbed high hills at dawn to view the far
Illimitable wonderments of earth,
For whom all cups have dripped the wine of mirth,
For whom the sea has strained her honeyed throat
Till all the world was sea, and I a boat
Unmoored, on what strange quest I willed to float;
Who wore a many-colored coat of dreams,
Thy gift, O Lord--I whom sun-dabbled streams
Have washed, whose bare brown thighs have held the sun
Incarcerate until his course was run,
I who considered man a high-perfected
Glass where loveliness could lie reflected,
Now that I sway athwart Truth's deep abyss,
Denuding man for what he was and is,
Shall breath and being so inveigle me
That I can damn my dreams to hell, and be
Content, each new-born day, anew to see
The steaming crimson vintage of my youth
Incarnadine the altar-slab of Truth?
Or hast Thou, Lord, somewhere I cannot see,
A lamb imprisoned in a bush for me?
Not so?Then let me render one by one
Thy gifts, while still they shine; some little sun
Yet gilds these thighs; my coat, albeit worn,
Still hold its colors fast; albeit torn.
My heart will laugh a little yet, if I
May win of Thee this grace, Lord:on this high
And sacrificial hill 'twixt earth and sky,
To dream still pure all that I loved, and die.
There is no other way to keep secure
My wild chimeras, grave-locked against the lure
Of Truth, the small hard teeth of worms, yet less
Envenomed than the mouth of Truth, will bless
Them into dust and happy nothingness.
Lord, Thou art God; and I, Lord, what am I
But dust?With dust my place.
Lord, let me die.
Across earth's warm, palpitating crust
I flung my body in embrace; I thrust
My mouth into the grass and sucked the dew,
Then gave it back in tears my anguish drew;
So hard I pressed against the ground, I felt
The smallest sandgrain like a knife, and smelt
The next year's flowering; all this to speed
My body's dissolution, fain to feed
And so I groaned, and spent my strength
Until, all passion spent, I lay full length
And quivered like a flayed and bleeding thing.
So lay till lifted on a great black wing
That had no mate nor flesh-apparent trunk
To hamper it; with me all time had sunk
Into oblivion; when I awoke
The wing hung poised above two cliffs that broke
The bowels of the earth in twain, and cleft
The seas apart.
Below, above, to left,
To right, I saw what no man saw before:
Earth, hell, and heaven; sinew, vein, and core.
All things that swim or walk or creep or fly,
All things that live and hunger, faint and die,
Were made majestic then and magnified
By sight so clearly purged and deified.
The smallest bug that crawls was taller than
A tree, the mustard seed loomed like a man.
The earth that writhes eternally with pain
Of birth, and woe of taking back her slain,
Laid bare her teeming bosom to my sight,
And all was struggle, gasping breath, and fight.
A blind worm here dug tunnels to the light,
And there a seed, racked with heroic pain,
Thrust eager tentacles to sun and rain:
It climbed; it died; the old love conquered me
To weep the blossom it would never be.
But here a bud won light; it burst and flowered
Into a rose whose beauty challenged, "Coward!"
There was no thing alive save only I
That held life in contempt and longed to die.
And still I writhed and moaned, "The curse, the curse,
Than animated death, can death be worse?"
"Dark child of sorrow, mine no less, what art Of mine can make thee see
and play thy part? The key to all strange things is in thy heart.
What voice was this that coursed like liquid fire
Along my flesh, and turned my hair to wire?
I raised my burning eyes, beheld a field
All multitudinous with carnal yield,
A grim ensanguined mead whereon I saw
Evolve the ancient fundamental law
Of tooth and talon, fist and nail and claw.
There with the force of living, hostile hills
Whose clash the hemmed-in vale with clamor fills,
With greater din contended fierce majestic wills
Of beast with beast, of man with man, in strife
For love of what my heart despised, for life
That unto me at dawn was now a prayer
For night, at night a bloody heart-wrung tear
For day again; for this, these groans
From tangled flesh and interlocked bones.
And no thing died that did not give
A testimony that it longed to live.
Man, strange composite blend of brute and god,
Pushed on, nor backward glanced where last he trod:
He seemed to mount a misty ladder flung
Pendant from a cloud, yet never gained a rung
But at his feet another tugged and clung.
My heart was still a pool of bitterness,
Would yield nought else, nought else confess.
I spoke (although no form was there
To see, I knew an ear was there to hear),
"Well, let them fight; they can whose flesh is fair.
Crisp lightning flashed; a wave of thunder shook
My wing; a pause, and then a speaking, "Look.
I scarce dared trust my ears or eyes for awe
Of what they heard, and dread of what they saw;
For, privileged beyond degree, this flesh
Beheld God and His heaven in the mesh
Of Lucifer's revolt, saw Lucifer
Glow like the sun, and like a dulcimer
I heard his sin-sweet voice break on the yell
Of God's great warriors:Gabriel,
Saint Clair and Michael, Israfel and Raphael.
And strange it was to see God with His back
Against a wall, to see Christ hew and hack
Till Lucifer, pressed by the mighty pair,
And losing inch by inch, clawed at the air
With fevered wings; then, lost beyond repair,
He tricked a mass of stars into his hair;
He filled his hands with stars, crying as he fell,
"A star's a star although it burns in hell.
So God was left to His divinity,
Omnipotent at that most costly fee.
There was a lesson here, but still the clod
In me was sycophant unto the rod,
And cried, "Why mock me thus?Am I a god?"
"One trial more:this failing, then I give You leave to die; no
further need to live.
Now suddenly a strange wild music smote
A chord long impotent in me; a note
Of jungles, primitive and subtle, throbbed
Against my echoing breast, and tom-toms sobbed
In every pulse-beat of my frame.
A hollow log bound with a python's skin
Can make wrought every nerve to ecstasy,
And I was wind and sky again, and sea,
And all sweet things that flourish, being free.
Till all at once the music changed its key.
And now it was of bitterness and death,
The cry the lash extorts, the broken breath
Of liberty enchained; and yet there ran
Through all a harmony of faith in man,
A knowledge all would end as it began.
All sights and sounds and aspects of my race
Accompanied this melody, kept pace
With it; with music all their hopes and hates
Were charged, not to be downed by all the fates.
And somehow it was borne upon my brain
How being dark, and living through the pain
Of it, is courage more than angels have.
What storms and tumults lashed the tree that grew
This body that I was, this cringing I
That feared to contemplate a changing sky,
This that I grovelled, whining, "Let me die,"
While others struggled in Life's abattoir.
The cries of all dark people near or far
Were billowed over me, a mighty surge
Of suffering in which my puny grief must merge
And lose itself; I had no further claim to urge
For death; in shame I raised my dust-grimed head,
And though my lips moved not, God knew I said,
"Lord, not for what I saw in flesh or bone
Of fairer men; not raised on faith alone;
Lord, I will live persuaded by mine own.
I cannot play the recreant to these;
My spirit has come home, that sailed the doubtful seas.
With the whiz of a sword that severs space,
The wing dropped down at a dizzy pace,
And flung me on my hill flat on my face;
Flat on my face I lay defying pain,
Glad of the blood in my smallest vein,
And in my hands I clutched a loyal dream,
Still spitting fire, bright twist and coil and gleam,
And chiseled like a hound's white tooth.
"Oh, I will match you yet," I cried, "to truth.
Right glad I was to stoop to what I once had spurned.
Glad even unto tears; I laughed aloud; I turned
Upon my back, and though the tears for joy would run,
My sight was clear; I looked and saw the rising sun.
Walt Whitman |
MANHATTAN’S streets I saunter’d, pondering,
On time, space, reality—on such as these, and abreast with them, prudence.
After all, the last explanation remains to be made about prudence;
Little and large alike drop quietly aside from the prudence that suits immortality.
The Soul is of itself;
All verges to it—all has reference to what ensues;
All that a person does, says, thinks, is of consequence;
Not a move can a man or woman make, that affects him or her in a day, month, any part of
life-time, or the hour of death, but the same affects him or her onward afterward through
The indirect is just as much as the direct,
The spirit receives from the body just as much as it gives to the body, if not more.
Not one word or deed—not venereal sore, discoloration, privacy of the onanist,
gluttons or rum-drinkers, peculation, cunning, betrayal, murder, seduction, prostitution,
results beyond death, as really as before death.
Charity and personal force are the only investments worth anything.
No specification is necessary—all that a male or female does, that is vigorous,
clean, is so much profit to him or her, in the unshakable order of the universe, and
whole scope of it forever.
Who has been wise, receives interest,
Savage, felon, President, judge, farmer, sailor, mechanic, literat, young, old, it is the
The interest will come round—all will come round.
Singly, wholly, to affect now, affected their time, will forever affect all of the past,
the present, and all of the future,
All the brave actions of war and peace,
All help given to relatives, strangers, the poor, old, sorrowful, young children, widows,
and to shunn’d persons,
All furtherance of fugitives, and of the escape of slaves,
All self-denial that stood steady and aloof on wrecks, and saw others fill the seats of
All offering of substance or life for the good old cause, or for a friend’s sake, or
All pains of enthusiasts, scoff’d at by their neighbors,
All the limitless sweet love and precious suffering of mothers,
All honest men baffled in strifes recorded or unrecorded,
All the grandeur and good of ancient nations whose fragments we inherit,
All the good of the dozens of ancient nations unknown to us by name, date, location,
All that was ever manfully begun, whether it succeeded or no,
All suggestions of the divine mind of man, or the divinity of his mouth, or the shaping of
All that is well thought or said this day on any part of the globe—or on any of the
stars, or on any of the fix’d stars, by those there as we are here;
All that is henceforth to be thought or done by you, whoever you are, or by any one;
These inure, have inured, shall inure, to the identities from which they sprang, or shall
Did you guess anything lived only its moment?
The world does not so exist—no parts palpable or impalpable so exist;
No consummation exists without being from some long previous consummation—and that
Without the farthest conceivable one coming a bit nearer the beginning than any.
Whatever satisfies Souls is true;
Prudence entirely satisfies the craving and glut of Souls;
Itself only finally satisfies the Soul;
The Soul has that measureless pride which revolts from every lesson but its own.
Now I give you an inkling;
Now I breathe the word of the prudence that walks abreast with time, space, reality,
That answers the pride which refuses every lesson but its own.
What is prudence, is indivisible,
Declines to separate one part of life from every part,
Divides not the righteous from the unrighteous, or the living from the dead,
Matches every thought or act by its correlative,
Knows no possible forgiveness, or deputed atonement,
Knows that the young man who composedly peril’d his life and lost it, has done
for himself without doubt,
That he who never peril’d his life, but retains it to old age in riches and ease, has
achiev’d nothing for himself worth mentioning;
Knows that only that person has really learn’d, who has learn’d to prefer
Who favors Body and Soul the same,
Who perceives the indirect assuredly following the direct,
Who in his spirit in any emergency whatever neither hurries or, avoids death.
Friedrich von Schiller |
Forever fair, forever calm and bright,
Life flies on plumage, zephyr-light,
For those who on the Olympian hill rejoice--
Moons wane, and races wither to the tomb,
And 'mid the universal ruin, bloom
The rosy days of Gods--With man, the choice,
Timid and anxious, hesitates between
The sense's pleasure and the soul's content;
While on celestial brows, aloft and sheen,
The beams of both are blent.
Seekest thou on earth the life of gods to share,
Safe in the realm of death?--beware
To pluck the fruits that glitter to thine eye;
Content thyself with gazing on their glow--
Short are the joys possession can bestow,
And in possession sweet desire will die.
'Twas not the ninefold chain of waves that bound
Thy daughter, Ceres, to the Stygian river--
She plucked the fruit of the unholy ground,
And so--was hell's forever!
The weavers of the web--the fates--but sway
The matter and the things of clay;
Safe from change that time to matter gives,
Nature's blest playmate, free at will to stray
With gods a god, amidst the fields of day,
The form, the archetype , serenely lives.
Would'st thou soar heavenward on its joyous wing?
Cast from thee, earth, the bitter and the real,
High from this cramped and dungeon being, spring
Into the realm of the ideal!
Here, bathed, perfection, in thy purest ray,
Free from the clogs and taints of clay,
Hovers divine the archetypal man!
Dim as those phantom ghosts of life that gleam
And wander voiceless by the Stygian stream,--
Fair as it stands in fields Elysian,
Ere down to flesh the immortal doth descend:--
If doubtful ever in the actual life
Each contest--here a victory crowns the end
Of every nobler strife.
Not from the strife itself to set thee free,
But more to nerve--doth victory
Wave her rich garland from the ideal clime.
Whate'er thy wish, the earth has no repose--
Life still must drag thee onward as it flows,
Whirling thee down the dancing surge of time.
But when the courage sinks beneath the dull
Sense of its narrow limits--on the soul,
Bright from the hill-tops of the beautiful,
Bursts the attained goal!
If worth thy while the glory and the strife
Which fire the lists of actual life--
The ardent rush to fortune or to fame,
In the hot field where strength and valor are,
And rolls the whirling thunder of the car,
And the world, breathless, eyes the glorious game--
Then dare and strive--the prize can but belong
To him whose valor o'er his tribe prevails;
In life the victory only crowns the strong--
He who is feeble fails.
But life, whose source, by crags around it piled,
Chafed while confined, foams fierce and wild,
Glides soft and smooth when once its streams expand,
When its waves, glassing in their silver play,
Aurora blent with Hesper's milder ray,
Gain the still beautiful--that shadow-land!
Here, contest grows but interchange of love,
All curb is but the bondage of the grace;
Gone is each foe,--peace folds her wings above
Her native dwelling-place.
When, through dead stone to breathe a soul of light,
With the dull matter to unite
The kindling genius, some great sculptor glows;
Behold him straining, every nerve intent--
Behold how, o'er the subject element,
The stately thought its march laborious goes!
For never, save to toil untiring, spoke
The unwilling truth from her mysterious well--
The statue only to the chisel's stroke
Wakes from its marble cell.
But onward to the sphere of beauty--go
Onward, O child of art! and, lo!
Out of the matter which thy pains control
The statue springs!--not as with labor wrung
From the hard block, but as from nothing sprung--
Airy and light--the offspring of the soul!
The pangs, the cares, the weary toils it cost
Leave not a trace when once the work is done--
The Artist's human frailty merged and lost
In art's great victory won! 
If human sin confronts the rigid law
Of perfect truth and virtue , awe
Seizes and saddens thee to see how far
Beyond thy reach, perfection;--if we test
By the ideal of the good, the best,
How mean our efforts and our actions are!
This space between the ideal of man's soul
And man's achievement, who hath ever past?
An ocean spreads between us and that goal,
Where anchor ne'er was cast!
But fly the boundary of the senses--live
The ideal life free thought can give;
And, lo, the gulf shall vanish, and the chill
Of the soul's impotent despair be gone!
And with divinity thou sharest the throne,
Let but divinity become thy will!
Scorn not the law--permit its iron band
The sense (it cannot chain the soul) to thrall.
Let man no more the will of Jove withstand ,
And Jove the bolt lets fall!
If, in the woes of actual human life--
If thou could'st see the serpent strife
Which the Greek art has made divine in stone--
Could'st see the writhing limbs, the livid cheek,
Note every pang, and hearken every shriek,
Of some despairing lost Laocoon,
The human nature would thyself subdue
To share the human woe before thine eye--
Thy cheek would pale, and all thy soul be true
To man's great sympathy.
But in the ideal realm, aloof and far,
Where the calm art's pure dwellers are,
Lo, the Laocoon writhes, but does not groan.
Here, no sharp grief the high emotion knows--
Here, suffering's self is made divine, and shows
The brave resolve of the firm soul alone:
Here, lovely as the rainbow on the dew
Of the spent thunder-cloud, to art is given,
Gleaming through grief's dark veil, the peaceful blue
Of the sweet moral heaven.
So, in the glorious parable, behold
How, bowed to mortal bonds, of old
Life's dreary path divine Alcides trod:
The hydra and the lion were his prey,
And to restore the friend he loved to-day,
He went undaunted to the black-browed god;
And all the torments and the labors sore
Wroth Juno sent--the meek majestic one,
With patient spirit and unquailing, bore,
Until the course was run--
Until the god cast down his garb of clay,
And rent in hallowing flame away
The mortal part from the divine--to soar
To the empyreal air! Behold him spring
Blithe in the pride of the unwonted wing,
And the dull matter that confined before
Sinks downward, downward, downward as a dream!
Olympian hymns receive the escaping soul,
And smiling Hebe, from the ambrosial stream,
Fills for a god the bowl!
Sylvia Plath |
The day you died I went into the dirt,
Into the lightless hibernaculum
Where bees, striped black and gold, sleep out the blizzard
Like hieratic stones, and the ground is hard.
It was good for twenty years, that wintering --
As if you never existed, as if I came
God-fathered into the world from my mother's belly:
Her wide bed wore the stain of divinity.
I had nothing to do with guilt or anything
When I wormed back under my mother's heart.
Small as a doll in my dress of innocence
I lay dreaming your epic, image by image.
Nobody died or withered on that stage.
Everything took place in a durable whiteness.
The day I woke, I woke on Churchyard Hill.
I found your name, I found your bones and all
Enlisted in a cramped necropolis
your speckled stone skewed by an iron fence.
In this charity ward, this poorhouse, where the dead
Crowd foot to foot, head to head, no flower
Breaks the soil.
This is Azalea path.
A field of burdock opens to the south.
Six feet of yellow gravel cover you.
The artificial red sage does not stir
In the basket of plastic evergreens they put
At the headstone next to yours, nor does it rot,
Although the rains dissolve a bloody dye:
The ersatz petals drip, and they drip red.
Another kind of redness bothers me:
The day your slack sail drank my sister's breath
The flat sea purpled like that evil cloth
My mother unrolled at your last homecoming.
I borrow the silts of an old tragedy.
The truth is, one late October, at my birth-cry
A scorpion stung its head, an ill-starred thing;
My mother dreamed you face down in the sea.
The stony actors poise and pause for breath.
I brought my love to bear, and then you died.
It was the gangrene ate you to the bone
My mother said: you died like any man.
How shall I age into that state of mind?
I am the ghost of an infamous suicide,
My own blue razor rusting at my throat.
O pardon the one who knocks for pardon at
Your gate, father -- your hound-bitch, daughter, friend.
It was my love that did us both to death.
Imamu Amiri Baraka |
Who has ever stopped to think of the divinity of Lamont Cranston?
(Only jack Kerouac, that I know of: & me.
The rest of you probably had on WCBS and Kate Smith,
Or something equally unattractive.)
What can I say?
It is better to haved loved and lost
Than to put linoleum in your living rooms?
Am I a sage or something?
Mandrake's hypnotic gesture of the week?
(Remember, I do not have the healing powers of Oral Roberts...
I cannot, like F. J. Sheen, tell you how to get saved & rich!
I cannot even order you to the gaschamber satori like Hitler or Goddy Knight)
& love is an evil word.
Turn it backwards/see, see what I mean?
An evol word. & besides
who understands it?
I certainly wouldn't like to go out on that kind of limb.
Saturday mornings we listened to the Red Lantern & his undersea folk.
At 11, Let's Pretend
& we did
& I, the poet, still do. Thank God!
What was it he used to say (after the transformation when he was safe
& invisible & the unbelievers couldn't throw stones?) "Heh, heh, heh.
Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows."
O, yes he does
O, yes he does
An evil word it is,
Alan Seeger |
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.