Discord In Childhood
Outside the house an ash-tree hung its terrible whips,
And at night when the wind arose, the lash of the tree
Shrieked and slashed the wind, as a ship’s
Weird rigging in a storm shrieks hideously.
Within the house two voices arose in anger, a slender lash
Whistling delirious rage, and the dreadful sound
Of a thick lash booming and bruising, until it drowned
The other voice in a silence of blood, ’neath the noise of the ash.
A Passing Bell
Mournfully to and fro, to and fro the trees are waving;
What did you say, my dear?
The rain-bruised leaves are suddenly shaken, as a child
Asleep still shakes in the clutch of a sob—
Yes, my love, I hear.
One lonely bell, one only, the storm-tossed afternoon is braving,
Why not let it ring?
The roses lean down when they hear it, the tender, mild
Flowers of the bleeding-heart fall to the throb—
It is such a little thing!
A wet bird walks on the lawn, call to the boy to come and look,
Yes, it is over now.
Call to him out of the silence, call him to see
The starling shaking its head as it walks in the grass—
Ah, who knows how?
He cannot see it, I can never show it him, how it shook—
Don’t disturb him, darling.
—Its head as it walked: I can never call him to me,
Never, he is not, whatever shall come to pass.
No, look at the wet starling.
Ballad Of Another Ophelia
Oh the green glimmer of apples in the orchard,
Lamps in a wash of rain!
Oh the wet walk of my brown hen through the stackyard,
Oh tears on the window pane!
Nothing now will ripen the bright green apples,
Full of disappointment and of rain,
Brackish they will taste, of tears, when the yellow dapples
Of autumn tell the withered tale again.
All round the yard it is cluck, my brown hen,
Cluck, and the rain-wet wings,
Cluck, my marigold bird, and again
Cluck for your yellow darlings.
For the grey rat found the gold thirteen
Huddled away in the dark,
Flutter for a moment, oh the beast is quick and keen,
Extinct one yellow-fluffy spark.
Once I had a lover bright like running water,
Once his face was laughing like the sky;
Open like the sky looking down in all its laughter
On the buttercups, and the buttercups was I.
What, then, is there hidden in the skirts of all the blossom?
What is peeping from your wings, oh mother hen?
’Tis the sun who asks the question, in a lovely haste for wisdom;
What a lovely haste for wisdom is in men!
Yea, but it is cruel when undressed is all the blossom,
And her shift is lying white upon the floor,
That a grey one, like a shadow, like a rat, a thief, a rain-storm,
Creeps upon her then and gathers in his store.
Oh the grey garner that is full of half-grown apples,
Oh the golden sparkles laid extinct!
And oh, behind the cloud-sheaves, like yellow autumn dapples,
Did you see the wicked sun that winked!
Round clouds roll in the arms of the wind,
The round earth rolls in a clasp of blue sky,
And see, where the budding hazels are thinned,
The wild anemones lie
In undulating shivers beneath the wind.
Over the blue of the waters ply
White ducks, a living flotilla of cloud;
And, look you, floating just thereby,
The blue-gleamed drake stems proud
Like Abraham, whose seed should multiply.
In the lustrous gleam of the water, there
Scramble seven toads across the silk, obscure leaves,
Seven toads that meet in the dusk to share
The darkness that interweaves
The sky and earth and water and live things everywhere.
Look now, through the woods where the beech-green spurts
Like a storm of emerald snow, look, see
A great bay stallion dances, skirts
The bushes sumptuously,
Going outward now in the spring to his brief deserts.
Ah love, with your rich, warm face aglow,
What sudden expectation opens you
So wide as you watch the catkins blow
Their dust from the birch on the blue
Lift of the pulsing wind—ah, tell me you know!
Ah, surely! Ah, sure from the golden sun
A quickening, masculine gleam floats in to all
Us creatures, people and flowers undone,
Lying open under his thrall,
As he begets the year in us. What, then, would you shun?
Why, I should think that from the earth there fly
Fine thrills to the neighbour stars, fine yellow beams
Thrown lustily off from our full-blown, high
Bursting globe of dreams,
To quicken the spheres that are virgin still in the sky.
Do you not hear each morsel thrill
With joy at travelling to plant itself within
The expectant one, therein to instil
New rapture, new shape to win,
From the thick of life wake up another will?
Surely, and if that I would spill
The vivid, ah, the fiery surplus of life,
From off my brimming measure, to fill
You, and flush you rife
With increase, do you call it evil, and always evil?
At the open door of the room I stand and look at the night,
Hold my hand to catch the raindrops, that slant into sight,
Arriving grey from the darkness above suddenly into the light of the room.
I will escape from the hollow room, the box of light,
And be out in the bewildering darkness, which is always fecund, which might
Mate my hungry soul with a germ of its womb.
I will go out to the night, as a man goes down to the shore
To draw his net through the surf’s thin line, at the dawn before
The sun warms the sea, little, lonely and sad, sifting the sobbing tide.
I will sift the surf that edges the night, with my net, the four
Strands of my eyes and my lips and my hands and my feet, sifting the store
Of flotsam until my soul is tired or satisfied.
I will catch in my eyes’ quick net
The faces of all the women as they go past,
Bend over them with my soul, to cherish the wet
Cheeks and wet hair a moment, saying: “Is it you?”
Looking earnestly under the dark umbrellas, held fast
Against the wind; and if, where the lamplight blew
Its rainy swill about us, she answered me
With a laugh and a merry wildness that it was she
Who was seeking me, and had found me at last to free
Me now from the stunting bonds of my chastity,
How glad I should be!
Moving along in the mysterious ebb of the night
Pass the men whose eyes are shut like anemones in a dark pool;
Why don’t they open with vision and speak to me, what have they in sight?
Why do I wander aimless among them, desirous fool?
I can always linger over the huddled books on the stalls,
Always gladden my amorous fingers with the touch of their leaves,
Always kneel in courtship to the shelves in the doorways, where falls
The shadow, always offer myself to one mistress, who always receives.
But oh, it is not enough, it is all no good.
There is something I want to feel in my running blood,
Something I want to touch; I must hold my face to the rain,
I must hold my face to the wind, and let it explain
Me its life as it hurries in secret.
I will trail my hands again through the drenched, cold leaves
Till my hands are full of the chillness and touch of leaves,
Till at length they induce me to sleep, and to forget.
The earth again like a ship steams out of the dark sea over
The edge of the blue, and the sun stands up to see us glide
Slowly into another day; slowly the rover
Vessel of darkness takes the rising tide.
I, on the deck, am startled by this dawn confronting
Me who am issued amazed from the darkness, stripped
And quailing here in the sunshine, delivered from haunting
The night unsounded whereon our days are shipped.
Feeling myself undawning, the day’s light playing upon me,
I who am substance of shadow, I all compact
Of the stuff of the night, finding myself all wrongly
Among the crowds of things in the sunshine jostled and racked.
I with the night on my lips, I sigh with the silence of death;
And what do I care though the very stones should cry me unreal, though the clouds
Shine in conceit of substance upon me, who am less than the rain.
Do I know the darkness within them? What are they but shrouds?
The clouds go down the sky with a wealthy ease
Casting a shadow of scorn upon me for my share in death; but I
Hold my own in the midst of them, darkling, defy
The whole of the day to extinguish the shadow I lift on the breeze.
Yea, though the very clouds have vantage over me,
Enjoying their glancing flight, though my love is dead,
I still am not homeless here, I’ve a tent by day
Of darkness where she sleeps on her perfect bed.
And I know the host, the minute sparkling of darkness
Which vibrates untouched and virile through the grandeur of night,
But which, when dawn crows challenge, assaulting the vivid motes
Of living darkness, bursts fretfully, and is bright:
Runs like a fretted arc-lamp into light,
Stirred by conflict to shining, which else
Were dark and whole with the night.
Runs to a fret of speed like a racing wheel,
Which else were aslumber along with the whole
Of the dark, swinging rhythmic instead of a-reel.
Is chafed to anger, bursts into rage like thunder;
Which else were a silent grasp that held the heavens
Arrested, beating thick with wonder.
Leaps like a fountain of blue sparks leaping
In a jet from out of obscurity,
Which erst was darkness sleeping.
Runs into streams of bright blue drops,
Water and stones and stars, and myriads
Of twin-blue eyes, and crops
Of floury grain, and all the hosts of day,
All lovely hosts of ripples caused by fretting
The Darkness into play.
You ruffled black blossom,
You glossy dark wind.
Your sort of gorgeousness,
Dark and lustrous
And skinny repulsive
Is the gorgeousness that evokes my most puzzled admiration.
Like a Red Indian darkly unfinished and aloof,
Seems like the black and glossy seeds of countless centuries.
Your wattles are the colour of steel-slag which has been red-hot
And is going cold,
Cooling to a powdery, pale-oxydised sky-blue.
Why do you have wattles, and a naked, wattled head?
Why do you arch your naked-set eye with a more-than-comprehensible arrogance?
The vulture is bald, so is the condor, obscenely,
But only you have thrown this amazing mantilla of oxydised sky-blue
And hot red over you.
This queer dross shawl of blue and vermilion,
Whereas the peacock has a diadem.
I wonder why.
Perhaps it is a sort of uncanny decoration, a veil of loose skin.
Perhaps it is your assertion, in all this ostentation, of raw contradictoriness.
Your wattles drip down like a shawl to your breast
And the point of your mantilla drops across your nose, unpleasantly.
Or perhaps it is something unfinished
A bit of slag still adhering, after your firing in the furnace of creation.
Or perhaps there is something in your wattles of a bull's dew-lap
Which slips down like a pendulum to balance the throbbing mass of a generous breast,
The over-drip of a great passion hanging in the balance.
Only yours would be a raw, unsmelted passion, that will not quite fuse from the dross.
You contract yourself,
You arch yourself as an archer's bow
Which quivers indrawn as you clench your spine
Until your veiled head almost touches backward
To the root-rising of your erected tail.
And one intense and backward-curving frisson
Seizes you as you clench yourself together
Like some fierce magnet bringing its poles together.
Burning, pale positive pole of your wattled head!
And from the darkness of that opposite one
The upstart of your round-barred, sun-round tail!
Whilst between the two, along the tense arch of your back
Blows the magnetic current in fierce blasts,
Ruffling black, shining feathers like lifted mail,
Shuddering storm wind, or a water rushing through.
Your brittle, super-sensual arrogance
Tosses the crape of red across your brow and down your breast
As you draw yourself upon yourself in insistence.
It is a declaration of such tension in will
As time has not dared to avouch, nor eternity been able to unbend
Do what it may.
A raw American will, that has never been tempered by life;
You brittle, will-tense bird with a foolish eye.
The peacock lifts his rods of bronze
And struts blue-brilliant out of the far East.
But watch a turkey prancing low on earth
Drumming his vaulted wings, as savages drum
Their rhythms on long-drawn, hollow, sinister drums.
The ponderous, sombre sound of the great drum of Huichilobos
In pyramid Mexico, during sacrifice.
Drum, and the turkey onrush
Sudden, demonic dauntlessness, full abreast,
All the bronze gloss of all his myriad petals
Each one apart and instant.
Delicate frail crescent of the gentle outline of white
At each feather-tip
Yet the bronze wind-well suddenly clashing
And the eye over-weening into madness.
Are you the bird of the next dawn?
Has the peacock had his day, does he call in vain, screecher, for the sun to rise?
The eagle, the dove, and the barnyard rooster, do they call in vain, trying to wake the morrow?
And do you await us, wattled father, Westward?
Will your yell do it?
Take up the trail of the vanished American
Where it disappeared at the foot of the crucifix.
Take up the primordial Indian obstinacy,
The more than human, dense insistence of will,
And disdain, and blankness, and onrush, and prise open the new day with them?
The East a dead letter, and Europe moribund. . . . Is that so?
And those sombre, dead, feather-lustrous Aztecs, Amerindians,
In all the sinister splendour of their red blood sacrifices,
Do they stand under the dawn, half-godly, half-demon, awaiting the cry of the turkey-cock?
Or must you go through the fire once more, till you're smelted pure,