Said The Skylark
'O soft, small cloud, the dim, sweet dawn adorning,
Swan-like a-sailing on its tender grey;
Why dost thou, dost thou float,
So high, the wing'd, wild note
Of silver lamentation from my dark and pulsing throat
May never reach thee,
Tho' every note beseech thee
To bend thy white wings downward thro' the smiling of the morning,
And by the black wires of my prison lightly stray?
'O dear, small cloud, when all blue morn is ringing
With sweet notes piped from other throats than mine;
If those glad singers please
The tall and nodding trees--
If to them dance the pennants of the swaying columbine,
If to their songs are set
The dance of daffodil and trembling violet--
Will they pursue thee
With tireless wings as free and bold as thine?
Will they woo thee
With love throbs in the music of their singing?
Ah, nay! fair Cloud, ah, nay!
Their hearts and wings will stay
With yellow bud of primrose and soft blush of the May;
Their songs will thrill and die,
Tranc'd in the perfume of the rose's breast.
While I must see thee fly
With white, broad, lonely pinions down the sky.
'O fair, small cloud, unheeding o'er me straying,
Jewell'd with topaz light of fading stars;
Thy downy edges red
As the great eagle of the Dawn sails high
And sets his fire-bright head
And wind-blown pinions towards thy snowy breast;
And thou canst blush while I
Must pierce myself with song and die
On the bald sod behind my prison bars;
Nor feel upon my crest
Thy soft, sunn'd touches delicately playing!
'O fair, small cloud, grown small as lily flow'r!
Even while I smite the bars to see thee fade;
The wind shall bring thee
The strain I sing thee--
I, in wired prison stay'd,
Worse than the breathless primrose glade.
That in my morn,
I shrilly sang to scorn;
I'll burst my heart up to thee in this hour!
'O fair, small cloud, float nearer yet and hear me!
A prison'd lark once lov'd a snowy cloud,
Nor did the Day
With sapphire lips, and kiss
Of summery bliss,
Draw all her soul away;
Vainly the fervent East
Deck'd her with roses for their bridal feast;
She would not rest
In his red arms, but slipp'd adown the air
And wan and fair,
Her light foot touch'd a purple mountain crest,
And touching, turn'd
Into swift rain, that like to jewels burn'd;
In the great, wondering azure of the sky;
And while a rainbow spread
Its mighty arms above, she, singing, fled
To the lone-feather'd slave,
In his sad weird grave,
Whose heart upon his silver song had sped
To her in days of old,
In dawns of gold,
And murmuring to him, said:
'O love, I come! O love, I come to cheer thee--
Love, to be near thee!''
Late Loved--Well Loved
He stood beside her in the dawn
(And she his Dawn and she his Spring),
From her bright palm she fed her fawn,
Her swift eyes chased the swallow's wing:
Her restless lips, smile-haunted, cast
Shrill silver calls to hound and dove:
Her young locks wove them with the blast.
To the flush'd, azure shrine above,
The light boughs o'er her golden head
Toss'd em'rald arm and blossom palm.
The perfume of their prayer was spread
On the sweet wind in breath of balm.
'Dawn of my heart,' he said, 'O child,
Knit thy pure eyes a space with mine:
O chrystal, child eyes, undefiled,
Let fair love leap from mine to thine!'
'The Dawn is young,' she smiled and said,
'Too young for Love's dear joy and woe;
Too young to crown her careless head
With his ripe roses. Let me go--
Unquestion'd for a longer space,
Perchance, when day is at the flood,
In thy true palm I'll gladly place
Love's flower in its rounding bud.
But now the day is all too young,
The Dawn and I are playmates still.'
She slipped the blossomed boughs among,
He strode beyond the violet hill.
Again they stand (Imperial noon
Lays her red sceptre on the earth),
Where golden hangings make a gloom,
And far off lutes sing dreamy mirth.
The peacocks cry to lily cloud,
From the white gloss of balustrade:
Tall urns of gold the gloom make proud,
Tall statues whitely strike the shade,
And pulse in the dim quivering light
Until, most Galatea-wise--
Each looks from base of malachite
With mystic life in limbs and eyes.
Her robe, (a golden wave that rose,
And burst, and clung as water clings
To her long curves) about her flows.
Each jewel on her white breast sings
Its silent song of sun and fire.
No wheeling swallows smite the skies
And upward draw the faint desire,
Weaving its myst'ry in her eyes.
In the white kisses of the tips
Of her long fingers lies a rose,
Snow-pale beside her curving lips,
Red by her snowy breast it glows.
'Noon of my soul,' he says, 'behold!
The day is ripe, the rose full blown,
Love stands in panoply of gold,
To Jovian height and strength now grown,
No infant he, a king he stands,
And pleads with thee for love again.'
'Ah, yes!' she says, 'in known lands,
He kings it--lord of subtlest pain;
The moon is full, the rose is fair--
Too fair! 'tis neither white nor red:
'I know the rose that love should wear,
Must redden as the heart had bled!
The moon is mellow bright, and I
Am happy in its perfect glow.
The slanting sun the rose may dye--
But for the sweet noon--let me go.'
She parted--shimm'ring thro' the shade,
Bent the fair splendour of her head:
'Would the rich noon were past,' he said,
Would the pale rose were flush'd to red!'
Again. The noon is past and night
Binds on his brow the blood red Mars--
Down dusky vineyards dies the fight,
And blazing hamlets slay the stars.
Shriek the shrill shells: the heated throats
Of thunderous cannon burst--and high
Scales the fierce joy of bugle notes:
The flame-dimm'd splendours of the sky.
He, dying, lies beside his blade:
Clear smiling as a warrior blest
With victory smiles, thro' sinister shade
Gleams the White Cross upon her breast.
'Soul of my soul, or is it night
Or is it dawn or is it day?
I see no more nor dark nor light,
I hear no more the distant fray.'
''Tis Dawn,' she whispers: 'Dawn at last!
Bright flush'd with love's immortal glow
For me as thee, all earth is past!
Late loved--well loved, now let us go!'
Malcolm's Katie: A Love Story - Part V.
Said the high hill, in the morning: 'Look on me--
'Behold, sweet earth, sweet sister sky, behold
'The red flames on my peaks, and how my pines
'Are cressets of pure gold; my quarried scars
'Of black crevase and shadow-fill'd canon,
'Are trac'd in silver mist. How on my breast
'Hang the soft purple fringes of the night;
'Close to my shoulder droops the weary moon,
'Dove-pale, into the crimson surf the sun
'Drives up before his prow; and blackly stands
'On my slim, loftiest peak, an eagle, with
'His angry eyes set sunward, while his cry
'Falls fiercely back from all my ruddy heights;
'And his bald eaglets, in their bare, broad nest,
'Shrill pipe their angry echoes: ''Sun, arise,
''And show me that pale dove, beside her nest,
''Which I shall strike with piercing beak and tear
''With iron talons for my hungry young.''
And that mild dove, secure for yet a space,
Half waken'd, turns her ring'd and glossy neck
To watch dawn's ruby pulsing on her breast,
And see the first bright golden motes slip down
The gnarl'd trunks about her leaf-deep nest,
Nor sees nor fears the eagle on the peak.
* * * * *
'Aye, lassie, sing--I'll smoke my pipe the while,
'And let it be a simple, bonnie song,
'Such as an old, plain man can gather in
'His dulling ear, and feel it slipping thro'
'The cold, dark, stony places of his heart.'
'Yes, sing, sweet Kate,' said Alfred in her ear;
'I often heard you singing in my dreams
'When I was far away the winter past.'
So Katie on the moonlit window lean'd,
And in the airy silver of her voice
Sang of the tender, blue 'Forget-me-not.'
Could every blossom find a voice,
And sing a strain to me;
I know where I would place my choice,
Which my delight should be.
I would not choose the lily tall,
The rose from musky grot;
But I would still my minstrel call
The blue 'Forget-me-not!'
And I on mossy bank would lie
Of brooklet, ripp'ling clear;
And she of the sweet azure eye,
Close at my list'ning ear,
Should sing into my soul a strain
Might never be forgot--
So rich with joy, so rich with pain
The blue 'Forget-me-not!'
Ah, ev'ry blossom hath a tale
With silent grace to tell,
From rose that reddens to the gale
To modest heather bell;
But O, the flow'r in ev'ry heart
That finds a sacred spot
To bloom, with azure leaves apart,
Is the 'Forget-me-not!'
Love plucks it from the mosses green
When parting hours are nigh,
And places it loves palms between,
With many an ardent sigh;
And bluely up from grassy graves
In some lov'd churchyard spot,
It glances tenderly and waves,
The dear 'Forget-me-not!'
And with the faint last cadence, stole a glance
At Malcolm's soften'd face--a bird-soft touch
Let flutter on the rugged silver snarls
Of his thick locks, and laid her tender lips
A second on the iron of his hand.
'And did you ever meet,' he sudden ask'd,
Of Alfred, sitting pallid in the shade,
'Out by yon unco place, a lad,--a lad
'Nam'd Maxwell Gordon; tall, and straight, and strong;
'About my size, I take it, when a lad?'
And Katie at the sound of Max's name,
First spoken for such space by Malcolm's lips,
Trembl'd and started, and let down her brow,
Hiding its sudden rose on Malcolm's arm.
'Max Gordon? Yes. Was he a friend of yours?'
'No friend of mine, but of the lassie's here--
'How comes he on? I wager he's a drone,
'And never will put honey in the hive.'
'No drone,' said Alfred, laughing; 'when I left
'He and his axe were quarr'ling with the woods
'And making forests reel--love steels a lover's arm.'
O, blush that stole from Katie's swelling heart,
And with its hot rose brought the happy dew
Into her hidden eyes. 'Aye, aye! is that the way?'
Said Malcolm smiling. 'Who may be his love?'
'In that he is a somewhat simple soul,
'Why, I suppose he loves--' he paused, and Kate
Look'd up with two 'forget-me-nots' for eyes,
With eager jewels in their centres set
Of happy, happy tears, and Alfred's heart
Became a closer marble than before.
'--Why I suppose he loves--his lawful wife.'
'His wife! his wife!' said Malcolm, in a maze,
And laid his heavy hand on Katie's head;
'Did you play me false, my little lass?
'Speak and I'll pardon! Katie, lassie, what?'
'He has a wife,' said Alfred, 'lithe and bronz'd,
'An Indian woman, comelier than her kind;
'And on her knee a child with yellow locks,
'And lake-like eyes of mystic Indian brown.
'And so you knew him? He is doing well.'
'False, false!' said Katie, lifting up her head.
'O, you know not the Max my father means!'
'He came from yonder farm-house on the slope.'
'Some other Max--we speak not of the same.'
'He has a red mark on his temple set.'
'It matters not--'tis not the Max we know.'
'He wears a turquoise ring slung round his neck.'
'And many wear them--they are common stones.'
'His mother's ring--her name was Helen Wynde.'
'And there be many Helens who have sons.'
'O Katie, credit me--it is the man.'
'O not the man! Why, you have never told
'Us of the true soul that the true Max has;
'The Max we know has such a soul, I know.'
'How know you that, my foolish little lass?'
Said Malcolm, a storm of anger bound
Within his heart, like Samson with green withs--
'Belike it is the false young cur we know!'
'No, no,' said Katie, simply, and low-voic'd;
'If he were traitor I must needs be false,
'For long ago love melted our two hearts.
'And time has moulded those two hearts in one,
'And he is true since I am faithful still.'
She rose and parted, trembling as she went,
Feeling the following steel of Alfred's eyes,
And with the icy hand of scorn'd mistrust
Searching about the pulses of her heart--
Feeling for Max's image in her breast.
'To-night she conquers Doubt; to-morrow's noon
'His following soldiers sap the golden wall,
'And I shall enter and possess the fort,'
Said Alfred, in his mind. 'O Katie, child,
'Wilt thou be Nemesis, with yellow hair,
'To rend my breast? for I do feel a pulse
'Stir when I look into thy pure-barb'd eyes--
'O, am I breeding that false thing, a heart?
'Making my breast all tender for the fangs
'Of sharp Remorse to plunge their hot fire in.
'I am a certain dullard! Let me feel
'But one faint goad, fine as a needle's point,
'And it shall be the spur in my soul's side
'To urge the madd'ning thing across the jags
'And cliffs of life, into the soft embrace
'Of that cold mistress, who is constant too,
'And never flings her lovers from her arms--
'Not Death, for she is still a fruitful wife,
'Her spouse the Dead, and their cold marriage yields
'A million children, born of mould'ring flesh--
'So Death and Flesh live on--immortal they!
'I mean the blank-ey'd queen whose wassail bowl
'Is brimm'd from Lethe, and whose porch is red
'With poppies, as it waits the panting soul--
'She, she alone is great! No scepter'd slave
'Bowing to blind creative giants, she;
'No forces seize her in their strong, mad hands,
'Nor say, ''Do this--be that!'' Were there a God,
'His only mocker, she, great Nothingness!
'And to her, close of kin, yet lover too,
'Flies this large nothing that we call the soul.'
* * * * *
'Doth true Love lonely grow?
Ah, no! ah, no!
Ah, were it only so--
That it alone might show
Its ruddy rose upon its sapful tree,
Then, then in dewy morn,
Joy might his brow adorn
With Love's young rose as fair and glad as he.'
* * * * *
But with Love's rose doth blow
Ah, woe! ah, woe!
Truth with its leaves of snow,
And Pain and Pity grow
With Love's sweet roses on its sapful tree!
Love's rose buds not alone,
But still, but still doth own
A thousand blossoms cypress-hued to see!
* * * * *
Gisli: The Chieftain
To the Goddess Lada prayed
Gisli, holding high his spear
Bound with buds of spring, and laughed
All his heart to Lada's ear.
Damp his yellow beard with mead,
Loud the harps clang'd thro the day;
With bruised breasts triumphant rode
Gisli's galleys in the bay.
Bards sang in the banquet hall,
Set in loud verse Gisli's fame,
On their lips the war gods laid
Fire to chaunt their warrior's name.
To the Love-queen Gisli pray'd,
Buds upon his tall spear's tip;
Laughter in his broad blue eyes,
Laughter on his bearded lip.
To the Spring-queen Gisli pray'd,
She, with mystic distaff slim,
Spun her hours of love and leaves,
Made the stony headlands dim--
Dim and green with tender grass,
Blew on ice-fields with red mouth;
Blew on lovers hearts; and lured
White swans from the blue-arched south.
To the Love-queen Gisli pray'd,
Groan'd far icebergs tall and blue
As to Lada's distaff slim,
All their ice-locked fires flew.
To the Love-queen Gisli prayed,
She, with red hands, caught and spun.
Yellow flames from crater lips,
flames from the waking sun.
To the Love-queen Gisli prayed,
She with loom and beam and spell,
All the subtle fires of earth
Wove, and wove them strong and well.
To the Spring-queen Gisli prayed,
Low the sun the pale sky trod;
Mute her ruddy hand she raised
Beckon'd back the parting God.
To the Love-queen Gisli prayed--
Weft and woof of flame she wove--
Lada, Goddess of the Spring!
Lada, Goddess strong of Love!
Sire of the strong chieftain's prayer,
Victory with his pulse of flame;
Mead its mother--loud he laughed,
Calling on great Lada's name.
'Goddess Lada--Queen of Love!
'Here stand I and quaff to thee--
'Deck for thee with buds my spear--
'Give a comely wife to me!
'Blow not to my arms a flake
'Of crisp snow in maiden guise;
'Mists of pallid hair and tips
'Of long ice-spears in her eyes!
'When my death-sail skims the foam--
'Strain my oars on Death's black sea--
'When my foot the 'Glass-Hill' seeks--
'Such a maid may do for me!
'Now, O Lada, mate the flesh!
'Mate the fire and flame of life,
'Tho' the soul go still unwed,
'Give the flesh its fitting wife!
'As the galley runs between,
'Skies with billows closely spun:
'Feeling but the wave that leaps
'Closest to it in the sun.'
'Throbs but to the present kiss
'Of the wild lips of the sea;
'Thus a man joys in his life--
'Nought of the Beyond knows he!
'Goddess! here I cast bright buds,
'Spicy pine boughs at thy feet;
'Give the flesh its fitting mate
'Life is strong and life is sweet!'
To the Love-queen Gisli pray'd--
Weft and woof of flame she wove:
Lada, Goddess of the Spring--
Lada, Goddess strong of Love!
* * * * *
From harpings and sagas and mirth of the town,
Great Gisli, the chieftain strode merrily down.
His ruddy beard stretch'd in the loom of the wind,
His shade like a dusky God striding behind.
Gylfag, his true hound, to his heel glided near,
Sharp-fang'd, lank and red as a blood-rusted spear.
As crests of the green bergs flame white in the sky,
The town on its sharp hill shone brightly and high.
In fjords roared the ice below the dumb stroke
Of the Sun's red hammer rose blue mist like smoke.
It clung to the black pines, and clung to the bay--
The galleys of Gisli grew ghosts of the day.
It followed the sharp wings of swans, as they rose--
It fell to the wide jaws of swift riven floes.
It tam'd the wild shriek of the eagle--grew dull
The cries, in its foldings, of osprey and gull.
'Arouse thee, bold wind,' shouted Gisli 'and drive
'Floe and Berg out to sea as bees from a hive.
'Chase this woman-lipped haze at top of thy speed,
'It cloys to the soul as the tongue cloys with mead!
'Come, buckle thy sharp spear again to thy breast!
'Thy galley hurl forth from the seas of the West.
'With thy long, hissing oars, beat loud the north sea.
'The sharp gaze of day give the eagles and me.
'No cunning mists shrouding the sea and the sky,
'Or the brows of the great Gods, bold wind, love I!
'As Gylfag, my hound, lays his fangs in the flank
'Of a grey wolf, shadowy, leather-thew'd, lank.
'Bold wind, chase the blue mist, thy prow in its hair,
'Sun, speed thy keen shafts thro' the breast of the air!
* * * * *
The shouting of Gisli, the chieftain,
Rock'd the blue hazes, and cloven
In twain by sharp prow of the west wind,
To north and to south fled the thick mist.
As in burnish'd walls of Valhalla,
In cleft of the mist stood the chieftain,
And up to the blue shield of Heaven,
Flung the load shaft of his laughter.
Smote the mist, with shrill spear the swift wind.
Grey shapes fled like ghosts on the Hell way;
Bay'd after their long locks hoarse Gylfag,
Stared at them, triumphant, the eagles.
To mate and to eaglets, the eagle
Shriek'd, 'Gone is my foe of the deep mist,
'Rent by the vast hands of the kind Gods,
'Who knows the knife-pangs of our hunger!'
Shrill whistled the winds as his dun wings
Strove with it feather by feather;
Loud grated the rock as his talons
Its breast spurned slowly his red eyes.
Like fires seemed to flame in the swift wind,
At his sides the darts of his hunger--
At his ears the shriek of his eaglets--
In his breast the love of the quarry.
Unfurl'd to the northward and southward
His wings broke the air, and to eastward
His breast gave its iron; and God-ward
Pierc'd the shrill voice of his hunger.
Bared were his great sides as he laboured
Up the first steep blue of the broad sky;
His gaze on the fields of his freedom,
To the God's spoke the prayers of his gyres.
Bared were his vast sides as he glided
Black in the sharp blue of the north sky:
Black over the white of the tall cliffs,
Black over the arrow of Gisli.
* * * * *
THE SONG OF THE ARROW.
What know I,
As I bite the blue veins of the throbbing sky;
To the quarry's breast
Hot from the sides of the sleek smooth nest?
What know I
Of the will of the tense bow from which I fly?
What the need or jest,
That feathers my flight to its bloody rest.
What know I
Of the will of the bow that speeds me on high?
What doth the shrill bow
Of the hand on its singing soul-string know?
Flame-swift speed I--
And the dove and the eagle shriek out and die;
Whence comes my sharp zest
For the heart of the quarry? the Gods know best.
Deep pierc'd the red gaze of the eagle--
The breast of a cygnet below him;
Beneath his dun wing from the eastward
Shrill-chaunted the long shaft of Gisli!
Beneath his dun wing from the westward
Shook a shaft that laugh'd in its biting--
Met in the fierce breast of the eagle
The arrows of Gisli and Brynhild!
* * * * *
A ghost along the Hell-way sped,
The Hell-shoes shod his misty tread;
A phantom hound beside him sped.
Beneath the spandrils of the Way,
World's roll'd to-night--from night to day;
In space's ocean Suns were spray.
Group'd world's, eternal eagles, flew;
Swift comets fell like noiseless dew,
Young earths slow budded in the blue.
The waves of space inscrutable,
With awful pulses rose and fell--
Silent and godly--terrible.
Electric souls of strong Suns laid,
Strong hands along the awful shade
That God about His God-work made.
Ever from all ripe worlds did break,
Men's voices, as when children speak,
Eager and querulous and weak.
And pierc'd to the All-worker thro'
His will that veil'd Him from the view
'What hast thou done? What dost thou do?'
And ever from His heart did flow
Majestical, the answer low--
The benison 'Ye shall not know!'
The wan ghost on the Hell-way sped,
Nor yet Valhalla's lights were shed
Upon the white brow of the Dead.
Nor sang within his ears the roll
Of trumpets calling to his soul;
Nor shone wide portals of the goal.
His spear grew heavy on his breast,
Dropp'd, like a star his golden crest;
Far, far the vast Halls of the Blest!
His heart grown faint, his feet grown weak,
He scal'd the knit mists of a peak,
That ever parted grey and bleak.
And, as by unseen talons nipp'd,
To deep Abysses slowly slipp'd;
Then, swift as thick smoke strongly ripp'd.
By whirling winds from ashy ring,
Of dank weeds blackly smoldering,
The peak sprang upward a quivering
And perdurable, set its face
Against the pulsing breast of space
But for a moment to its base.
Refluent roll'd the crest new sprung,
In clouds with ghastly lightnings stung,--
Faint thunders to their black feet clung.
His faithful hound ran at his heel--
His thighs and breast were bright with steel--
He saw the awful Hellway reel.
But far along its bleak peaks rang
A distant trump--its airy clang
Like light through deathly shadows sprang.
He knew the blast--the voice of love!
Cleft lay the throbbing peak above
Sail'd light, wing'd like a silver dove.
On strove the toiling ghost, his soul
Stirr'd like strong mead in wassail bowl,
That quivers to the shout of 'Skoal!'
Strode from the mist close-curv'd and cold
As is a writhing dragon's fold;
A warrior with shield of gold.
A sharp blade glitter'd at his hip,
Flamed like a star his lance's tip;
His bugle sang at bearded lip.
Beneath his golden sandels flew
Stars from the mist as grass flings dew;
Or red fruit falls from the dark yew.
As under shelt'ring wreaths of snow
The dark blue north flowers richly blow--
Beneath long locks of silver glow.
Clear eyes, that burning on a host
Would win a field at sunset lost,
Ere stars from Odin's hand were toss'd.
He stretch'd his hand, he bowed his head:
The wan ghost to his bosom sped--
Dead kiss'd the bearded lips of Dead!
'What dost thou here, my youngest born?
'Thou--scarce yet fronted with life's storm--
'Why art thou from the dark earth torn?
'When high Valhalla puls'd and rang
'With harps that shook as grey bards sang--
''Mid the loud joy I heard the clang.
'Of Death's dark doors--to me alone
'Smote in thy awful dying groan--
'My soul recall'd its blood and bone.
'Viewless the cord which draws from far
'To the round sun some mighty star;
'Viewless the strong-knit soul-cords are!
'I felt thy dying gasp--thy soul
'Towards mine a kindred wave in roll,
'I left the harps--I left the bowl.
'I sought the Hellway--I--the blest;
'That thou, new death-born son should rest
'Upon the strong rock of my breast.
'What dost thou here, young, fair and bold?
'Sleek with youth's gloss thy locks of gold;
'Thy years by flow'rs might yet be told!
'What dost thou at the ghostly goal,
'While yet thy years were to thy soul,
'As mead yet shallow in the bowl?'
His arm about the pale ghost cast,
The warrior blew a clear, loud blast;
Like frighten'd wolves the mists fled past.
Grew firm the way; worlds flame to light
The awful peak that thrusts its height,
With swift throbs upward, like a flight.
Of arrows from a host close set
Long meteors pierc'd its breast of jet--
Again the trump his strong lips met--
And at its blast blew all the day,
In broad winds on the awful Way;
Sun smote at Sun across the grey;
As reindeer smite the high-pil'd snow
To find the green moss far below--
They struck the mists thro' which did glow
Bright vales--and on a sea afar,
Lay at a sunlit harbour bar,
A galley gold-sail'd like a star!
Spake the pale ghost as onward sped
Heart-press'd to heart the valiant dead;
Soft the green paths beneath their tread.
'I lov'd, this is my tale, and died--
The fierce chief hunger'd for my bride--
The spear of Gisli pierc'd my side!
'And she--her love fill'd all my need--
Her vows were sweet and strong as mead;
Look, father--doth my heart still bleed?
'I built her round with shaft and spear,
I kept her mine for one brief year--
She laugh'd above my blood stain'd bier!
'Upon a far and ice-peak'd coast
My galleys by long winds were toss'd--
There Gisli feasted with his host.
'Of warriors triumphant--he
Strode out from harps and revelry;
And sped his shaft above the sea!
'Look, father, doth my heart bleed yet?
His arrow Brynhild's arrow met--
My gallies anchor'd in their rest.
'Again their arrows meet--swift lies
That pierc'd me from their smiling eyes;
How fiercely hard a man's heart dies!
'She false--he false! There came a day
Pierc'd by the fierce chief's spear I lay--
My ghost rose shrieking from its clay.
'I saw on Brynhild's golden vest
The shining locks of Gisli rest;
I sought the Hell-way to the Blest.
'Father, put forth thy hand and tear
Their twin shafts from my heart, all bare
To thee--they rankle death--like there!
* * * * *
Said the voice of Evil to the ear of Good,
'Clasp thou my strong, right hand,
'Nor shall our clasp be known or understood
'By any in the land.'
'I, the dark giant, rule strongly on the earth,
'Yet thou, bright one, and I
'Sprang from the one great mystery--at one birth
'We looked upon the sky!
'I labour at my bleak, my stern toil accurs'd
Of all mankind--nor stay,
To rest, to murmur 'I hunger' or 'I thirst!'
Nor for my joy delay.
'My strength pleads strongly with thee; doth any beat
With hammer and with stone
Past tools to use them to his deep defeat--
To turn them on his throne?
'Then I of God the mystery--toil thou with me
Brother; but in the sight
Of men who know not, I, the stern son shall be
Of Darkness--Thou of Light!'
Low the sun beat on the land,
Red on vine and plain and wood;
With the wine-cup in his hand,
Vast the Helot herdsman stood.
Quench'd the fierce Achean gaze,
Dorian foemen paus'd before,
Where cold Sparta snatch'd her bays
At Achaea's stubborn door.
Still with thews of iron bound,
Vastly the Achean rose,
Godward from the brazen ground,
High before his Spartan foes.
Still the strength his fathers knew
(Dauntless when the foe they fac'd)
Vein and muscle bounded through,
Tense his Helot sinews brac'd.
Still the constant womb of Earth,
Blindly moulded all her part;
As, when to a lordly birth,
Achean freemen left her heart.
Still, insensate mother, bore
Goodly sons for Helot graves;
Iron necks that meekly wore
Sparta's yoke as Sparta's slaves.
Still, O God mock'd mother! she
Smil'd upon her sons of clay:
Nurs'd them on her breast and knee,
Shameless in the shameful day.
Knew not old Achea's fires
Burnt no more in souls or veins--
Godlike hosts of high desires
Died to clank of Spartan chains.
Low the sun beat on the land,
Purple slope and olive wood;
With the wine cup in his hand,
Vast the Helot herdsman stood.
As long, gnarl'd roots enclasp
Some red boulder, fierce entwine
His strong fingers, in their grasp
Bowl of bright Caecuban wine.
From far Marsh of Amyclae,
Sentried by lank poplars tall--
Thro' the red slant of the day,
Shrill pipes did lament and call.
Pierc'd the swaying air sharp pines,
Thyrsi-like, the gilded ground
Clasp'd black shadows of brown vines,
Swallows beat their mystic round.
Day was at her high unrest;
Fever'd with the wine of light,
Loosing all her golden vest,
Reel'd she towards the coming night.
Fierce and full her pulses beat;
Bacchic throbs the dry earth shook;
Stirr'd the hot air wild and sweet;
Madden'd ev'ry vine-dark brook.
Had a red grape never burst,
All its heart of fire out;
To the red vat all a thirst,
To the treader's song and shout:
Had the red grape died a grape;
Nor, sleek daughter of the vine,
Found her unknown soul take shape
In the wild flow of the wine:
Still had reel'd the yellow haze:
Still had puls'd the sun pierc'd sod
Still had throbb'd the vine clad days:
To the pulses of their God.
Fierce the dry lips of the earth
Quaff'd the subtle Bacchic soul:
Felt its rage and felt its mirth,
Wreath'd as for the banquet bowl.
Sapphire-breasted Bacchic priest
Stood the sky above the lands;
Sun and Moon at East and West,
Brazen cymbals in his hands.
Temples, altars, smote no more,
Sharply white as brows of Gods:
From the long, sleek, yellow shore,
Oliv'd hill or dusky sod,
Gaz'd the anger'd Gods, while he,
Bacchus, made their temples his;
Flushed their marble silently
With the red light of his kiss.
Red the arches of his feet
Spann'd grape-gleaming vales; the earth
Reel'd from grove to marble street,
Mad with echoes of his mirth.
Nostrils widen'd to the air,
As above the wine brimm'd bowl:
Men and women everywhere
Breath'd the fierce, sweet Bacchic soul.
Flow'd the vat and roar'd the beam,
Laugh'd the must; while far and shrill,
Sweet as notes in Pan-born dream,
Loud pipes sang by vale and hill.
Earth was full of mad unrest,
While red Bacchus held his state;
And her brown vine-girdl'd breast
Shook to his wild joy and hate.
Strife crouch'd red ey'd in the vine
In its tendrils Eros strayed;
Anger rode upon the wine;
Laughter on the cup-lip play'd.
Day was at her chief unrest--
Red the light on plain and wood
Slavish ey'd and still of breast,
Vast the Helot herdsman stood:
Wide his hairy nostrils blew,
Maddning incense breathing up;
Oak to iron sinews grew,
Round the rich Caecuban cup.
'Drink, dull slave!' the Spartan said,
'Drink, until the Helot clod
'Feel within him subtly bred
'Kinship to the drunken God!
'Drink, until the leaden blood
'Stirs and beats about thy brain:
'Till the hot Caecuban flood
'Drown the iron of thy chain.
'Drink, till even madness flies
'At the nimble wine's pursuit;
'Till the God within thee lies
'Trampled by the earth-born brute.
'Helot drink--nor spare the wine;
'Drain the deep, the madd'ning bowl,
'Flesh and sinews, slave, are mine,
'Now I claim thy Helot soul.
'Gods! ye love our Sparta; ye
'Gave with vine that leaps and runs
'O'er her slopes, these slaves to be
'Mocks and warnings to her sons!
'Thou, my Hermos, turn thy eyes,
'(God-touch'd still their frank, bold blue)
'On the Helot--mark the rise
'Of the Bacchic riot through
'Knotted vein, and surging breast:
'Mark the wild, insensate, mirth:
'God-ward boast--the driv'ling jest,
'Till he grovel to the earth.
'Drink, dull slave,' the Spartan cried:
Meek the Helot touch'd the brim;
Scented all the purple tide:
Drew the Bacchic soul to him.
Cold the thin lipp'd Spartan smiled:
Couch'd beneath the weighted vine,
Large-ey'd, gaz'd the Spartan child,
On the Helot and the wine.
Rose pale Doric shafts behind,
Stern and strong, and thro' and thro',
Weaving with the grape-breath'd wind,
Restless swallows call'd and flew.
Dropp'd the rose-flush'd doves and hung,
On the fountains murmuring brims;
To the bronz'd vine Hermos clung--
Silver-like his naked limbs
Flash'd and flush'd: rich copper'd leaves,
Whiten'd by his ruddy hair;
Pallid as the marble eaves,
Aw'd he met the Helot's stare.
Clang'd the brazen goblet down;
Marble-bred loud echoes stirr'd:
With fix'd fingers, knotted, brown,
Dumb, the Helot grasp'd his beard.
Heard the far pipes mad and sweet.
All the ruddy hazes thrill:
Heard the loud beam crash and beat,
In the red vat on the hill.
Wide his nostrils as a stag's
Drew the hot wind's fiery bliss;
Red his lips as river flags,
From the strong, Caecuban kiss.
On his swarthy temples grew,
Purple veins like cluster'd grapes;
Past his rolling pupils blew,
Wine-born, fierce, lascivious shapes.
Cold the haughty Spartan smiled--
His the power to knit that day,
Bacchic fires, insensate, wild,
To the grand Achean clay.
His the might--hence his the right!
Who should bid him pause? nor Fate
Warning pass'd before his sight,
Dark-robed and articulate.
No black omens on his eyes,
Sinistre--God-sent, darkly broke;
Nor from ruddy earth nor skies,
Portends to him mutely spoke.
'Lo,' he said, 'he maddens now!
'Flames divine do scathe the clod;
'Round his reeling Helot brow
'Stings the garland of the God.'
'Mark, my Hermos--turn to steel
The soft tendons of thy soul!
Watch the God beneath the heel
Of the strong brute swooning roll!
'Shame, my Hermos! honey-dew
Breeds not on the Spartan spear;
Steel thy mother-eyes of blue,
Blush to death that weakling tear.
'Nay, behold! breed Spartan scorn
Of the red lust of the wine;
Watch the God himself down-borne
By the brutish rush of swine!
'Lo, the magic of the drink!
At the nimble wine's pursuit,
See the man-half'd satyr sink
All the human in the brute!
'Lo, the magic of the cup!
Watch the frothing Helot rave!
As great buildings labour up
From the corpse of slaughter'd slave,
'Build the Spartan virtue high
From the Helot's wine-dead soul;
Scorn the wild, hot flames that fly
From the purple-hearted bowl!
'Helot clay! Gods! what its worth,
Balanc'd with proud Sparta's rock?
Ours--its force to till the earth;
Ours--its soul to gyve and mock!
'Ours, its sullen might. Ye Gods!
Vastly build the Achean clay;
Iron-breast our slavish clods--
_Ours_ their Helot souls to slay!
'Knit great thews--smite sinews vast
Into steel--build Helot bones
Iron-marrowed:--such will last
Ground by ruthless Sparta's stones.
'Crown the strong brute satyr wise!
Narrow-wall his Helot brain;
Dash the soul from breast and eyes,
Lash him toward the earth again.
'Make a giant for our need,
Weak to feel and strong to toil;
Dully-wise to dig or bleed
On proud Sparta's alien soil!
'Gods! recall thy spark at birth,
Lit his soul with high desire;
Blend him, grind him with the earth,
Tread out old Achea's fire!
'Lo, my Hermos! laugh and mark,
See the swift mock of the wine;
Faints the primal, God-born spark,
Trodden by the rush of swine!
'Gods! ye love our Sparta--ye
Gave with vine that leaps and runs
O'er her slopes, these slaves to be
Mocks and warnings to her sons!'
Cold the haughty Spartan smil'd.
Madd'ning from the purple hills
Sang the far pipes, sweet and wild.
Red as sun-pierc'd daffodils
Neck-curv'd, serpent, silent, scaled
With lock'd rainbows, stole the sea;
On the sleek, long beaches; wail'd
Doves from column and from tree.
Reel'd the mote swarm'd haze, and thick
Beat the hot pulse of the air;
In the Helot, fierce and quick,
All his soul sprang from its lair.
As the drowzing tiger, deep
In the dim cell, hears the shout
From the arena--from his sleep
Launches to its thunders out--
So to fierce calls of the wine
(Strong the red Caecuban bowl!)
From its slumber, deep, supine,
Panted up the Helot soul.
At his blood-flush'd eye-balls rear'd,
(Mad and sweet came pipes and songs),
Rous'd at last the wild soul glar'd,
Spear-thrust with a million wrongs.
Past--the primal, senseless bliss;
Past--red laughter of the grapes;
Past--the wine's first honey'd kiss;
Past--the wine-born, wanton shapes!
Still the Helot stands--his feet
Set like oak roots: in his gaze
Black clouds roll and lightnings meet--
Flames from old Achean days.
Who may quench the God-born fire,
Pulsing at the soul's deep root?
Tyrants! grind it in the mire,
Lo, it vivifies the brute!
Stings the chain-embruted clay,
Senseless to his yoke-bound shame;
Goads him on to rend and slay,
Knowing not the spurring flame.
Tyrants, changeless stand the Gods!
Nor their calm might yielded ye!
Not beneath thy chains and rods
Dies man's God-gift, Liberty!
Bruteward lash thy Helots--hold
Brain and soul and clay in gyves;
Coin their blood and sweat in gold,
Build thy cities on their lives.
Comes a day the spark divine
Answers to the Gods who gave;
Fierce the hot flames pant and shine
In the bruis'd breast of the slave!
Changeless stand the Gods!--nor he
Knows he answers their behest;
Feels the might of their decree
In the blind rage of his breast.
Tyrants! tremble when ye tread
Down the servile Helot clods;
Under despot heel is bred
The white anger of the Gods!
Thro' the shackle-canker'd dust,
Thro' the gyv'd soul, foul and dark
Force they, changeless Gods and just!
Up the bright eternal spark.
Till, like lightnings vast and fierce,
On the land its terror smites;
Till its flames the tyrants pierce,
Till the dust the despot bites!
Day was at its chief unrest,
Stone from stone the Helot rose;
Fix'd his eyes--his naked breast
Iron-wall'd his inner throes.
Rose-white in the dusky leaves,
Shone the frank-ey'd Spartan child;
Low the pale doves on the eaves,
Made their soft moan, sweet and wild.
Wand'ring winds, fire-throated, stole,
Sybils whisp'ring from their books;
With the rush of wine from bowl,
Leap'd the tendril-darken'd brooks.
As the leathern cestus binds
Tense the boxer's knotted hands;
So the strong wine round him winds,
Binds his thews to iron bands.
Changeless are the Gods--and bred
All their wrath divine in him!
Bull-like fell his furious head,
Swell'd vast cords on breast and limb.
As loud-flaming stones are hurl'd
From foul craters--thus the gods
Cast their just wrath on the world,
From the mire of Helot clods.
Still the furious Helot stood,
Staring thro' the shafted space;
Dry-lipp'd for the Spartan blood,
He of scourg'd Achea's race.
Sprang the Helot--roar'd the vine,
Rent from grey, long-wedded stones--
From pale shaft and dusky pine,
Beat the fury of his groans.
Wordless curses, deep and wild;
Reach'd the long pois'd sword of Fate,
To the Spartan thro' his child.
On his knotted hands, upflung
O'er his low'r'd front--all white,
Fair young Hermos quiv'ring hung;
As the discus flashes bright
In the player's hand--the boy,
Rous'd to lust of bloody joy,
Throbb'd the slave's embruted clay.
Loud he laugh'd--the father sprang
From the Spartan's iron mail!
Late--the bubbling death-cry rang
On the hot pulse of the gale!
As the shining discus flies,
From the thrower's strong hand whirl'd;
Hermos cleft the air--his cries
Lance-like to the Spartan hurl'd.
As the discus smites the ground,
Smote his golden head the stone;
Of a tall shaft--burst a sound
And but one--his dying groan!
Lo! the tyrant's iron might!
Lo! the Helot's yokes and chains!
Slave-slain in the throbbing light
Lay the sole child of his veins.
Laugh'd the Helot loud and full,
Gazing at his tyrant's face;
Low'r'd his front like captive bull,
Bellowing from the fields of Thrace.
Rose the pale shaft redly flush'd,
Red with Bacchic light and blood;
On its stone the Helot rush'd--
Stone the tyrant Spartan stood.
Lo! the magic of the wine
From far marsh of Amyclae!
Bier'd upon the ruddy vine,
Spartan dust and Helot lay!
Spouse of Bacchus reel'd the day,
Red track'd on the throbbing sods;
Dead--but free--the Helot lay,
Just and changeless stand the Gods!