One Evening Near Nice
Pale depth of sky, serene and wonderful,
Within whose fold the lamps of early stars
Shine far away and faintly luminous ;
Whose pensive tones merge from the afterglow
Into this colour indescribable ;
This blending of the sea and earth and clouds.
Soft and yet poignant, passionate yet calm.
I know not what the spirit in me feels,
When it beholds thee through my human eyes
Nor what strange craving for forgotten things
Has stirred my soul to this disquietude !
I rose, ere yet the eager light
Had wrested from the grasp of night
The trembling spirit of the world.
The dusk of dawn with wistful eyes
Stole timidly across the skies,
A little cloud its edges curled
By passing winds sped soft and bright
Towards some Eastern Paradise.
No bird was yet awake to sing,
And silence kissing everything
Compelled my doubting soul to rest.
While yet I slept a fall of snow
Had whitened all the hills, and lo!
Above the nearest summit's crest,
A pendent star, as though to bring
God's blessing to His Earth below,
Shone like a thought benign, and kind,
Within the vast Eternal Mind.
Ode To Sappho
If not from Phaon I must hope for ease,
Ah ! let me seek it from the raging seas :
To raging seas unpitied I'll remove;
And either cease to live or cease to love.
Ovid's Heroic Epistle, XV.
Immortal Lesbian! canst thou still behold
From some far sphere wherein thy soul doth sing
This earth, that once was thine, while glimmered gold
The joyous beams of youth's forgotten spring?
Can thine unfathomed eyes embrace this sea,
Whose ebb and flow once echoed in thy brain ?
Whose tides bear record of thine ecstasy
And thy despair, that in its arms hath lain?
Those love-burnt lips! Can death have quenched their fire?
Whose words oft stir our senses to unrest?
Whose eager ardour caught and held desire,
A searing flame against thy living breast?
Passion-wan Lesbian, in that awful place
Where spirits wander lost without a name
Thou still art Sappho, and thine ardent face
Lights up the gloom with love's enduring flame.
Oh! Goddess, woman, lover, all divine
And yet divinely mortal, where thou art
Comes not as cadence from some song of thine
Each throbbing beat that stirs the human heart ?
Canst thou forget us who are still thy friends,
Thy lovers, o'er the cloudy gulf of years?
Who live, and love, and dying make amends
For life's short pleasures thro' death's endless fears ?
Once thou didst seek the solace of thy kind,
The madness of a kiss was more to thee
Than Heaven or Hell, the greatness of thy mind
Could not conceive more potent ecstasy !
Life was thy slave, and gave thee of her store
Rich gifts and many, yet with all the pain
Of hopeless longing made thy spirit sore,
E'en thou didst yearn, and couldest not attain.
Oh ! Sappho, sister, by that agony
Of soul and body hast thou gained a place
Within each age that shines majestie'ly
Across the world from out the dusk of space.
Not thy deep pleasures, nor thy swiftest joys,
Have made thee thus, immortal and yet dear
To mortal hearts, but that which naught destroys,
The sacred image of thy falling tear.
Beloved Lesbian ! we would dare to claim
By that same tear fond union with thy lot;
Yet 'tis enough, if when we breathe thy name
Thy soul but listens, and forgets us not.
Winter On The Zuyder Zee
The world has grown unreal to-day
Far out upon the Zuyder Zee !
We drift towards a mystic isle,
With scarce a breath of wind the while.
I hear the murmur of the tide,
I hear you breathing at my side,
Far out upon the Zuyder Zee.
The drearness of this inland sea!
Doomed thus to lie eternally
A fettered slave, grown old between
The dykes and marshes low and green,
Devoid of wind to stir the deep
Forgotten heart, so long asleep,
Oh! sorrow-ladened Zuyder Zee!
This awful hush engulfing things !
The noon-tide hangs with outspread wings
Above the ship, all motionless.
The penitential sails confess
Their sad inertness, damp and brown,
From silent masts they ripple down
Towards the lifeless Zuyder Zee.
I almost think that you and I
Are floating on a haze of sky,
This is an unknown sphere of dreams,
Or else some region where the beams
Of daylight that have died unblessed
By some kind thought stray seeking rest,
Along the wastes of Zuyder Zee.
How strange to know that youth is ours !
That do we choose a world of flowers
And sunlight waiting to our hand
Is calling for some gladder land,
So easy to attain, yet lo !
We drift amid the mist and woe
Of winter on the Zuyder Zee.
Is there a subtle charm, when sad
Despairing nature makes the glad
Rejoicing spirit pause to think,
Of those dim depths to which may sink
The soul immortal? Where the mind
May grow as sodden as a wind
That dies upon the Zuyder Zee?
When all our loving and our will
To love for ever can't fulfil
Love's promises for age and death?
That like a hushed, unwholesome breath,
From off the marshes in the night
Steals forth, and all our past delight
Is colder than the Zuyder Zee?
The very thought that death is near
Perchance makes life seem doubly dear,
And love more urgent, since they two
May some day fade away, and you
Become a spectral memory,
Devoid of joy ! and what of me
Oh! wise, world-weary Zuyder Zee?
Your endless depth of stark despair
But renders sunlit things more fair,
But makes the craving heart more strong
To grasp its pleasures, short or long,
While yet it is To-day, nor wait
Upon the will of doubtful fate,
Lest all emotion rendered numb
With long suppression should become
As you are, soulless Zuyder Zee !
The Laying Of Ghosts
Oh ! weary ghosts, be still !
Sad spectres of long dead delights,
Wan spirits of the days and nights
Wherein of joy we drank our fill,
Lie deep beneath the sod of years.
To-day, to-day is mine !
Ye shall not blight its fragrant flowers,
Nor mar the passing of its hours,
That love has rendered all divine,
By woeful sighs and falling tears.
This is the sphere of life,
Wherein the long forgotten dead
Unwelcome should forbear to tread,
Within my veins hot blood runs rife,
But ye are colder than the grave !
What would ye have of me?
What price that penance did not pay,
What sacrifice of human clay?
Must my delight again set free
Be tethered to a witless slave?
While still upon this earth
Ye lived, and 'neath the joyous sun
Were warm and fair to look upon,
I blest the hour that gave ye birth,
And all my life laid at your feet.
The homage of my youth
I daily offered at your shrine,
Nor counted dear those gifts of mine
Which sapped the very strength of truth,
And left her poor and incomplete.
Nor did condemn the lust,
The soul destroying tyranny,
With which ye wrought my misery,
For in my heart was endless trust,
My spirit, dauntless, knew no fear.
Ye cry that ye were slain
Alas ! it was not I who slew,
For all my hopes were buried too
Within that hour of death and pain,
And there remained not e'en a tear.
Nay, it was fate whose hand
Upraised to strike the awful blow
Decreed that ye must die, and go
Lamented to that shadow land
Of lost illusions perished soon !
Wherein the once-time-young
Thro' countless ages seek, nor find,
Their vanished youth ; with wandering mind
They sing the songs that once they sung,
But never may complete the tune.
Hence—hence ! it is not yet
The hour wherein I too must pass,
The sand runs still within the glass,
And I would live and fain forget
Those bygone things that once ye were.
My lips have touched the rose,
And in its perfumed breast the dew
Has quenched my thirst; and lo! anew
The petals of my heart unclose,
My pulses throb, my senses stir.
Ye shall not steal this day,
For love has risen to my aid,
See, I am brave and undismayed!
Hence—hence ! all things must pass away,
Back to your graves, obscure and deep !
I read aloud love's prayer,
Lift not again your haunting eyes
T'wards my new-found Paradise,
Lie still beside my lost despair,
And I command you—Sleep, Sleep, Sleep!
Ring on! Oh endless vesper bell!
What can you know of that deep Hell
Upon this Earth, where men may dwell.
Ring on ! Your calling is in vain,
What holy rite can lull the pain
Of mortal Sin's Immortal stain.
* * * *
It was the heavy hour of noon,
When Nature still as in a swoon
Reclines beneath the spell of June.
I left the Monastery gate,
And sought the forest shade, to wait
For even hour, and meditate.
Upon the beads hung from my side
A silver Christus crucified.
God mocked, and scourged, and denied !
My missal in my hand I took,
And read within the Holy Book
How vain the joys a monk forsook.
I thought of Heaven, and all therein
I hoped by penitence to win;
My heart was free from mortal sin.
When lo ! as of enchanted spheres
A languid music smote my ears,
With vast delight, and vaster fears.
It was as if all deadly wrong
Grown honied sweet in magic song
Caressed my senses, deep and long.
My eyes upon the missal bent
Sprang upward, and in ravishment
Beheld a gaze on me intent.
The figure of a tender maid,
Within the larches' trembling glade
Clothed in sunlight and in shade—
Was bending o'er me, and her breast
Full worthy of a King's behest
She offered, that my head might rest.
She was most pale, and frail, and white,
Like moonlit mist on Summer's night,
Like memory of wan delight.
And thro' the tendrils of her hair
There blew a breath of scented air,
Of all sweet things from everywhere.
A limpid magic were her eyes,
Two mountain lakes, where sunlight lies
Enamoured, and of passion dies.
From out her lips proceeded words
More soft than distant pipe of herds,
More tender than the song of birds.
I know not what the tongue she spake,
But all my senses leapt to ache
With longing, for her asking's sake.
As in a dream I rose and pressed
Her bending slimness to my breast:
With eager kiss my mouth caressed
The flaming redness of her own,
All else on earth had nothing grown,
Save that we two were there alone.
Within my ears the rush of streams,
My vision shot with lurid gleams,
My spirit bathed in burning dreams!
A vital fragrance round her clung,
As if from earth's deep veins was wrung
The sap of springs for ever young.
It turned my blood to living fire,
The universe immense, entire,
Was bound in me, and my desire.
No mortal man was I, while still
I kissed and wreaked my ardent will
Upon that form of tender ill.
She cast her magic over me,
Her spell of Immortality,
That lost my soul Eternity.
The sunlight faded, and the day
As one affrighted fled away,
Suddenly tremulous and gray.
An icy wind sprang up, and blew
A shuddering breath along the dew,
It chilled my body thro' and thro'.
I sought the shelter of her hair,
But lo ! my sinful breast was bare,
My arms outstretched to empty air.
I wept aloud, in anguish cried,
The echoes hastened to deride !
She came no longer to my side.
And in her stead, with agony
Of dumb regret, most bitterly
My soul came forth, and looked on me !
* * * *
Within the forest's depth a bird
Began to twitter, and I heard
Trees stirring at its tender word.
I woke as from a searing dream,
Beside my feet a little stream
Grew rosy with a sunset beam.
The earth gave forth her fragrant store;
Obedient to Eternal law,
All things were even as before,
All things save I, who moaned, and stood
A stranger, in the tranquil wood.
My spirit shrank away, nor could
Refresh itself at Nature's breast,
Its lips were burnt, denied, caressed
Of sin, unholy and unblessed !
I knew it then ! fulfilled desires
Are in themselves Hell's deepest fires,
And man when highest he aspires
The more may fall beneath his lust.
And yet, ah ! Heaven, the while I thrust
My sense in penitential dust
I knew that thro' my misery
A tremor stole persistently,
Of rapture at her memory.
Shall I confess with spirit bent
That hour of awful ravishment?
Dear God, but slwuld I not repent'?
'Twere better that we two should die
A thousand deaths, my soul and I,
Than live an everlasting lie !
Oh soul ! What would you have me say,
To Him whose hand shall never stay-
Its vengeance on this woeful day !
* * * *
Ring on ! oh endless vesper bell !
What can you know of that deep Hell
Upon this earth where men may dwell,
And God, does He know? Who can tell