Campus Sonnets: Talk

Tobacco smoke drifts up to the dim ceiling
From half a dozen pipes and cigarettes,
Curling in endless shapes, in blue rings wheeling,
As formless as our talk. Phil, drawling, bets
Cornell will win the relay in a walk,
While Bob and Mac discuss the Giants' chances;
Deep in a morris-chair, Bill scowls at 'Falk',
John gives large views about the last few dances.

And so it goes - an idle speech and aimless,
A few chance phrases; yet I see behind
The empty words the gleam of a beauty tameless,
Friendship and peace and fire to strike men blind,
Till the whole world seems small and bright to hold -
Of all our youth this hour is pure gold.

Tobacco smoke drifts up to the dim ceiling
From half a dozen pipes and cigarettes,
Curling in endless shapes, in blue rings wheeling,
As formless as our talk. Phil, drawling, bets
Cornell will win the relay in a walk,
While Bob and Mac discuss the Giants' chances;
Deep in a morris-chair, Bill scowls at "Falk",
John gives large views about the last few dances.

And so it goes -- an idle speech and aimless,
A few chance phrases; yet I see behind
The empty words the gleam of a beauty tameless,
Friendship and peace and fire to strike men blind,
Till the whole world seems small and bright to hold --
Of all our youth this hour is pure gold.

The General Public

"Ah, did you once see Shelley plain?" -- Browning.
"Shelley? Oh, yes, I saw him often then,"
The old man said. A dry smile creased his face
With many wrinkles. "That's a great poem, now!
That one of Browning's! Shelley? Shelley plain?
The time that I remember best is this --

A thin mire crept along the rutted ways,
And all the trees were harried by cold rain
That drove a moment fiercely and then ceased,
Falling so slow it hung like a grey mist
Over the school. The walks were like blurred glass.
The buildings reeked with vapor, black and harsh
Against the deepening darkness of the sky;
And each lamp was a hazy yellow moon,
Filling the space about with golden motes,
And making all things larger than they were.
One yellow halo hung above a door,
That gave on a black passage. Round about
Struggled a howling crowd of boys, pell-mell,
Pushing and jostling like a stormy sea,
With shouting faces, turned a pasty white
By the strange light, for foam. They all had clods,
Or slimy balls of mud. A few gripped stones.
And there, his back against the battered door,
His pile of books scattered about his feet,
Stood Shelley while two others held him fast,
And the clods beat upon him. `Shelley! Shelley!'
The high shouts rang through all the corridors,
`Shelley! Mad Shelley! Come along and help!'
And all the crowd dug madly at the earth,
Scratching and clawing at the streaming mud,
And fouled each other and themselves. And still
Shelley stood up. His eyes were like a flame
Set in some white, still room; for all his face
Was white, a whiteness like no human color,
But white and dreadful as consuming fire.
His hands shook now and then, like slender cords
Which bear too heavy weights. He did not speak.
So I saw Shelley plain."
"And you?" I said.

"I? I threw straighter than the most of them,
And had firm clods. I hit him -- well, at least
Thrice in the face. He made good sport that night."

Portrait Of A Baby

He lay within a warm, soft world
Of motion. Colors bloomed and fled,
Maroon and turquoise, saffron, red,
Wave upon wave that broke and whirled
To vanish in the grey-green gloom,
Perspectiveless and shadowy.
A bulging world that had no walls,
A flowing world, most like the sea,
Compassing all infinity
Within a shapeless, ebbing room,
An endless tide that swells and falls . . .
He slept and woke and slept again.
As a veil drops Time dropped away;
Space grew a toy for children's play,
Sleep bolted fast the gates of Sense --
He lay in naked impotence;
Like a drenched moth that creeps and crawls
Heavily up brown, light-baked walls,
To fall in wreck, her task undone,
Yet somehow striving toward the sun.
So, as he slept, his hands clenched tighter,
Shut in the old way of the fighter,
His feet curled up to grip the ground,
His muscles tautened for a bound;
And though he felt, and felt alone,
Strange brightness stirred him to the bone,
Cravings to rise -- till deeper sleep
Buried the hope, the call, the leap;
A wind puffed out his mind's faint spark.
He was absorbed into the dark.
He woke again and felt a surge
Within him, a mysterious urge
That grew one hungry flame of passion;
The whole world altered shape and fashion.
Deceived, befooled, bereft and torn,
He scourged the heavens with his scorn,
Lifting a bitter voice to cry
Against the eternal treachery --
Till, suddenly, he found the breast,
And ceased, and all things were at rest,
The earth grew one warm languid sea
And he a wave. Joy, tingling, crept
Throughout him. He was quenched and slept.

So, while the moon made broad her ring,
He slept and cried and was a king.
So, worthily, he acted o'er
The endless miracle once more.
Facing immense adventures daily,
He strove still onward, weeping, gaily,
Conquered or fled from them, but grew
As soil-starved, rough pine-saplings do.
Till, one day, crawling seemed suspect.
He gripped the air and stood erect
And splendid. With immortal rage
He entered on man's heritage!

"But, sir," I said, "they tell me the man is like to die!" The Canon shook his head indulgently. "Young blood, Cousin," he boomed. "Young blood! Youth will be served!"
-- D'Hermonville's Fabliaux.


He woke up with a sick taste in his mouth
And lay there heavily, while dancing motes
Whirled through his brain in endless, rippling streams,
And a grey mist weighed down upon his eyes
So that they could not open fully. Yet
After some time his blurred mind stumbled back
To its last ragged memory -- a room;
Air foul with wine; a shouting, reeling crowd
Of friends who dragged him, dazed and blind with drink
Out to the street; a crazy rout of cabs;
The steady mutter of his neighbor's voice,
Mumbling out dull obscenity by rote;
And then . . . well, they had brought him home it seemed,
Since he awoke in bed -- oh, damn the business!
He had not wanted it -- the silly jokes,
"One last, great night of freedom ere you're married!"
"You'll get no fun then!" "H-ssh, don't tell that story!
He'll have a wife soon!" -- God! the sitting down
To drink till you were sodden! . . .
Like great light
She came into his thoughts. That was the worst.
To wallow in the mud like this because
His friends were fools. . . . He was not fit to touch,
To see, oh far, far off, that silver place
Where God stood manifest to man in her. . . .
Fouling himself. . . . One thing he brought to her,
At least. He had been clean; had taken it
A kind of point of honor from the first . . .
Others might do it . . . but he didn't care
For those things. . . .
Suddenly his vision cleared.
And something seemed to grow within his mind. . . .
Something was wrong -- the color of the wall --
The queer shape of the bedposts -- everything
Was changed, somehow . . . his room. Was this his room?

. . . He turned his head -- and saw beside him there
The sagging body's slope, the paint-smeared face,
And the loose, open mouth, lax and awry,
The breasts, the bleached and brittle hair . . . these things.
. . . As if all Hell were crushed to one bright line
Of lightning for a moment. Then he sank,
Prone beneath an intolerable weight.
And bitter loathing crept up all his limbs.

The Ballad Of William Sycamore [1790-1871]

My father, he was a mountaineer,
His fist was a knotty hammer;
He was quick on his feet as a running deer,
And he spoke with a Yankee stammer.

My mother, she was merry and brave,
And so she came to her labor,
With a tall green fir for her doctor grave
And a stream for her comforting neighbor.

And some are wrapped in the linen fine,
And some like a godling's scion;
But I was cradled on twigs of pine
And the skin of a mountain lion.

And some remember a white, starched lap
And a ewer with silver handles;
But I remember a coonskin cap
And the smell of bayberry candles.

The cabin logs, with the bark still rough,
And my mother who laughed at trifles,
And the tall, lank visitors, brown as snuff,
With their long, straight squirrel-rifles.

I can hear them dance, like a foggy song,
Through the deepest one of my slumbers,
The fiddle squeaking the boots along
And my father calling the numbers.

The quick feet shaking the puncheon-floor,
And the fiddle squealing and squealing,
Till the dried herbs rattled above the door
And the dust went up to the ceiling.

There are children lucky from dawn till dusk,
But never a child so lucky!
For I cut my teeth on 'Money Musk'
In the Bloody Ground of Kentucky!

When I grew tall as the Indian corn,
My father had little to lend me,
But he gave me his great, old powder-horn
And his woodsman's skill to befriend me.

With a leather shirt to cover my back,
And a redskin nose to unravel
Each forest sign, I carried my pack
As far as a scout could travel.

Till I lost my boyhood and found my wife,
A girl like a Salem clipper!
A woman straight as a hunting-knife
With as eyes as bright as the Dipper!

We cleared our camp where the buffalo feed,
Unheard-of streams were our flagons;
And I sowed my sons like the apple-seed
On the trail of the Western wagons.

They were right, tight boys, never sulky or slow,
A fruitful, a goodly muster.
The eldest died at the Alamo.
The youngest fell with Custer.

The letter that told it burned my hand.
Yet we smiled and said, 'So be it!'
But I could not live when they fenced the land,
For it broke my heart to see it.

I saddled a red, unbroken colt
And rode him into the day there;
And he threw me down like a thunderbolt
And rolled on me as I lay there.

The hunter's whistle hummed in my ear
As the city-men tried to move me,
And I died in my boots like a pioneer
With the whole wide sky above me.

Now I lie in the heart of the fat, black soil,
Like the seed of a prairie-thistle;
It has washed my bones with honey and oil
And picked them clean as a whistle.

And my youth returns, like the rains of Spring,
And my sons, like the wild-geese flying;
And I lie and hear the meadow-lark sing
And have much content in my dying.

Go play with the towns you have built of blocks,
The towns where you would have bound me!
I sleep in my earth like a tired fox,
And my buffalo have found me.

This being a time confused and with few clear stars,
Either private ones or public,
Out of its darkness I make a litany
For the lost, for the half-lost, for the desperate,
For all those who suffer, not in the flesh,
I will say their name, but not yet.

This is for those
Who talk to the bearded man in the quiet office,
Sensibly, calmly, explaining just how it was,
And suddenly burst into noisy, quacking tears;
For those who live through the party, wishing for death;
For those who take the sensible country walks,
Wondering if people stare;
For those who try to hook rugs in the big, bright room
And do it badly and are pleased with the praise;
For the night and the fear and the demons of the night;
For the lying back on the couch and the wincing talk.

This is for those
Who work and those who may not,
For those who suddenly come to a locked door,
And the work falls out of their hands;
For those who step off the pavement into hell,
Having not observed the red light and the warning signals
Because they were busy or ignorant or proud.

This is for those
Who are bound in the paper chains
That are stronger than links of iron; this is for those
Who each day heave the papier-mâché rock
Up the huge and burning hill,
And there is no rock and no hill, but they do not know it.

This is for those
Who wait till six for the drink,
Till eleven for the tablet;
And for those who long for the darkness but do not go,
Who walk to the window and see the body falling,
Hear the thud of air in the ears,
And then turn back to the room and sit down again,
None having observed the occurrence but themselves.

Christ, have mercy upon us.
Freud, have mercy upon us.
Life, have mercy upon us.

This is for those
Who painfully haul the dark fish out of the dark,
The child's nightmare, embalmed in its own pain,
And, after that, get well or do not get well,
But do no t forget the sulphur in the mouth
Or the time when the world was different, not for awhile.
And for those also, the veterans
Of another kind of war,
Who say 'No thanks' to the cocktails, who say 'No thanks.
Well, yes, give me Coca-Cola' with the trained smile,
Those who hid the bottles so cleverly in the trunk,
Who bribed the attendant, who promised to be good,
Who woke in the dirty bed in the unknown town.
They are cured, now, very much cured.
They are tanned and fine. Their eyes are their only scars.

This is for those
With the light white scars on the wrists,
Who remember the smell of gas and the vomiting,
And it meant little and it is a well-known symptom
And they were always careful to phone, before.
Nevertheless, they remember.

This is for those
Who heard the music suddenly get too loud,
Who could not alter their fancy when it came.

Chloral, have mercy upon us.
Amytal, have mercy upon us.
Nembutal, have mercy upon us.

This occurs more or less than it did in the past times.
There are statistics. There are no real statistics.
There is also no heroism. There is merely
Fatigue, pain, great confusion, sometimes recovery.

The name, as you know, is Legion.
What's your name, friend? Where are you from and how did
you get here?
The name is Legion. It's Legion in the case history.
Friends, Romans, countrymen,
Mr. and Mrs., legion is the name.

Nightmare Number Three

We had expected everything but revolt
And I kind of wonder myself when they started thinking--
But there’s no dice in that now.
I’ve heard fellow say
They must have planned it for years and maybe they did.
Looking back, you can find little incidents here and there,
Like the concrete-mixer in Jersey eating the wop
Or the roto press that printed 'Fiddle-dee-dee!'
In a three-color process all over Senator Sloop,
Just as he was making a speech. The thing about that
Was, how could it walk upstairs? But it was upstairs,
Clicking and mumbling in the Senate Chamber.
They had to knock out the wall to take it away
And the wrecking-crew said it grinned.
It was only the best
Machines, of course, the superhuman machines,
The ones we’d built to be better than flesh and bone,
But the cars were in it, of course . . .
and they hunted us
Like rabbits through the cramped streets on that Bloody Monday,
The Madison Avenue busses leading the charge.
The busses were pretty bad--but I’ll not forget
The smash of glass when the Duesenberg left the show-room
And pinned three brokers to the Racquet Club steps
Or the long howl of the horns when they saw men run,
When they saw them looking for holes in the solid ground . . .

I guess they were tired of being ridden in
And stopped and started by pygmies for silly ends,
Of wrapping cheap cigarettes and bad chocolate bars
Collecting nickels and waving platinum hair
And letting six million people live in a town.
I guess it was tha, I guess they got tired of us
And the whole smell of human hands.
But it was a shock
To climb sixteen flights of stairs to Art Zuckow’s office
(Noboby took the elevators twice)
And find him strangled to death in a nest of telephones,
The octopus-tendrils waving over his head,
And a sort of quiet humming filling the air. . . .
Do they eat? . . . There was red . . . But I did not stop to look.
I don’t know yet how I got to the roof in time
And it’s lonely, here on the roof.
For a while, I thought
That window-cleaner would make it, and keep me company.
But they got him with his own hoist at the sixteenth floor
And dragged him in, with a squeal.
You see, they coöperate. Well, we taught them that
And it’s fair enough, I suppose. You see, we built them.
We taught them to think for themselves.
It was bound to come. You can see it was bound to come.
And it won’t be so bad, in the country. I hate to think
Of the reapers, running wild in the Kansas fields,
And the transport planes like hawks on a chickenyard,
But the horses might help. We might make a deal with the horses.
At least, you’ve more chance, out there.
And they need us, too.
They’re bound to realize that when they once calm down.
They’ll need oil and spare parts and adjustments and tuning up.
Slaves? Well, in a way, you know, we were slaves before.
There won’t be so much real difference--honest, there won’t.
(I wish I hadn’t looked into the beauty-parlor
And seen what was happening there.
But those are female machines and a bit high-strung.)
Oh, we’ll settle down. We’ll arrange it. We’ll compromise.
It won’t make sense to wipe out the whole human race.
Why, I bet if I went to my old Plymouth now
(Of course you’d have to do it the tactful way)
And said, 'Look here! Who got you the swell French horn?'
He wouldn’t turn me over to those police cars;
At least I don’t think he would.
Oh, it’s going to be jake.
There won’t be so much real difference--honest, there won’t--
And I’d go down in a minute and take my chance--
I’m a good American and I always liked them--
Except for one small detail that bothers me
And that’s the food proposition. Because, you see,
The concrete-mixer may have made a mistake,
And it looks like just high spirits.
But, if it’s got so they like the flavor . . . well . . .

Metropolitan Nightmare

I rained quite a lot, that spring. You woke in the morning
And saw the sky still clouded, the streets still wet,
But nobody noticed so much, except the taxis
And the people who parade. You don't, in a city.
The parks got very green. All the trees were green
Far into July and August, heavy with leaf,
Heavy with leaf and the long roots were boring and spreading,
But nobody noticed that but the city gardeners
And they didn't talk.

Oh, on Sundays, perhaps, you'd notice:
Walking through certain blocks, by the shut, proud houses
With the windows boarded, the people gone away,
You'd suddenly see the queerest small shoots of green
Poking through cracks and crevices in the stone
And a bird-sown flower, red on the balcony,
But then you made jokes about grass growing in the streets
And politics and grass-roots –– and there were songs
And gags and a musical show called 'Hot and Wet.'
It all made a good box for the papers. When the flamingo
Flew into a meeting of the Board of Estimate,
The new Mayor acted at once and called the photographers.
When the first green creeper crawled over the Brooklyn Bridge,
They thought it was ornamental. They let it stay.

There was the year the termites came to New York
And they don't do well in cold climates –– but listen, Joe,
They're only ants and ants are nothing but insects.
It was funny and yet rather wistful, in a way
(As Heywood Broun pointed out in the
World-Telegram,
)
To think of them looking for wood in a steel city.
It made you feel about life. It was too divine.
There were funny pictures by all the smart, funny artists
And Macy's ran a terribly clever ad:
'The Widow's Termite' or something.

There was no
Disturbance. Even the Communists didn't protest
And say they were Morgan hirelings. It was too hot,
Too hot to protest, too hot to get excited,
An even, African heat, lush, fertile and steamy,
That soaked into bones and mind and never once broke.
The warm rain fell in fierce showers and ceased and fell.
Pretty soon you got used to its always being that way.

You got used to the changed rhythm, the altered beat,
To people walking slower, to the whole bright
Fierce pulse of the city slowing, to men in shorts,
To the new sun-helmets from Best's and the cops' white uniforms,
And the long noon-rest in the offices, everywhere.
It wasn't a plan or anything. It just happened.
The fingers tapped the keys slower, the office-boys
Dozed on their benches, the bookkeeper yawned at his desk.
The A. T. & T. was the first to change the shifts
And establish a siesta-room,
But they were always efficient. Mostly it just
Happened like sleep itself, like a tropic sleep,
Till even the Thirties were deserted at noon
Except for a few tourists and one damned cop.
They ran boats to see the big lilies on the North River
But it was only the tourists who really noticed
The flocks of rose-and-green parrots and parrakeets
Nesting in the stone crannies of the Cathedral.
The rest of us had forgotten when they first came.

There wasn't any real change, it was just a heat spell,
A rain spell, a funny summer, a weather-man's joke,
In spite of the geraniums three feet high
In the tin-can gardens of Hester and Desbrosses.
New York was New York. It couldn't turn inside out.
When they got the news from Woods Hole about the Gulf Stream,
The
Times
ran an adequate story.
But nobody reads those stories but science-cranks.

Until, one day, a somnolent city-editor
Gave a new cub the termite yarn to break his teeth on.
The cub was just down from Vermont, so he took the time.
He was serious about it. He went around.
He read all about termites in the Public Library
And it made him sore when they fired him.

So, one evening,
Talking with an old watchman, beside the first
Raw girders of the new Planetopolis Building
(Ten thousand brine-cooled offices, each with shower)
He saw a dark line creeping across the rubble
And turned a flashlight on it.

'Say, buddy,' he said,
'You'd better look out for those ants. They eat wood, you know,
They'll have your shack down in no time.'

The watchman spat.
'Oh, they've quit eating wood,' he said, in a casual voice,
'I thought everyone knew that.'

-- and reaching down,
He pried from the insect's jaw the bright crumb of steel.

Three Day's Ride

'From Belton Castle to Solway side,
Hard by the bridge, is three days' ride.'

We had fled full fast from her father's keep,
And the time was come that we must sleep.

The first day was an ecstasy,
A golden mist, a burgeoning tree;
We rode like gods through a world new-made,
The hawthorn scented hill and glade,
A faint, still sweetness in the air--
And, oh, her face and the wind in her hair!
And the steady beat of our good steeds' hooves,
Bearing us northward, strong and fast,
To my high black tower, stark to the blast,
Like a swimmer stripped where the Solway moves.

And ever, riding, we chanted a song,
Challenging Fortune, loud and long,
'From Belton Castle to Solway side,
Strive as you may, is three days' ride!'

She slept for an hour, wrapped in my cloak,
And I watched her till the morning broke;
The second day--and a harsher land,
And grey bare hills on either hand;
A surly land and a sullen folk,
And a fog that came like bitter smoke.

The road wound on like a twisted snake,
And our horses sobbed as they topped the brake.
Till we sprang to earth at Wyvern Fen,
Where fresh steeds stamped, and were off again.

Weary and sleepless, bruised and worn,
We still had strength for laughter and scorn;
Love held us up through the mire and mist,
Love fed us, while we clasped and kissed,
And still we sang as the night closed in,
Stealthy and slow as a hidden sin,
'From Belton Castle to Solway side,
Ride how you will, is three days' ride.'

My love drooped low on the black mare's back,
Drowned in her hair . . . the reins went slack . . .
Yet she could not sleep, save to dream bad dreams
And wake all trembling, till at last
Her golden head lay on my breast.

At last we saw the first faint gleams
Of day. Dawn broke. A sickly light
Came from the withered sun--a blight
Was on the land, and poisonous mist
Shrouded the rotting trees, unkissed
By any wind, and the black crags glared
Like sightless, awful faces, spared
From death to live accursed for aye.

Dragging slow chains the hours went by.
We rode on, drunk and drugged with sleep,
Too deadly weary now to say
Whether our horses kept the way
Or no--like slaves stretched on a heap
Of poisoned arrows. Every limb
Shot with sharp pain; pain seemed to swim
Like a red cloud before our eyes. . . .

The mist broke, and a moment showed,
Sharp as the Devil's oxen-goad,
The spear-points where the hot chase rode.

Idly I watched them dance and rise
Till white wreaths wiped them out again . . .
My love jerked at the bridle rein;
The black mare, dying, broke her heart
In one swift gallop; for my part
I dozed; and ever in my brain,
Four hoofs of fire beat out refrain,
A dirge to light us down to death,
A silly rhyme that saith and saith,
'From Belton Castle to Solway side,
Though great hearts break, is three days' ride!'
The black mare staggered, reeled and fell,
Bearing my love down . . . a great bell
Began to toll . . . and sudden fire
Flared at me from the road, a pyre
It seemed, to burn our bodies in . . .
And I fell down, far down, within
The pit's mouth . . . and my brain went blind. . . .

I woke--a cold sun rose behind
Black evil hills--my love knelt near
Beside a stream, her golden hair
Streaming across the grass--below
The Solway eddied to and fro,
White with fierce whirlpools . . . my love turned. . . .
Thank God, some hours of joy are burned
Into the mind, and will remain,
Fierce-blazing still, in spite of pain!

They came behind us as we kissed,
Stealthily from the dripping mist,
Her brothers and their evil band.
They bound me fast and made me stand.
They forced her down upon her knees.
She did not strive or cry or call,
But knelt there dumb before them all--
I could not turn away my eyes--
There was no fear upon her face,
Although they slew her in that place.
The daggers rent and tore her breast
Like dogs that snarl above a kill,
Her proud face gazed above them still,
Seeking rest--Oh, seeking rest!
The blood swept like a crimson dress
Over her bosom's nakedness,
A curtain for her weary eyes,
A muffling-cloth to stop her sighs . . .

And she was gone--and a red thing lay
Silent on the trampled clay.

Beneath my horse my feet are bound,
My hands are bound behind my back,
I feel the sinews start to crack--
And ever to the hoof-beats' sound,
As we draw near the gallows-tree,
Where I shall hang right speedily,
A crazy tune rings in my brain,
Four hoofs of fire tramp the refrain,
Crashing clear o'er the roaring crowd,
Steadily galloping, strong and loud,
'From Belton Castle to Solway side,
Hard by the bridge, is three days' ride!'

The White Peacock

(France -- Ancient Regime.)

I.

Go away!
Go away; I will not confess to you!
His black biretta clings like a hangman's cap; under his twitching fingers the beads shiver and click,
As he mumbles in his corner, the shadow deepens upon him;
I will not confess! . . .

Is he there or is it intenser shadow?
Dark huddled coilings from the obscene depths,
Black, formless shadow,
Shadow.
Doors creak; from secret parts of the chateau come the scuffle and worry of rats.

Orange light drips from the guttering candles,
Eddying over the vast embroideries of the bed
Stirring the monstrous tapestries,
Retreating before the sable impending gloom of the canopy
With a swift thrust and sparkle of gold,
Lipping my hands,
Then
Rippling back abashed before the ominous silences
Like the swift turns and starts of an overpowered fencer
Who sees before him Horror
Behind him darkness,
Shadow.

The clock jars and strikes, a thin, sudden note like the sob of a child.
Clock, buhl clock that ticked out the tortuous hours of my birth,
Clock, evil, wizened dwarf of a clock, how many years of agony have you relentlessly measured,
Yardstick of my stifling shroud?

I am Aumaury de Montreuil; once quick, soon to be eaten of worms.
You hear, Father? Hsh, he is asleep in the night's cloak.

Over me too steals sleep.
Sleep like a white mist on the rotting paintings of cupids and gods on the ceiling;
Sleep on the carven shields and knots at the foot of the bed,
Oozing, blurring outlines, obliterating colors,
Death.

Father, Father, I must not sleep!
It does not hear -- that shadow crouched in the corner . . .
Is it a shadow?
One might think so indeed, save for the calm face, yellow as wax, that lifts like the face of a drowned man from the choking darkness.


II.

Out of the drowsy fog my body creeps back to me.
It is the white time before dawn.
Moonlight, watery, pellucid, lifeless, ripples over the world.
The grass beneath it is gray; the stars pale in the sky.
The night dew has fallen;
An infinity of little drops, crystals from which all light has been taken,
Glint on the sighing branches.
All is purity, without color, without stir, without passion.

Suddenly a peacock screams.

My heart shocks and stops;
Sweat, cold corpse-sweat
Covers my rigid body.
My hair stands on end. I cannot stir. I cannot speak.
It is terror, terror that is walking the pale sick gardens
And the eyeless face no man may see and live!
Ah-h-h-h-h!
Father, Father, wake! wake and save me!
In his corner all is shadow.

Dead things creep from the ground.
It is so long ago that she died, so long ago!
Dust crushes her, earth holds her, mold grips her.
Fiends, do you not know that she is dead? . . .
"Let us dance the pavon!" she said; the waxlights glittered like swords on the polished floor.
Twinkling on jewelled snuffboxes, beaming savagely from the crass gold of candelabra,
From the white shoulders of girls and the white powdered wigs of men . . .
All life was that dance.
The mocking, resistless current,
The beauty, the passion, the perilous madness --
As she took my hand, released it and spread her dresses like petals,
Turning, swaying in beauty,
A lily, bowed by the rain, --
Moonlight she was, and her body of moonlight and foam,
And her eyes stars.
Oh the dance has a pattern!
But the clear grace of her thrilled through the notes of the viols,
Tremulous, pleading, escaping, immortal, untamed,
And, as we ended,
She blew me a kiss from her hand like a drifting white blossom --
And the starshine was gone; and she fled like a bird up the stair.

Underneath the window a peacock screams,
And claws click, scrape
Like little lacquered boots on the rough stone.

Oh the long fantasy of the kiss; the ceaseless hunger, ceaselessly, divinely appeased!
The aching presence of the beloved's beauty!
The wisdom, the incense, the brightness!

Once more on the ice-bright floor they danced the pavon
But I turned to the garden and her from the lighted candles.
Softly I trod the lush grass between the black hedges of box.
Softly, for I should take her unawares and catch her arms,
And embrace her, dear and startled.

By the arbor all the moonlight flowed in silver
And her head was on his breast.
She did not scream or shudder
When my sword was where her head had lain
In the quiet moonlight;
But turned to me with one pale hand uplifted,
All her satins fiery with the starshine,
Nacreous, shimmering, weeping, iridescent,
Like the quivering plumage of a peacock . . .
Then her head drooped and I gripped her hair,
Oh soft, scented cloud across my fingers! --
Bending her white neck back. . . .

Blood writhed on my hands; I trod in blood. . . .
Stupidly agaze
At that crumpled heap of silk and moonlight,
Where like twitching pinions, an arm twisted,
Palely, and was still
As the face of chalk.

The buhl clock strikes.
Thirty years. Christ, thirty years!
Agony. Agony.

Something stirs in the window,
Shattering the moonlight.
White wings fan.
Father, Father!

All its plumage fiery with the starshine,
Nacreous, shimmering, weeping, iridescent,
It drifts across the floor and mounts the bed,
To the tap of little satin shoes.
Gazing with infernal eyes.
Its quick beak thrusting, rending, devil's crimson . . .
Screams, great tortured screams shake the dark canopy.
The light flickers, the shadow in the corner stirs;
The wax face lifts; the eyes open.

A thin trickle of blood worms darkly against the vast red coverlet and spreads to a pool on the floor.

The Mountain Whippoorwill

Up in the mountains, it's lonesome all the time,
(Sof' win' slewin' thu' the sweet-potato vine.)
Up in the mountains, it's lonesome for a child,
(Whippoorwills a-callin' when the sap runs wild.)
Up in the mountains, mountains in the fog,
Everythin's as lazy as an old houn' dog.
Born in the mountains, never raised a pet,
Don't want nuthin' an' never got it yet.
Born in the mountains, lonesome-born,
Raised runnin' ragged thu' the cockleburrs and corn.
Never knew my pappy, mebbe never should.
Think he was a fiddle made of mountain laurel-wood.
Never had a mammy to teach me pretty-please.
Think she was a whippoorwill, a-skittin' thu' the trees.
Never had a brother ner a whole pair of pants,
But when I start to fiddle, why, yuh got to start to dance!
Listen to my fiddle -- Kingdom Come -- Kingdom Come!
Hear the frogs a-chunkin' 'Jug o' rum, Jug o' rum!'
Hear that mountain whippoorwill be lonesome in the air,
An' I'll tell yuh how I travelled to the Essex County Fair.
Essex County has a mighty pretty fair,
All the smarty fiddlers from the South come there.
Elbows flyin' as they rosin up the bow
For the First Prize Contest in the Georgia Fiddlers' Show.
Old Dan Wheeling, with his whiskers in his ears,
King-pin fiddler for nearly twenty years.
Big Tom Sergeant, with his blue wall-eye,
An' Little Jimmy Weezer that can make a fiddle cry.
All sittin' roun', spittin' high an' struttin' proud,
(Listen, little whippoorwill, yuh better bug yore eyes!)
Tun-a-tun-a-tunin' while the jedges told the crowd
Them that got the mostest claps'd win the bestest prize.
Everybody waitin' for the first tweedle-dee,
When in comes a-stumblin' -- hill-billy me!
Bowed right pretty to the jedges an' the rest,
Took a silver dollar from a hole inside my vest,
Plunked it on the table an' said, 'There's my callin' card!
An' anyone that licks me -- well, he's got to fiddle hard!'
Old Dan Wheeling, he was laughin' fit to holler,
Little Jimmy Weezer said, 'There's one dead dollar!'
Big Tom Sergeant had a yaller-toothy grin,
But I tucked my little whippoorwill spang underneath my chin,
An' petted it an' tuned it till the jedges said, 'Begin!'
Big Tom Sargent was the first in line;
He could fiddle all the bugs off a sweet-potato vine.
He could fiddle down a possum from a mile-high tree,
He could fiddle up a whale from the bottom of the sea.
Yuh could hear hands spankin' till they spanked each other raw,
When he finished variations on 'Turkey in the Straw.'
Little Jimmy Weezer was the next to play;
He could fiddle all night, he could fiddle all day.
He could fiddle chills, he could fiddle fever,
He could make a fiddle rustle like a lowland river.
He could make a fiddle croon like a lovin' woman.
An' they clapped like thunder when he'd finished strummin'.
Then came the ruck of the bob-tailed fiddlers,
The let's-go-easies, the fair-to-middlers.
They got their claps an' they lost their bicker,
An' they all settled back for some more corn-licker.
An' the crowd was tired of their no-count squealing,
When out in the center steps Old Dan Wheeling.
He fiddled high and he fiddled low,
(Listen, little whippoorwill, yuh got to spread yore wings!)
He fiddled and fiddled with a cherrywood bow,
(Old Dan Wheeling's got bee-honey in his strings).
He fiddled a wind by the lonesome moon,
He fiddled a most almighty tune.
He started fiddling like a ghost.
He ended fiddling like a host.
He fiddled north an' he fiddled south,
He fiddled the heart right out of yore mouth.
He fiddled here an' he fiddled there.
He fiddled salvation everywhere.
When he was finished, the crowd cut loose,
(Whippoorwill, they's rain on yore breast.)
An' I sat there wonderin' 'What's the use?'
(Whippoorwill, fly home to yore nest.)
But I stood up pert an' I took my bow,
An' my fiddle went to my shoulder, so.
An' -- they wasn't no crowd to get me fazed --
But I was alone where I was raised.
Up in the mountains, so still it makes yuh skeered.
Where God lies sleepin' in his big white beard.
An' I heard the sound of the squirrel in the pine,
An' I heard the earth a-breathin' thu' the long night-time.
They've fiddled the rose, and they've fiddled the thorn,
But they haven't fiddled the mountain-corn.
They've fiddled sinful an' fiddled moral,
But they haven't fiddled the breshwood-laurel.
They've fiddled loud, and they've fiddled still,
But they haven't fiddled the whippoorwill.
I started off with a dump-diddle-dump,
(Oh, hell's broke loose in Georgia!)
Skunk-cabbage growin' by the bee-gum stump.
(Whippoorwill, yo're singin' now!)
My mother was a whippoorwill pert,
My father, he was lazy,
But I'm hell broke loose in a new store shirt
To fiddle all Georgia crazy.
Swing yore partners -- up an' down the middle!
Sashay now -- oh, listen to that fiddle!
Flapjacks flippin' on a red-hot griddle,
An' hell's broke loose,
Hell's broke loose,
Fire on the mountains -- snakes in the grass.
Satan's here a-bilin' -- oh, Lordy, let him pass!
Go down Moses, set my people free;
Pop goes the weasel thu' the old Red Sea!
Jonah sittin' on a hickory-bough,
Up jumps a whale -- an' where's yore prophet now?
Rabbit in the pea-patch, possum in the pot,
Try an' stop my fiddle, now my fiddle's gettin' hot!
Whippoorwill, singin' thu' the mountain hush,
Whippoorwill, shoutin' from the burnin' bush,
Whippoorwill, cryin' in the stable-door,
Sing tonight as yuh never sang before!
Hell's broke loose like a stompin' mountain-shoat,
Sing till yuh bust the gold in yore throat!
Hell's broke loose for forty miles aroun'
Bound to stop yore music if yuh don['t sing it down.
Sing on the mountains, little whippoorwill,
Sing to the valleys, an' slap 'em with a hill,
For I'm struttin' high as an eagle's quill,
An' hell's broke loose,
Hell's broke loose,
Hell's broke loose in Georgia!
They wasn't a sound when I stopped bowin',
(Whippoorwill, yuh can sing no more.)
But, somewhere or other, the dawn was growin',
(Oh, mountain whippoorwill!)
An' I thought, 'I've fiddled all night an' lost,
Yo're a good hill-billy, but yuh've been bossed.'
So I went to congratulate old man Dan,
-- But he put his fiddle into my han' --
An' then the noise of the crowd began!

(A Virginia Legend.)

The Planting of the Hemp.

Captain Hawk scourged clean the seas
(Black is the gap below the plank)
From the Great North Bank to the Caribbees
(Down by the marsh the hemp grows rank).

His fear was on the seaport towns,
The weight of his hand held hard the downs.
And the merchants cursed him, bitter and black,
For a red flame in the sea-fog's wrack
Was all of their ships that might come back.

For all he had one word alone,
One clod of dirt in their faces thrown,
"The hemp that shall hang me is not grown!"

His name bestrode the seas like Death.
The waters trembled at his breath.

This is the tale of how he fell,
Of the long sweep and the heavy swell,
And the rope that dragged him down to hell.

The fight was done, and the gutted ship,
Stripped like a shark the sea-gulls strip,

Lurched blindly, eaten out with flame,
Back to the land from where she came,
A skimming horror, an eyeless shame.

And Hawk stood upon his quarter-deck,
And saw the sky and saw the wreck.

Below, a butt for sailors' jeers,
White as the sky when a white squall nears,
Huddled the crowd of the prisoners.

Over the bridge of the tottering plank,
Where the sea shook and the gulf yawned blank,
They shrieked and struggled and dropped and sank,

Pinioned arms and hands bound fast.
One girl alone was left at last.

Sir Henry Gaunt was a mighty lord.
He sat in state at the Council board;
The governors were as nought to him.
From one rim to the other rim

Of his great plantations, flung out wide
Like a purple cloak, was a full month's ride.

Life and death in his white hands lay,
And his only daughter stood at bay,
Trapped like a hare in the toils that day.

He sat at wine in his gold and his lace,
And far away, in a bloody place,
Hawk came near, and she covered her face.

He rode in the fields, and the hunt was brave,
And far away his daughter gave
A shriek that the seas cried out to hear,
And he could not see and he could not save.

Her white soul withered in the mire
As paper shrivels up in fire,
And Hawk laughed, and he kissed her mouth,
And her body he took for his desire.


The Growing of the Hemp.

Sir Henry stood in the manor room,
And his eyes were hard gems in the gloom.

And he said, "Go dig me furrows five
Where the green marsh creeps like a thing alive --
There at its edge, where the rushes thrive."

And where the furrows rent the ground,
He sowed the seed of hemp around.

And the blacks shrink back and are sore afraid
At the furrows five that rib the glade,
And the voodoo work of the master's spade.

For a cold wind blows from the marshland near,
And white things move, and the night grows drear,
And they chatter and crouch and are sick with fear.

But down by the marsh, where the gray slaves glean,
The hemp sprouts up, and the earth is seen
Veiled with a tenuous mist of green.

And Hawk still scourges the Caribbees,
And many men kneel at his knees.

Sir Henry sits in his house alone,
And his eyes are hard and dull like stone.

And the waves beat, and the winds roar,
And all things are as they were before.

And the days pass, and the weeks pass,
And nothing changes but the grass.

But down where the fireflies are like eyes,
And the damps shudder, and the mists rise,
The hemp-stalks stand up toward the skies.

And down from the poop of the pirate ship
A body falls, and the great sharks grip.

Innocent, lovely, go in grace!
At last there is peace upon your face.

And Hawk laughs loud as the corpse is thrown,
"The hemp that shall hang me is not grown!"

Sir Henry's face is iron to mark,
And he gazes ever in the dark.

And the days pass, and the weeks pass,
And the world is as it always was.

But down by the marsh the sickles beam,
Glitter on glitter, gleam on gleam,
And the hemp falls down by the stagnant stream.

And Hawk beats up from the Caribbees,
Swooping to pounce in the Northern seas.

Sir Henry sits sunk deep in his chair,
And white as his hand is grown his hair.

And the days pass, and the weeks pass,
And the sands roll from the hour-glass.

But down by the marsh in the blazing sun
The hemp is smoothed and twisted and spun,
The rope made, and the work done.


The Using of the Hemp.

Captain Hawk scourged clean the seas
(Black is the gap below the plank)
From the Great North Bank to the Caribbees
(Down by the marsh the hemp grows rank).

He sailed in the broad Atlantic track,
And the ships that saw him came not back.

And once again, where the wide tides ran,
He stooped to harry a merchantman.

He bade her stop. Ten guns spake true
From her hidden ports, and a hidden crew,
Lacking his great ship through and through.

Dazed and dumb with the sudden death,
He scarce had time to draw a breath

Before the grappling-irons bit deep,
And the boarders slew his crew like sheep.

Hawk stood up straight, his breast to the steel;
His cutlass made a bloody wheel.

His cutlass made a wheel of flame.
They shrank before him as he came.

And the bodies fell in a choking crowd,
And still he thundered out aloud,

"The hemp that shall hang me is not grown!"
They fled at last. He was left alone.

Before his foe Sir Henry stood.
"The hemp is grown, and my word made good!"

And the cutlass clanged with a hissing whir
On the lashing blade of the rapier.

Hawk roared and charged like a maddened buck.
As the cobra strikes, Sir Henry struck,

Pouring his life in a single thrust,
And the cutlass shivered to sparks and dust.

Sir Henry stood on the blood-stained deck,
And set his foot on his foe's neck.

Then from the hatch, where the rent decks slope,
Where the dead roll and the wounded grope,
He dragged the serpent of the rope.

The sky was blue, and the sea was still,
The waves lapped softly, hill on hill,
And between one wave and another wave
The doomed man's cries were little and shrill.

The sea was blue, and the sky was calm;
The air dripped with a golden balm.
Like a wind-blown fruit between sea and sun,
A black thing writhed at a yard-arm.

Slowly then, and awesomely,
The ship sank, and the gallows-tree,
And there was nought between sea and sun --
Nought but the sun and the sky and the sea.

But down by the marsh where the fever breeds,
Only the water chuckles and pleads;
For the hemp clings fast to a dead man's throat,
And blind Fate gathers back her seeds.

Army Of Northern Virginia

Army of Northern Virginia, army of legend,
Who were your captains that you could trust them so surely?
Who were your battle-flags?
Call the shapes from the mist,
Call the dead men out of the mist and watch them ride.
Tall the first rider, tall with a laughing mouth,
His long black beard is combed like a beauty's hair,
His slouch hat plumed with a curled black ostrich-feather,
He wears gold spurs and sits his horse with the seat
Of a horseman born.
It is Stuart of Laurel Hill,
'Beauty' Stuart, the genius of cavalry,
Reckless, merry, religious, theatrical,
Lover of gesture, lover of panache,
With all the actor's grace and the quick, light charm
That makes the women adore him-a wild cavalier
Who worships as sober a God as Stonewall Jackson,
A Rupert who seldom drinks, very often prays,
Loves his children, singing, fighting spurs, and his wife.
Sweeney his banjo-player follows him.
And after them troop the young Virginia counties,
Horses and men, Botetort, Halifax,
Dinwiddie, Prince Edward, Cumberland, Nottoway,
Mecklenburg, Berkeley, Augusta, the Marylanders,
The horsemen never matched till Sheridan came.
Now the phantom guns creak by. They are Pelham's guns.
That quiet boy with the veteran mouth is Pelham.
He is twenty-two. He is to fight sixty battles
And never lose a gun.
The cannon roll past,
The endless lines of the infantry begin.
A. P. Hill leads the van. He is small and spare,
His short, clipped beard is red as his battleshirt,
Jackson and Lee are to call him in their death-hours.
Dutch Longstreet follows, slow, pugnacious and stubborn,
Hard to beat and just as hard to convince,
Fine corps commander, good bulldog for holding on,
But dangerous when he tries to think for himself,
He thinks for himself too much at Gettysburg,
But before and after he grips with tenacious jaws.
There is D. H. Hill-there is Early and Fitzhugh Lee-
Yellow-haired Hood with his wounds and his empty sleeve,
Leading his Texans, a Viking shape of a man,
With the thrust and lack of craft of a berserk sword,
All lion, none of the fox.
When he supersedes
Joe Johnston, he is lost, and his army with him,
But he could lead forlorn hopes with the ghost of Ney.
His bigboned Texans follow him into the mist.
Who follows them?
These are the Virginia faces,
The Virginia speech. It is Jackson's footcavalry,
The Army of the Valley,
It is the Stonewall Brigade, it is the streams
Of the Shenandoah, marching.
Ewell goes by,
The little woodpecker, bald and quaint of speech
With his wooden leg stuck stiffly out from his saddle,
He is muttering, 'Sir, I'm a nervous Major-General,
And whenever an aide rides up from General Jackson
I fully expect an order to storm the North Pole.'
He chuckles and passes, full of crotchets and courage,
Living on frumenty for imagined dyspepsia,
And ready to storm the North Pole at a Jackson phrase.
Then the staff-then little Sorrel-and the plain
Presbyterian figure in the flat cap,
Throwing his left hand out in the awkward gesture
That caught the bullet out of the air at Bull Run,
Awkward, rugged and dour, the belated Ironside
With the curious, brilliant streak of the cavalier
That made him quote Mercutio in staff instructions,
Love lancet windows, the color of passion-flowers,
Mexican sun and all fierce, tautlooking fine creatures;
Stonewall Jackson, wrapped in his beard and his silence,
Cromwell-eyed and ready with Cromwell's short
Bleak remedy for doubters and fools and enemies,
Hard on his followers, harder on his foes,
An iron sabre vowed to an iron Lord,
And yet the only man of those men who pass
With a strange, secretive grain of harsh poetry
Hidden so deep in the stony sides of his heart
That it shines by flashes only and then is gone.
It glitters in his last words.
He is deeply ambitious,
The skilled man, utterly sure of his own skill
And taking no nonsense about it from the unskilled,
But God is the giver of victory and defeat,
And Lee, on earth, vicegerent under the Lord.
Sometimes he differs about the mortal plans
But once the order is given, it is obeyed.
We know what he thought about God. One would like to know
What he thought of the two together, if he so mingled them.
He said two things about Lee it is well to recall.
When he first beheld the man that he served so well,
'I have never seen such a fine-looking human creature.'
Then, afterwards, at the height of his own fame,
The skilled man talking of skill, and something more.
'General Lee is a phenomenon,
He is the only man I would follow blindfold.'
Think of those two remarks and the man who made them
When you picture Lee as the rigid image in marble.
No man ever knew his own skill better than Jackson
Or was more ready to shatter an empty fame.
He passes now in his dusty uniform.
The Bible jostles a book of Napoleon's Maxims
And a magic lemon deep in his saddlebags.

And now at last,
Comes Traveller and his master. Look at them well.
The horse is an iron-grey, sixteen hands high,
Short back, deep chest, strong haunch, flat legs, small head,
Delicate ear, quick eye, black mane and tail,
Wise brain, obedient mouth.
Such horses are
The jewels of the horseman's hands and thighs,
They go by the word and hardly need the rein.
They bred such horses in Virginia then,
Horses that were remembered after death
And buried not so far from Christian ground
That if their sleeping riders should arise
They could not witch them from the earth again
And ride a printless course along the grass
With the old manage and light ease of hand.
The rider, now.
He too, is iron-grey,
Though the thick hair and thick, blunt-pointed beard
Have frost in them.
Broad-foreheaded, deep-eyed,
Straight-nosed, sweet-mouthed, firmlipped, head cleanly set,
He and his horse are matches for the strong
Grace of proportion that inhabits both.
They carry nothing that is in excess
And nothing that is less than symmetry,
The strength of Jackson is a hammered strength,
Bearing the tool marks still. This strength was shaped
By as hard arts but does not show the toil
Except as justness, though the toil was there.
-And so we get the marble man again,
The head on the Greek coin, the idol image,
The shape who stands at Washington's left hand,
Worshipped, uncomprehended and aloof,
A figure lost to flesh and blood and bones,
Frozen into a legend out of life,
A blank-verse statue-
How to humanize
That solitary gentleness and strength
Hidden behind the deadly oratory
Of twenty thousand Lee Memorial days,
How show, in spite of all the rhetoric,
All the sick honey of the speechifiers,
Proportion, not as something calm congealed
From lack of fire, but ruling such a fire
As only such proportion could contain?

The man was loved, the man was idolized,
The man had every just and noble gift.
He took great burdens and he bore them well,
Believed in God but did not preach too much,
Believed and followed duty first and last
With marvellous consistency and force,
Was a great victor, in defeat as great,
No more, no less, always himself in both,
Could make men die for him but saved his men
Whenever he could save them-was most kind
But-was not disobeyed-was a good father,
A loving husband, a considerate friend:
Had litle humor, but enough to play
Mild jokes that never wounded but had charm,
Did not seek intimates, yet drew men to him,
Did not seek fame, did not protest against it,
Knew his own value without pomp or jealousy
And died as he preferred to live-sans praise,
With commonsense, tenacity and courage,
A Greek proportion-and a riddle unread.
And everything that we have said is true
And nothing helps us yet to read the man,
Nor will he help us while he has the strength
To keep his heart his own.
For he will smile
And give you, with unflinching courtesy,
Prayers, trappings, letters, uniforms and orders,
Photographs, kindness, valor and advice,
And do it with such grace and gentleness
That you will know you have the whole of him
Pinned down, mapped out, easy to understand-
And so you have.
All things except the heart
The heart he kept himself, that answers all.
For here was someone who lived all his life
In the most fierce and open light of the sun,
Wrote letters freely, did not guard his speech,
Listened and talked with every sort of man,
And kept his heart a secret to the end
From all the picklocks of biographers.

He was a man, and as a man he knew
Love, separation, sorrow, joy and death.
He was a master of the tricks of war,
He gave great strokes and warded strokes as great.
He was the prop and pillar of a State,
The incarnation of a national dream,
And when the State fell and the dream dissolved
He must have lived with bitterness itself-
But what his sorrow was and what his joy,
And how he felt in the expense of strength,
And how his heart contained its bitterness,
He will not tell us.
We can lie about him,
Dress up a dummy in his uniform
And put our words into the dummy's mouth,
Say 'Here Lee must have thought,' and 'There, no doubt,
By what we know of him, we may suppose
He felt-this pang or that-' but he remains
Beyond our stagecraft, reticent as ice,
Reticent as the fire within the stone.

Yet-look at the face again-look at it well-
This man was not repose, this man was act.
This man who murmured 'It is well that war
Should be so terrible, if it were not
We might become too fond of it-' and showed
Himself, for once, completely as he lived
In the laconic balance of that phrase;
This man could reason, but he was a fighter,
Skilful in every weapon of defence
But never defending when he could assault,
Taking enormous risks again and again,
Never retreating while he still could strike,
Dividing a weak force on dangerous ground
And joining it again to beat a strong,
Mocking at chance and all the odds of war
With acts that looked like hairbread'th recklessness -
We do not call them reckless, since they won.
We do not see him reckless for the calm
Proportion that controlled the recklessness-
But that attacking quality was there.
He was not mild with life or drugged with justice,
He gripped life like a wrestler with a bull,
Impetuously. It did not come to him
While he stood waiting in a famous cloud,
He went to it and took it by both horns
And threw it down.
Oh, he could bear the shifts
Of time and play the bitter loser's game,
The slow, unflinching chess of fortitude,
But while he had an opening for attack
He would attack with every ounce of strength.
His heart was not a stone but trumpet-shaped
And a long challenge blew an anger through it
That was more dread for being musical
First, last, and to the end.
Again he said
A curious thing to life.
'I'm always wanting something.'
The brief phrase
Slides past us, hardly grasped in the smooth flow
Of the well-balanced, mildly-humorous prose
That goes along to talk of cats and duties,
Maxims of conduct, farming and poor bachelors,
But for a second there, the marble cracked
And a strange man we never saw before
Showed us the face he never showed the world
And wanted something-not the general
Who wanted shoes and food for ragged men,
Not the good father wanting for his children,
The patriot wanting victory-all the Lees
Whom all the world could see and recognize
And hang with gilded laurels-but the man
Who had, you'd say, all things that life can give
Except the last success-and had, for that,
Such glamor as can wear sheer triumph out,
Proportion's son and Duty's eldest sword
And the calm mask who-wanted something still,
Somewhere, somehow and always.
Picklock biographers,
What could he want that he had never had?

He only said it once-the marble closed-
There was a man enclosed within that image.
There was a force that tried Proportion's rule
And died without a legend or a cue
To bring it back. The shadow-Lees still live.
But the first-person and the singular Lee?


The ant finds kingdoms in a foot of ground
But earth's too small for something in our earth,
We'll make a new earth from the summer's cloud,
From the pure summer's cloud.
It was not that,
It was not God or love or mortal fame.
It was not anything he left undone.
-What does Proportion want that it can lack?
-What does the ultimate hunger of the flesh
Want from the sky more than a sky of air?

He wanted something. That must be enough.
Now he rides Traveller back into the mist.

The Drug-Shop, Or, Endymion In Edmonstoun

"Oh yes, I went over to Edmonstoun the other day and saw Johnny, mooning around as usual! He will never make his way."
Letter of George Keats, 18--


Night falls; the great jars glow against the dark,
Dark green, dusk red, and, like a coiling snake,
Writhing eternally in smoky gyres,
Great ropes of gorgeous vapor twist and turn
Within them. So the Eastern fisherman
Saw the swart genie rise when the lead seal,
Scribbled with charms, was lifted from the jar;
And -- well, how went the tale? Like this, like this? . . .

No herbage broke the barren flats of land,
No winds dared loiter within smiling trees,
Nor were there any brooks on either hand,
Only the dry, bright sand,
Naked and golden, lay before the seas.

One boat toiled noiselessly along the deep,
The thirsty ripples dying silently
Upon its track. Far out the brown nets sweep,
And night begins to creep
Across the intolerable mirror of the sea.

Twice the nets rise, a-trail with sea-plants brown,
Distorted shells, and rocks green-mossed with slime,
Nought else. The fisher, sick at heart, kneels down;
"Prayer may appease God's frown,"
He thinks, then, kneeling, casts for the third time.

And lo! an earthen jar, bound round with brass,
Lies tangled in the cordage of his net.
About the bright waves gleam like shattered glass,
And where the sea's rim was
The sun dips, flat and red, about to set.

The prow grates on the beach. The fisherman
Stoops, tearing at the cords that bind the seal.
Shall pearls roll out, lustrous and white and wan?
Lapis? carnelian?
Unheard-of stones that make the sick mind reel

With wonder of their beauty? Rubies, then?
Green emeralds, glittering like the eyes of beasts?
Poisonous opals, good to madden men?
Gold bezants, ten and ten?
Hard, regal diamonds, like kingly feasts?

He tugged; the seal gave way. A little smoke
Curled like a feather in the darkening sky.
A blinding gush of fire burst, flamed, and broke.
A voice like a wind spoke.
Armored with light, and turbaned terribly,

A genie tramped the round earth underfoot;
His head sought out the stars, his cupped right hand
Made half the sky one darkness. He was mute.
The sun, a ripened fruit,
Drooped lower. Scarlet eddied o'er the sand.

The genie spoke: "O miserable one!
Thy prize awaits thee; come, and hug it close!
A noble crown thy draggled nets have won
For this that thou hast done.
Blessed are fools! A gift remains for those!"

His hand sought out his sword, and lightnings flared
Across the sky in one great bloom of fire.
Poised like a toppling mountain, it hung bared;
Suns that were jewels glared
Along its hilt. The air burnt like a pyre.

Once more the genie spoke: "Something I owe
To thee, thou fool, thou fool. Come, canst thou sing?
Yea? Sing then; if thy song be brave, then go
Free and released -- or no!
Find first some task, some overmastering thing
I cannot do, and find it speedily,
For if thou dost not thou shalt surely die!"

The sword whirled back. The fisherman uprose,
And if at first his voice was weak with fear
And his limbs trembled, it was but a doze,
And at the high song's close
He stood up straight. His voice rang loud and clear.


The Song.

Last night the quays were lighted;
Cressets of smoking pine
Glared o'er the roaring mariners
That drink the yellow wine.

Their song rolled to the rafters,
It struck the high stars pale,
Such worth was in their discourse,
Such wonder in their tale.

Blue borage filled the clinking cups,
The murky night grew wan,
Till one rose, crowned with laurel-leaves,
That was an outland man.

"Come, let us drink to war!" said he,
"The torch of the sacked town!
The swan's-bath and the wolf-ships,
And Harald of renown!

"Yea, while the milk was on his lips,
Before the day was born,
He took the Almayne Kaiser's head
To be his drinking-horn!

"Yea, while the down was on his chin,
Or yet his beard was grown,
He broke the gates of Micklegarth,
And stole the lion-throne!

"Drink to Harald, king of the world,
Lord of the tongue and the troth!
To the bellowing horns of Ostfriesland,
And the trumpets of the Goth!"

Their shouts rolled to the rafters,
The drink-horns crashed and rang,
And all their talk was a clangor of war,
As swords together sang!

But dimly, through the deep night,
Where stars like flowers shone,
A passionate shape came gliding --
I saw one thing alone.

I only saw my young love
Shining against the dark,
The whiteness of her raiment,
The head that bent to hark.

I only saw my young love,
Like flowers in the sun --
Her hands like waxen petals,
Where yawning poppies run.

I only felt there, chrysmal,
Against my cheek her breath,
Though all the winds were baying,
And the sky bright with Death.

Red sparks whirled up the chimney,
A hungry flaught of flame,
And a lean man from Greece arose;
Thrasyllos was his name.

"I praise all noble wines!" he cried,
"Green robes of tissue fine,
Peacocks and apes and ivory,
And Homer's sea-loud line,

"Statues and rings and carven gems,
And the wise crawling sea;
But most of all the crowns of kings,
The rule they wield thereby!

"Power, fired power, blank and bright!
A fit hilt for the hand!
The one good sword for a freeman,
While yet the cold stars stand!"

Their shouts rolled to the rafters,
The air was thick with wine.
I only knew her deep eyes,
And felt her hand in mine.

Softly as quiet water,
One finger touched my cheek;
Her face like gracious moonlight --
I might not move nor speak.

I only saw that beauty,
I only felt that form
There, in the silken darkness --
God wot my heart was warm!

Their shouts rolled to the rafters,
Another chief began;
His slit lips showed him for a Hun;
He was an evil man.

"Sing to the joys of women!" he yelled,
"The hot delicious tents,
The soft couch, and the white limbs;
The air a steam of scents!"

His eyes gleamed, and he wet his lips,
The rafters shook with cheers,
As he sang of woman, who is man's slave
For all unhonored years.

"Whether the wanton laughs amain,
With one white shoulder bare,
Or in a sacked room you unbind
Some crouching maiden's hair;

"This is the only good for man,
Like spices of the South --
To see the glimmering body laid
As pasture to his mouth!

"To leave no lees within the cup,
To see and take and rend;
To lap a girl's limbs up like wine,
And laugh, knowing the end!"

Only, like low, still breathing,
I heard one voice, one word;
And hot speech poured upon my lips,
As my hands held a sword.

"Fools, thrice fools of lust!" I cried,
"Your eyes are blind to see
Eternal beauty, moving far,
More glorious than horns of war!
But though my eyes were one blind scar,
That sight is shown to me!

"You nuzzle at the ivory side,
You clasp the golden head;
Fools, fools, who chatter and sing,
You have taken the sign of a terrible thing,
You have drunk down God with your beeswing,
And broken the saints for bread!

"For God moves darkly,
In silence and in storm;
But in the body of woman
He shows one burning form.

"For God moves blindly,
In darkness and in dread;
But in the body of woman
He raises up the dead.

"Gracile and straight as birches,
Swift as the questing birds,
They fill true-lovers' drink-horns up,
Who speak not, having no words.

"Love is not delicate toying,
A slim and shimmering mesh;
It is two souls wrenched into one,
Two bodies made one flesh.

"Lust is a sprightly servant,
Gallant where wines are poured;
Love is a bitter master,
Love is an iron lord.

"Satin ease of the body,
Fattened sloth of the hands,
These and their like he will not send,
Only immortal fires to rend --
And the world's end is your journey's end,
And your stream chokes in the sands.

"Pleached calms shall not await you,
Peace you shall never find;
Nought but the living moorland
Scourged naked by the wind.

"Nought but the living moorland,
And your love's hand in yours;
The strength more sure than surety,
The mercy that endures.

"Then, though they give you to be burned,
And slay you like a stoat,
You have found the world's heart in the turn of a cheek,
Heaven in the lift of a throat.

"Although they break you on the wheel,
That stood so straight in the sun,
Behind you the trumpets split the sky,
Where the lost and furious fight goes by --
And God, our God, will have victory
When the red day is done!"

Their mirth rolled to the rafters,
They bellowed lechery;
Light as a drifting feather
My love slipped from my knee.

Within, the lights were yellow
In drowsy rooms and warm;
Without, the stabbing lightning
Shattered across the storm.

Within, the great logs crackled,
The drink-horns emptied soon;
Without, the black cloaks of the clouds
Strangled the waning moon.

My love crossed o'er the threshold --
God! but the night was murk!
I set myself against the cold,
And left them to their work.

Their shouts rolled to the rafters;
A bitterer way was mine,
And I left them in the tavern,
Drinking the yellow wine!

The last faint echoes rang along the plains,
Died, and were gone. The genie spoke: "Thy song
Serves well enough -- but yet thy task remains;
Many and rending pains
Shall torture him who dares delay too long!"

His brown face hardened to a leaden mask.
A bitter brine crusted the fisher's cheek --
"Almighty God, one thing alone I ask,
Show me a task, a task!"
The hard cup of the sky shone, gemmed and bleak.

"O love, whom I have sought by devious ways;
O hidden beauty, naked as a star;
You whose bright hair has burned across my days,
Making them lamps of praise;
O dawn-wind, breathing of Arabia!

"You have I served. Now fire has parched the vine,
And Death is on the singers and the song.
No longer are there lips to cling to mine,
And the heart wearies of wine,
And I am sick, for my desire is long.

"O love, soft-moving, delicate and tender!
In her gold house the pipe calls querulously,
They cloud with thin green silks her body slender,
They talk to her and tend her;
Come, piteous, gentle love, and set me free!"

He ceased -- and, slowly rising o'er the deep,
A faint song chimed, grew clearer, till at last
A golden horn of light began to creep
Where the dumb ripples sweep,
Making the sea one splendor where it passed.

A golden boat! The bright oars rested soon,
And the prow met the sand. The purple veils
Misting the cabin fell. Fair as the moon
When the morning comes too soon,
And all the air is silver in the dales,

A gold-robed princess stepped upon the beach.
The fisher knelt and kissed her garment's hem,
And then her lips, and strove at last for speech.
The waters lapped the reach.
"Here thy strength breaks, thy might is nought to stem!"

He cried at last. Speech shook him like a flame:
"Yea, though thou plucked the stars from out the sky,
Each lovely one would be a withered shame --
Each thou couldst find or name --
To this fire-hearted beauty!" Wearily

The genie heard. A slow smile came like dawn
Over his face. "Thy task is done!" he said.
A whirlwind roared, smoke shattered, he was gone;
And, like a sudden horn,
The moon shone clear, no longer smoked and red.

They passed into the boat. The gold oars beat
Loudly, then fainter, fainter, till at last
Only the quiet waters barely moved
Along the whispering sand -- till all the vast
Expanse of sea began to shake with heat,
And morning brought soft airs, by sailors loved.

And after? . . . Well . . .
The shop-bell clangs! Who comes?
Quinine -- I pour the little bitter grains
Out upon blue, glazed squares of paper. So.
And all the dusk I shall sit here alone,
With many powers in my hands -- ah, see
How the blurred labels run on the old jars!
Opium -- and a cruel and sleepy scent,
The harsh taste of white poppies; India --
The writhing woods a-crawl with monstrous life,
Save where the deodars are set like spears,
And a calm pool is mirrored ebony;
Opium -- brown and warm and slender-breasted
She rises, shaking off the cool black water,
And twisting up her hair, that ripples down,
A torrent of black water, to her feet;
How the drops sparkle in the moonlight! Once
I made a rhyme about it, singing softly:

Over Damascus every star
Keeps his unchanging course and cold,
The dark weighs like an iron bar,
The intense and pallid night is old,
Dim the moon's scimitar.

Still the lamps blaze within those halls,
Where poppies heap the marble vats
For girls to tread; the thick air palls;
And shadows hang like evil bats
About the scented walls.

The girls are many, and they sing;
Their white feet fall like flakes of snow,
Making a ceaseless murmuring --
Whispers of love, dead long ago,
And dear, forgotten Spring.

One alone sings not. Tiredly
She sees the white blooms crushed, and smells
The heavy scent. They chatter: "See!
White Zira thinks of nothing else
But the morn's jollity --

"Then Haroun takes her!" But she dreams,
Unhearing, of a certain field
Of poppies, cut by many streams,
Like lines across a round Turk shield,
Where now the hot sun gleams.

The field whereon they walked that day,
And splendor filled her body up,
And his; and then the trampled clay,
And slow smoke climbing the sky's cup
From where the village lay.

And after -- much ache of the wrists,
Where the cords irked her -- till she came,
The price of many amethysts,
Hither. And now the ultimate shame
Blew trumpet in the lists.

And so she trod the poppies there,
Remembering other poppies, too,
And did not seem to see or care.
Without, the first gray drops of dew
Sweetened the trembling air.

She trod the poppies. Hours passed
Until she slept at length -- and Time
Dragged his slow sickle. When at last
She woke, the moon shone, bright as rime,
And night's tide rolled on fast.

She moaned once, knowing everything;
Then, bitterer than death, she found
The soft handmaidens, in a ring,
Come to anoint her, all around,
That she might please the king.

Opium -- and the odor dies away,
Leaving the air yet heavy -- cassia -- myrrh --
Bitter and splendid. See, the poisons come,
Trooping in squat green vials, blazoned red
With grinning skulls: strychnine, a pallid dust
Of tiny grains, like bones ground fine; and next
The muddy green of arsenic, all livid,
Likest the face of one long dead -- they creep
Along the dusty shelf like deadly beetles,
Whose fangs are carved with runnels, that the blood
May run down easily to the blind mouth
That snaps and gapes; and high above them there,
My master's pride, a cobwebbed, yellow pot
Of honey from Mount Hybla. Do the bees
Still moan among the low sweet purple clover,
Endlessly many? Still in deep-hushed woods,
When the incredible silver of the moon
Comes like a living wind through sleep-bowed branches,
Still steal dark shapes from the enchanted glens,
Which yet are purple with high dreams, and still
Fronting that quiet and eternal shield
Which is much more than Peace, does there still stand
One sharp black shadow -- and the short, smooth horns
Are clear against that disk?
O great Diana!
I, I have praised thee, yet I do not know
What moves my mind so strangely, save that once
I lay all night upon a thymy hill,
And watched the slow clouds pass like heaped-up foam
Across blue marble, till at last no speck
Blotted the clear expanse, and the full moon
Rose in much light, and all night long I saw
Her ordered progress, till, in midmost heaven,
There came a terrible silence, and the mice
Crept to their holes, the crickets did not chirp,
All the small night-sounds stopped -- and clear pure light
Rippled like silk over the universe,
Most cold and bleak; and yet my heart beat fast,
Waiting until the stillness broke. I know not
For what I waited -- something very great --
I dared not look up to the sky for fear
A brittle crackling should clash suddenly
Against the quiet, and a black line creep
Across the sky, and widen like a mouth,
Until the broken heavens streamed apart,
Like torn lost banners, and the immortal fires,
Roaring like lions, asked their meat from God.
I lay there, a black blot upon a shield
Of quivering, watery whiteness. The hush held
Until I staggered up and cried aloud,
And then it seemed that something far too great
For knowledge, and illimitable as God,
Rent the dark sky like lightning, and I fell,
And, falling, heard a wild and rushing wind
Of music, and saw lights that blinded me
With white, impenetrable swords, and felt
A pressure of soft hands upon my lips,
Upon my eyelids -- and since then I cough
At times, and have strange thoughts about the stars,
That some day -- some day --
Come, I must be quick!
My master will be back soon. Let me light
Thin blue Arabian pastilles, and sit
Like a dead god incensed by chanting priests,
And watch the pungent smoke wreathe up and up,
Until he comes -- though he may rage because
They cost good money. Then I shall walk home
Over the moor. Already the moon climbs
Above the world's edge. By the time he comes
She will be fully risen. -- There's his step!

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