SONGS OF THE SPIRIT.1

1898.

 

{columns resume}

 

SONGS OF THE SPIRIT.

"A fool also is full of words."

Ecclesiastes.

 

DEDICATION

To J. L. BAKER.

THE vault of purple that I strove

To pierce, and find unchanging love,

Or some vast countenance2

All glory of the soul of man.

Baffled my blind aspiring gaze

With sunlight’s melancholy rays,

And closed with iron hand the ways

That sunder space, divide the days with fiery fan.

Thine was the forehead mild and grave

That shown throughout the azure nave

Where Monte Rosa’s silence gave

The starry organ’s measured sound.

Where for an altar stood the bare

Mass of Mont Cervin,3 towering there;

And angels dwelt upon the stair,

And all the mountains were aware that stood around.

Thine was the passionless divine

High hope, and the pure purpose thine,

Higher and purer than stars shine,

And thine the unexpressed delight

To hold high commune with the wind

That sings, in midnight black and blind,

Strange chants, the murmurs of the mind,

To grasp the hands of heaven and find the lords of light. {29A}

Mine was the holy fire that drew

Its perfect passion from the dew,

And all the flowers that blushed and blew

On sunny slopes by little brooks.

Mine the desire that brushed aside

The thorns, and would not be denied,

And sought, more eager than a bride,

The cold grey secrets wan and wide of sacred books.

Thine was the hand that guided me

By moor and mountain, vale and lea,

And led me to the sudden sea

That lies superb, remote, and deep,

Showed me things wonderful, unbound

The fetters that beset me round,

Opened my waking ear to sound

That may not by a man be found, except in sleep.

Thy presence was as subtle flame

Burning in dawny groves; thy name

Like dew upon the hills became,

And all thy mind a star most bright;

And, following with wakeful eyes

The strait meridian of the wise,

My feet tread under stars and skies;

My spirit soars and seeks and flies, a child of light.

Thus eager, may my purpose stand

Firm as the faith of honest hand,

Nor change like castles built of sand

Until the sweet unchanging end.

Happy not only that my eye

Single and strong may win the sky,

But that one day the birds that fly

Heard your fair friendship call me by the name of friend. {29A}

 

THE GOAD.

ανυγρο&nu αμπταιην

αιθερα πορσο

γαιασ Ελλανιασ

αστερασ

εσπερουσ

οιον, οιον

αλγοσ επαθον,

φιλαι.

EURIPIDES.

 

AMSTERDAM, "December" 23"rd", 1897.

LET me pass out beyond the city gate.

All day I loitered in the little streets

Of black worn houses tottering, like the fate

That hangs above my head even now, and meets

Prayer and defiance as not hearing it.

They lean, these old black streets! a little sky

Peeps through the gap, the rough stone path is lit

Just for a little by the sun, and I

Watch his red face pass over, fade away

To other streets, and other passengers,

See him take pleasure where the heathen pray,

See him relieve the hunter of his furs,

All the wide world awaiting him, all folk

Glad at his coming, only I must weep:

Rise he or sink, my weary eyes invoke

Only the respite of a little sleep;

Sleep, just a little space of sleep, to rest

The fevered head and cool the aching eyes;

Sleep for a space, to fall upon the breast

Of the dear God, that He may sympathise.

Long has the day drawn out; a bitter frost

Sparkles along the streets; the shipping heaves

With the slow murmur of the sea, half lost

In the last rustle of forgotten leaves.

Over the bridges pass the throngs; the sound,

Deep and insistent, penetrates the mist —

I hear it not, I contemplate the wound

Stabbed in the flanks of my dear silver Christ.

He hangs in anguish there; the crown of thorns

Pierces that palest brow; the nails drip blood; {30A}

There is the wound; no Mary by Him mourns,

There is no John beside the cruel wood;

I am alone to kiss the silver lips;

I rend my clothing for the temple veil;

My heart’s black night must act the sun’s eclipse;

My groans must play the earthquake, till I quail

At my own dark imagining; and now

The wind is bitterer; the air breeds snow;

I put my Christ away; I turn my brow

Towards the south stedfastly; my feet must go

Some journey of despair. I dare not turn

To meet the sun; I will not follow him:

Better to pass where sand and sulphur burn,

And days are hazed with heat, and nights are dim

With some malarial poison. Better lie

Far and forgotten on some desert isle,

Where I may watch the silent ships go by,

And let them share my burden for a while.

Let me pass out beyond the city gate

Where I may wander by the water still,

And see the faint few stars immaculate

Watch their own beauty in its depth, and chill

Their own desire within its icy stream.

Let me move on with vacant eyes, as one

Lost in the labyrinth of some ill dream,

Move and move on, and never see the sun

Lap all the mist with orange and red gold,

Throw some lank windmill into iron shade,

And stir the chill canal with manifold

Rays of clear morning; never grow afraid

When he dips down beyond the far flat land,

Know never more the day and night apart,

Know not where frost has laid his iron hand

Save only that it fastens on my heart;

Save only that it grips with icy fire

These veins no fire of hell could satiate;

Save only that it quenches this desire.

Let me pass out beyond the city gate. {30A}

 

IN MEMORIAM A. J. B.4

THE life (by angels’ touch divinely lifted

From our dim space-bounds to a vaster sphere),

The spirit, through the vision of clouds rifted,

Soars quick and clear.

Even so, the mists that roll o'er earth are riven,

The spirit flashes forth from mortal sight,

And, flaming through the viewless space, is given

A robe of light.

As when the conqueror Christ burst forth of prison,

And triumph woke the thunder of the spheres,

So brake the soul, as newly re-arisen

Beyond the years.

Far above Space and Time, that earth environ

With bands and bars we strive against in vain,

Far o'er the world, and all its triple iron

And brazen chain,

Far from the change that men call life fled higher

Into the world immutable of sleep,

We see our loved one, and vain eyes desire

In vain to weep.

Woeful our gaze, if on lone Earth descendent,

To view the absence of yon flame afar —

Yet in the Heavens, anew, divine, resplendent,

Behold a star!

One light the less, that steady flamed and even

Amid the dusk of Earth’s uncertain shore;

One light the less, but in Jehovah’s Heaven

One star the more! {31A}

 

THE QUEST.

APART, immutable, unseen,

Being, before itself had been,

Became. Like dew a triple queen

Shone as the void uncovered:

The silence of deep height was drawn

A veil across the silver dawn

On holy wings that hovered.5

The music of three thoughts became

The beauty, that is one white flame,

The justice that surpasses shame,

The victory, the splendour,

The sacred fountain that is whirled

From depths beyond that older world

A new world to engender.6

The kingdom is extended.7 Night

Dwells, and I contemplate the sight

That is not seeing, but the light

That secretly is kindled,

Though oft time its most holy fire

Lacks oil, whene’er my own Desire

Before desire has dwindled.

I see the thin web binding me

With thirteen cords of unity8

Toward the calm centre of the sea.

(O thou supernal mother!)9

The triple light my path divides

To twain and fifty sudden sides10

Each perfect as each other. {31A}

Now backwards, inwards still my mind

Must track the intangible and blind,

And seeking, shall securely find

Hidden in secret places

Fresh feasts for every soul that strives,

New life for many mystic lives,

And strange new forms and faces.

My mind still searches, and attains

By many days and many pains

To That which Is and Was and reigns

Shadowed in four and ten,11

And loses self in sacred lands,

And cries and quickens, and understands

Beyond the first Amen.12

 

THE ALCHEMIST

THIS POEM WAS INTENDED AS THE PROLOGUE TO A PLAY — AT PRESENT

UNFINISHED. 13

"An old tower, very loft, on a small and rocky islet. In the highest

chamber a man of some forty years, but silver-haired, looks out of the

window. Clear starry night, no moon. Chamber furnished with books,

alchemic instruments, etc. He gazes some minutes, sighs deeply, but at

last speaks."

THE world moves not. I gaze upon the abyss,

Look down into the black unfathomed vault

Of Starland and behold — myself

The sea

To give a sense of motion or of sound

Washes the wall of this grey tower in vain;

I contemplate myself in that dim sphere

Whose hollow centre I am standing at

With burning eyes intent to penetrate

The black circumference, and find out God — {32A}

And only see myself. The walls of Space

Mock me with silence. What is Life? The stars

Are silent. O ye matchless ministers

That daily pass in your appointed ways

To reach — we know not what! How meaningless

Your bright assemblage and your steady task

Of doubtful motion. And the soul of man

Grapples in death-pangs with your mystery,

And fails to wrestle down the hard embrace

That grips the thighs of thought. And so he dies

To pass beyond ye — whither? To find God?

All my life long I have gazed, and dreamed, and thought,

Unless my thought itself were but a dream,

A little, trouble dream, a dream of death

Whence I may wake — ah, where? In some new world

Where Consciousness doth touch the Infinite,

And all the strivings of the soul be found

Sufficient to beat back the waves of doubt,

To pierce the void, and grasp the glorious,

To find out Truth? Would God it might be so,

Since there is nothing for the soul to love

Or cling to beyond self. My chamberlain

Once showed me a pet slave, dwarf, savage, black,

A vile, lewd creature, who would cast a staff14

Far wheeling through the air: — ’twould suddenly

Break its swift course, and curving rapidly

Come hard upon himself who threw. Even so

These vile deformities — our souls — cast forth

Missiles of thought, and seek to reach some end

With swift imagining — and end in self.

What sage15 called God the image of man’s self

He sees cast dimly on a bank of cloud,

Thrice his own size? And I whose life has been

["Cry without." {32A}

One bitter fight with nature and myself

To find Him out, turn, terrible, to-night

["Cry without."

To see myself — myself — myself.

["Cry without."

Hush! Hark!

Methought I heard a cry. The seamew wails

Less humanly than that — I will go down

And seek the stranger.

["Making as to leave room."

E'en this rocky isle

Shall prove a friend —

"A Voice."16 Stand still.

"Philosopher." Again! Is this

The warning of a mind o’er-strained?

["Moving towards door."

"Voice." Stand still

And see salvation in Jehovah’s hands.

"Ph." Is this the end of life?

"Voice." Thy Life begins.

"Ph." Strange Voice, I hear thee, and obey. Perchance

I have not lived so far. Perchance to-day,

Like a spring-flower that slowly opens out

Its willing petals to the tender dawn,

My soul may open to the knowledge of

A dawn of new thought that may lead —

"Voice." To God.

"Ph." Hope hardly dared to name it!

 

"Enter" Messenger.

"Mess." My lord, the king’s command!

"Ph." I heed it not.

See thou disturb not my high meditation.

Away!

"Voice." With meditations centred in thyself.

"Mess." Who spoke?

"Ph." Speak thou. I obey the king.

"Mess." My lord,

He bids thee to his court, to hold the reins

Tight on the fretful horses of the state

Whose weary burden makes them slip — nay, fall

On the stern hill of war. Thou art appointed, {33A}

Being the wisest man in all the realm,

(So spake the king) the second to himself —

"Ph." Thy vessel waits?

"Mess." For dawn.

"Ph." Then hasten thee

To tell them I am ready. The meanwhile

I will devote to prayer.

"Mess." At dawn, my lord.

["Exit" Messenger.

"Ph." ["Turns to window."] O makes and O Ruler of all Worlds,

Illimitable power, immortal God,

Vague, vast, unknown, dim-looking, scarcely spied

Through doubtful crannies of the Universe,

Unseen, intangible, eluding sense

And poor conception, halting for a phrase

Of weak mind-language, O Eternity,

Hear thou the feeble world, the lame desire,

The dubious crying of the pinioned dove,

The wordless eloquent emotion

That speaks with a man, despite his mind!

Hear, who can pray for naught, unknowing aught

Whereof, for what to pray. But hear me, thou!

Hear me, thou God, who fettered the bleak winds

Of North and East, and held in silken rein

The golden steeds of West and South, who bade

The tireless sea respect its narrow bounds,

And fixed the mountains, that eternal ice

Might be thy chiefest witness, and who wove

The myriad atoms of Infinitude

Into the solid tapestry of night,

And gave the sun his heat, and bade him kiss

The lips of death upon the moon’s dark face,

So that her silver lustre might rejoice

The fiery lover, the sharp nightingale,

And those pale mortals whom the day beholds.

Asleep, because the many bid them slave {33A}

From dusk to dawn being poor; and braided up

The loose hair of all trees and flowers, and made

Their one white light divide to red and green

And violet17 and the hues innumerable

Lesser than these, and gave man hope at last

With the invariable law of death

Abundant in new life, and having filled

The world with music, dost demand of us

"Is my work meaningless?" O thou, supreme,

Thou, First and Last, most inconceivable

All-radiating Unity, thou sphere

All-comprehensive, all-mysterious,

Spirit of Life and Death, bow down and hear!

["Bends deeper and prays silently. The flame grows duller, and

finally leaves the room in absolute darkness. Curtain."

 

SONNETS TO NIGHT.

I.

O NIGHT! the very mother of us all,

For from thy hollow womb we children came,

A little space to flicker as a flame,

And then within thy tender arms to fall

Tired, fain of nothing but to lie at last

Upon thy bosom, and gaze in thine eyes

Clear, calm, dispassionate, supremely wise,

And pass with thee the gates that must be passed.18

O Night, on thee is set our only hope,

Because our eyes, to tender for the day,

Are dazed with sunlight, and poor fingers grope

For those far truths that mock our vague endeavour, {34A}

Whilst we may find in thee the secrets grey

Of all things God would fain have hid for ever.

 

II.

All things grow still before thine awful face.

Now fails the lover’s sigh; Sleep’s angel clings

About the children with her dreamy wings,

And all the world is silent for a space.

The waving of thy dusky plumes in heaven

Alone breathes gentle music to mine ears,

So that despair is fain to flee, and fear

Cowers far away amid the shades of even.

"Hope," is thy whisper, "hope, and trust in Night;

My realm is the eternal, and my power

The absolute. My child, gird on thy strength;

Clothe limbs with lustiness, and mind with might,

That, communing with me, though for an hour,

Thou mayest conquer when day comes at length."

 

THE PHILOSOPHER’S PROGRESS.

"That which is above, is like that which is below; and that which is

below is like that which is above."

HERMES TRISMEGISTUS.

THAT which is highest as the deep

Is fixed, the depth as that above:

Death’s face is as the face of Sleep;

And Lust is likest Love.

So stand the angels one by one.

Higher and higher with lamps of gold:

So stand the shining devils; none

Their brightness may behold. {34A}

I took my life, as one who takes

Young gold to ruin and to spend;

I sought their gulfs and fiery lakes,

And sought no happy end.

I said: the height is as the deep,

Twin breasts of one white dove;

Death’s face is as the face of Sleep,

And Lust is likest Love.

And with my blood I forced the door

That guards the palaces of sin;

I reached the lake’s cinereous19 shore;

I passed those groves within.

My blood was wasted in her veins,

To freshen them, who stood like death,

Our Lady of ten thousand Pains

With heavy kissing breath.

I said: Our Lady is as God,

Her hell of pain as heaven above;

Death’s feet, like Sleep’s, with fire are shod,

And Lust is likest Love.

Our Lady crushed me in her bed;

Between her breasts my life was wet;

My lips from that sweet death were fed;

I died, and would forget.

But so God would not have me die;

Her deadly lips relax and fade,

Her body slackens with a sigh

Reluctant, like a maid.

I said: O vampire20 Lover, weep,

Who cannot follow me above,

Though Death may masquerade as Sleep,

And Lust laugh out like Love.

But God’s strong arms set under me

Lifted my spirit through the air

Beyond the wide supernal sea,21

Beyond the veil of vair. {35A}

God said: My ways are sweet and deep;

The sceptres and the swords thereof

Change: for Death’s face is fair as Sleep;

And Lust is clean as Love.

I slept upon His breast; and Death

Came like Sleep’s angel, and I died,

And tasted the Lethean breath.

There was a voice that cried:

Behold, I stand above His head

With feet made white with whitest fire,

Above His forehead, that is red

As blood with His Desire.

I knew that Voice was more than God,

And echo trembled for its trust:

Sleep’s feet, like Death’s, with fire are shod,

And Love is likest Lust.

So I returned and sought her breast,

Our Lady of ten thousand Pains;

I drank her kisses, and possessed

Her pale maternal veins.

I said: Drain hard my sudden breath,

Be cruel for the vampire thrust!

Let Sleep’s desire be sweet as Death,

And Love be clean as Lust!

I died amid her kisses: so

This last time I would not forget —

So I attained The Life;22 and know

Her lips and God’s have met.

For in Those Hands23 above His head

The Depth is one with That Above,

And Sleep and Death and Life are dead,

And Lust is One with Love. {35A}

 

SONNET.

THE woods are very quiet, and the stream

Hardly awakes the stilled ear with its word;

The voice of wind above like dawn is heard,

And all the air moves up, a sultry steam,

Here in the flower-land, where I lie and dream

And understand the silence of the bird;

My sorrow and my weakness are interred

In the deep water where the pebbles gleam.

I rouse the force persistent of my will

To compel matter to the soul’s desire,

To make Heaven aid the mind that would aspire

To touch its borders, and to drink their fill

At those far fountains whence one drop of dew24

Descends upon my head from yonder blue.

 

AN ILL DREAM.

IN the grim woods when all the bare black branches

Creak out their curses like a gallows-tree,

When the miasmal pestilence-light dances,

A spectre-flame, through midnight’s infamy.

My blood grows chill and stagnant with my shame.

O Love, to speak thy name!

O Life! O Heaven! O dreams long dead! Ye Spirits

Rising unbidden from Hope’s cobwebbed25 door,

Ye quick desires that every soul inherits,

Leave me to weep, and torture me no more!

My face grows grey with sheer despair; I shrink

From dreams; I dare not think. {36A}

I had a poet’s dreams. My soul was yearning

To grasp the firmament and hold it fast,

To reach toward God, and, from His shrine returning,

To sing in magic melodies the vast

Desires of God towards man — O dreams! O years

Drowned in these bitter tears!

I felt the springs of youth within me leaping,

Let loose my pleasure, never guessed that pain

Was worth the holding — now, my life is weeping

Itself away, those agonies to gain

Which are my one last hope, that by some cross

Eld may avenge youth’s loss!

Yet still youth burns! The hours its pleasure wasted

Compel their bitter memories to grow sweet;

Like some warm-perfumed poison if I tasted,

Felt its fierce savour pulse, and burn, and beat;

Yet in my veins its sleepy fire might bring

Strange dreams of some sweet thing.

Half a regret and half a shuddering terror,

The past lies desolate and yet is here,

Half guide, half tempter toward the stream of error,

On whose fresh bosom many a mariner

Puts out with silken sail — to find his grave

In its voluptuous wave.

Here are few rocks whereon a ship hath peril;

No storms may ruffle its insidious stream;

Only, no fish invade its waters sterile,

No white-winged birds above it glance and gleam,

Only, it hath no shore, no wave, but gloom

Wraps it within her womb. {36A}

No sun is mirrored in its treacherous water,

Only the false moon flickers and flits by

Like to the bloodless phantom shape of slaughter

Laughing a lipless laugh — a mockery,

A ghastly memory to wake and weep

— Should Sorrow let me sleep.

No current draws a man, to his fair seeming,

Yet all the while he whirls a stealthy sweep

Narrower, nearer, where the wave is steaming

With the slight spray tossed from that funnel deep

Which dips, one wide black shaft, most horrible,

Down to the nether Hell.

Yet there seems time. God’s grief has not forgotten

His mighty arm, and with His pitying breath

A strong wind woke me ere my boat grew rotten

With venom of the stream, that quivereth

Now as He blew upon it — fish and bird

Live at that silent word!

And I arose to seek the oars of Lying

Wherewith I had embarked — the wind had torn

Their wood to splinters — "Jesus! I am dying!

Send me Thy cross to fashion some unborn

Oarage of Truth to quit this stream of Death!"

O vain, O wasted breath!

I have no strength. Upright I kneel, lamenting

The days when Love seemed fair, the bitter years

When pain might have found truth, ere unrelenting

I shipwrecked Life! O agony of tears!

Vain tears! In silence, with abated breath

I drift, drift on to Death! {37A}

 

THE PRIEST SPEAKS.

("Boccacio. Day IV. Tale VIII.)"

LAY them together for the sake of Love

Within a little plot of piteous earth,

When life’s last flower is faded in the sun.

Lay them together in the tender ground

That summer showers may shed a trembling tear.

And summer breezes whisper melodies

Of pity. Lay them there, and when the sky

Opens a lingering eyelash of deep cloud,

And the sea sparkles out from under it

To kiss the earth into awakening

From the dream-slumbers that its fancies weave —

Fancies of starlight on the lucent sea

Gleaming from wide horizon to the feet

Of Cynthia’s bow, all silver-shot with fire,

That virgin flame that lingers evermore

In the sweet phantasies of subtle sleep —

Fancies of lonely shadows darkly strewn

About the leaves of autumn in the woods,

Where the small floweret, hidden by the maze

Of the dying children of the copper-beech,

Lifts a blue forehead to the sun to kiss —

Fancies of old romance too pitiful

For any delicate quill to light upon —

Yes, when the sky from stainless ebony

Merges in azure, like as if the light

Of stars had melted into all the black

To gladden it, O then the solemn hush

Of morning shall behold the silent grave,

And wait a moment in rich worshipping

Of Love, creator of the world’s delight,

Till the full chorus of the spirits of fire

(Whose mighty shoulders and wide-flashing wings

Bear the proud sun from his luxurious bed

Of rosy fleeces in the West low lying

Into the staircase of the jealous day)

Burst on the silence of the world beyond

And bid the listening poet catch the strain

Of their half-echoed hymn. But come, my friends, {37A}

Lay them together, breast to maiden breast,

Limb linked with limb, and lips to pallid lips,

So beautiful in death — the moth o' th' mind

Tells the grief-numbed senses "'Tis but sleep.

See! the pale glimmer of a ghostly arm

Flashes a spot of light!" Ah! weary day!

'Tis but the flickering of the candle-light

And the unmanning sorrow of the heart

That lends the reins to fancy’s charioteer.

Lay them together, let us leave them there!

There comes a vision to my mortal eyes

Of things immortal. Hark! the growing swell

Of some wild clarion through the dazzling night,

Whose fairy aether suddenly illumes

With silver meteors innumerable

And golden showers of stars — lost worlds of thought

And poets' dreams, and jewels of virgin sighs.

Hark! the broad rings of sound go wavering on

Eddying and rippling through the desart sky

That now is peopled with the diamond wings

That float through all the palaces of God.

O now to join them rise the armies vast

Of the lone spirits of the empty tomb,

And there I see the lovers piteous

Splendidly flash within the silver sphere

Of light, and there I lose them at the last

Most wonderfully passed within the veil

Of Time; caught up into the Infinite.

Lay them together. And the hollow hill

Shall echo me "together," and the sky,

And the wide sea, and all the fragrant air,

Shall linger in the tumult of the dawn.

Lay them together. And the still small voice

Shall whisper "Peace," and in the evening "Peace."

 

THE VIOLET'S LOVE-STORY.

AMONG the lilies of the sacred stream

There grew a violet, like a maiden’s dream,

And when the wind passed over them, it stirred

Their white soft petals with its quiet word. {38A}

The sun looked on them and their leaves were glad;

Only the purple blossom there, that had

No kindred by the stream, let fall a tear,

Half wishing for the autumn of the year.

But when the summer came, the violet guessed

By some slow dream that thrilled her gentle breast,

That some sweet thing might come to her; she thought

Through the long days of how her dream was wrought:

She guessed it woven of the spider’s thread,

And coloured like the river’s changing bed

Where polished pebbles shine; she guessed it frail

And perfect, with pure wings, like silver pale.

So there, behind the leaves and stems, her lids

Grew deep with veins of love, and Bassarids26

Racing the dim woods through, beheld her face,

Whispered together, and desired the place.

The grey was blushing in the Eastern sky

When there drew near a child of poesy

With full lips very tender, and grave eyes

Where deep thoughts dwelt in some delicious wise.

He looked upon the lilies, and a tear

Dropped on their blossom; but a little fear

Came to the bosom of the violet

Lest he see not, or see her, and forget.

But he did see her, and drew close, and said:

"O perfect passion of my soul, O dead

Living desire, O sweet unspoken sin,

Leave thou the lilies; they are not thy kin. {38A}

"Within my heart one slow sweet whisper stole

Consuming and destroying all my soul

Lest, if the pure cold mind should conquer it,

I might not know, although it still were sweet.

"My pure desires arose and cast out love

That flew away, most like a wounded dove,

Only the drops were mine its bosom bled.

Now the last time it hovers by my head:

"Now the last time I turn and go to her."

The violet smiled at him: his fingers fair

Plucked the sweet blossom to his breast; his eyes

Mused like delight, and like desire were wise.

There was a maiden like the sun, to whom

His footsteps turned amid the myriad bloom

Of flowers and leafy pathways of the wood,

Where, in a dell of roses white, she stood.

He came to her and looked so dear and deep

Into her eyes, the wells and woods of sleep,

And took the violet from his breast, and stood

A glad young god within the golden wood.

He kissed the blossom, and bent very low,

And put it to her lips — and even so

His lips were set on them; the flower sighed

For deep delight, and in the long kiss died.

Years fled and faded, yet a flower was seen

Gracious and comely in its nest of green,

And tender hands would water it and say:

"O happy sister, she that went away!

"For she brought back my lover to my heart,

And knew her work was perfect, and her part

Most perfect when she died between the breath,

And in the bridal kisses kissed to death." {39A}

So grew the newer blossom and was glad:

Sweet little hopes her faint fair forehead had

That one day such a death might crown her days.

And so God too was glad, the story says.

 

THE FAREWELL OF PARACELSUS TO APRILE.27

"Aprile." I would LOVE infinitely, and be loved.

BROWNING, "Paracelsus."

THOU Sun, whose swift desire to-day is dull,

And all ye hosts of heaven, whose lips are mute,

And trees and flowers and oceans beautiful

Among whose murmurs I have struck this lute

With joy supreme or agony acute,

And love transcending everything alway,

Pity me, pity, since the poisonous root

Of parting strikes the beauty of the day;

We meet for the last time beside the ocean gray.

Soul of my soul, we never can forget —

But, is our parting burnt across the skies?

Is the last word said? Must our lips be set

Not to new song, but to the bitter sighs

As of a child whose flower-garden dies,

Who knows no hope of some enduring spring?

Is the last song made, whose faint melodies

Brushed the pale air with an archangel’s wing?

Is Hope divorced, our queen? Is Love discrowned, our King?

Far o'er the Ocean sets a fiery star

And meteors cross the angry horizon;

A comet blazes, reddening the bar

Of silver water where the moonlight shone,

And, as I stand upon the cliff like one {39A}

Amazed, a shape seems always at my back

To whisper wickedness, o'erheard of none,

And stealthily to follow on my track,

And cloke my lifted eyes with suffocating black.

Vainly I turn to seek him, for my eyes

Are dimmed with saltness never born of brine;

Vainly I fight the air; he sneers, and lies.

He laughs at all this agony of mine.

He chills my heart, and desecrates the shrine

Where Love his holy incense used to burn.

He mocks those thoughts, those songs, those looks divine

While his lewd visage no man may discern,

And baffling darkness hides his terror if I turn.

Fighting and falling ever, weariest

Even of beating off the tempter’s blows,

Struggling in vain to what one hopes the best,

A distant river over many snows,

On whose green bank the purple iris glows,

And the anemone in some wild cleft,

With the white violet, and the briar rose,

And the blue gentian from the heavens reft —

Lo! 'Twas that golden bank but yester morn I left.

O river where we dwelt! Yon summer sward

Whereon we lay, two kings of earth and air;

For whom ten thousand angels had drawn sword

At our light bidding. Surely, surely, there

We might float ever to the sea, and spare

The dainty plumage of that perfect place.

O God! O Life! O Death, thou would`st not wear

Such evil mask upon thy golden face —

O Mary, pity me of thine abounding grace. {40A}

Those days are dead, and hope no newer birth.

I left thy shores, blue stream, at His command

Who reared the mountains from the shaken earth;

Who holds the lightning in His holy hand,

And binds the stars in adamantine band,

And yearns towards the children of His mind.

I left their summer and their dewy strand

To pass a life of work, alone, unkind,

To fight a way toward heaven, mute, desolate, and blind.

The dusty desert glimmers in the night;

A solitary palm-tree shades the well;

I am alone, a weary eremite

Striving the secrets of the stars to tell,

And every blade of grass that makes the dell

Is counted and divined by me, who stare

With eyes half blinded by the fires of Hell

That my wild brain imagines everywhere,

Roaring and raging round with red infernal glare.

The yellow sand toward the deep sky extends:

A dusky mirage would confuse my view;

Far, far away, where desolation ends,

There is a water of serenest blue;

And by it stands, as patient and as true

As in the past, his form to whom I turn,

And break my bondage and would touch anew

His holy lips; my body and spirit yearn;

He fades away, and fires of Hell within me burn.

Still, as I journey through the waste, I see

A silver figure more divine arise;

The Christ usurps the horizon for me.

And He requickens the forgotten skies;

His golden locks are burning on my eyes,

And He with rosy finger points the way,

The blood-wrought mystic path of Paradise

That leads at last through yonder icy spray

Of Death to the blue vaults of the undying day. {40A}

But oh! this desert is a weary land!

Poisons alone their prickly heads lift high;

The sun, a globe of fury, still doth stand

In the dark basin of the burning sky.

There is no water, no, nor herb, and I

Faint at his anger who compels the herd

To fall upon the waste, so fierce and dry

That none may pass it, not the very bird.

Throughout the vast expanse no single sound is heard.

Only the moaning of the dying ox,

And my parched cry for water from cracked lips;

In vain the stern impenetrable rocks

Mock my complaint: the empty pitcher dips

Into the empty well; the water drips,

Oozing in tiny drops caught up again

By the sun’s heat, that brooks not his eclipse

And dissipates the welcome clouds of rain.

God! have Thou pity soon on this amazing pain.

If but a lion stirred with distant roar

The silence of the world, perchance at last

I might find honey in his mouth, and store

His tawny flanks until the sand were past.28

Nay, but these wastes intolerably vast,

Like glowing copper raging for the heat,

Stretch and stretch on and leave me all aghast

Straining my eyes in horror and defeat

Toward the long vista seen where rescue seems to greet.

The vessel fills with brackish foam. I drink,

Drink to the end, and stagger on alone

Without a staff to hold me if I sink

In the hot quagmires of untrusty stone.

Foodless and beastless, so despairing grown,

I know not, care not, only trust that soon

The sun’s dominion may be overthrown,

And o'er the wilderness appear the moon

With cold lips to bestow the inestimable boon. {41A}

Still I have never prayed for death, but rather

Would be found fighting toward the goal I seek,

Stretching both hands toward a loving father,

And struggling toward some barren voiceless peak

With feet made stedfast, if God made them weak;

So, on the journey, in the hottest fight

I would be found by Death, whose palace bleak

Should be a resting-place until the night

Broke, and I met my God, and stood within His sight.

Only my brain grows feebler with the toil,

And clearer runs the river I forsook;

Now in clear pools its myriad fountains boil,

Now there runs singing to its breast a brook;

Now it flows gently to a little nook

Where I once rested — Ah! I clench my hand

And turn away with yet undaunted look,

Setting my face toward the distant land

That must lie somewhere far beyond this world of sand.

About me are the bones of many men

Who turned to God their rapt adoring eyes,

And cast away the love within their ken

For this vague treasure-house beyond the skies —

Whither I turn, like a dumb beast that dies,

A wistful look, and breathe a dumb complaint.

Lo! they have cast away the mask of lies

And not found Truth. So he would be a saint

Whose skeleton lies here because his soul did faint! {41A}

I will not turn toward Sodom any more.

Lest its ripe glades of fruit waft up their scent,

And draw me to them, what time heavens pour

Brimstone and fire from out the firmament,

And all my substance in its fall be spent;

Lest I lie there beneath a barren sea

Forgotten of high God, until there went

The final trumpet of the dead, who flee

Vainly that fearful blast of judgment. Woe is Me!

My feet, in spite of me, in circles bend;

I meet my own tracks often, all in vain

I seek some tower or cliff to make an end,29

I find no object on the distant plain;

Misty distortions crowd upon my brain,

And spectre fountains gurgle on the ground;

I drop to drink, and hear the horrid strain

Of chuckling devils, that grimace around,

And think I catch the note of Hell’s three-headed Hound.

Up still and staggering to the doubtful goal,

Feet dragging horribly behind, I move

Deathlike for dearth and for despair of soul;

At last I drop. From Heaven there comes a Dove

Bearing the semblance of the Man I love,

And fountains and fresh grass by magic spell

Are suddenly around me. And above

I hear the voice my visions know so well:

"Well striven all this day against the power of Hell!"

I know these mercies still diviner grow

Each day I strive. But should I sit and rest

One hour of dawn, and cry, "I will not go

Another step without more sleep," that blest

Dove flies away, the fountains are repressed, {42A}

The grass is withered, and the angry sky

Rages more fierce that day, and from the crest

Of black foul mountains comes a bitter cry:

"He that returneth now shall in destruction die."

So I press on. Fresh strength from day to day

Girds up my loins and beckons me on high.

So I depart upon the desert way,

So I strive ever toward the copper sky,

With lips burnt black and blind in either eye.

I move for ever to my mystic goal

Where I may drain a fountain never dry,

And of Life’s guerdon gather in the whole,

And on celestial manna satisfy my soul.

Each night new failure and each day fresh strength,

A sense of something nearer day by day;

Though the ill road’s intolerable length,

League upon league, fling back the torrid ray

Of the fierce sunlight night can scarce allay

With the incessant beating of cool wings,

And men’s bleached skeletons infest the way;

Yet Hope her passion like a flower brings,

And Courage ranks me with unconquerable kings.

So, in the power of these who guard my path,

I hope one day to earn a loftier crown

Than that pale garland fresh from summer scath

That I called Love, and lie delighted down

Beside the fountains, fled the roaring town,

Where we were happy all the summer through,

And merry when the autumn tinged with brown

The glades, and in the winter thought we knew

Behind the cloudy weather some far sky was blue. {42A}

That crown I hope for shall be garlanded

Of deathless flowers of equal bloom. And thou,

O thou true lover, thou beloved head

And marble pallor of a prince’s brow,

At the cliff’s edge we stand together now;

The parting of our ways has come at last.

Mine is the bitterest journey, as I trow,

A man may take, so solitary, so vast,

It binds the future now, and stultifies the past.

Only the hope that God may reunite

Our ways diverging, and make one again

The deathless love that burns a beacon bright

On the black deeps, the irremeable main,

That men must launch on, the exalted plain

Of life. We sever, and our tears are few,

Knowing perchance beyond the moment’s pain

We shall regather where the skies are blue,

And live and love for aye, pure, passionate, and true.

Also before my eyes there gleams from Heaven

The likeness of a Man in glory set;

The sun is blotted, and the skies are riven —

A God flames forth my spirit to beget;

And where my body and his love are met

A new desire possesses altogether

My whole new self as in a golden net

Of transcendental love one fiery tether,

Dissolving all my woe into one sea of weather.

So I am ready to assume the Cross,

Start on my journey with the last word said;

Turn my back resolute on dung and dross,

And face the future with no twitch of dread,

But dare to converse with the holy dead,

And taste the earnest of the church’s bliss.

Love, God be with you! He is overhead

And watches us, that nothing be amiss —

Love! our hearts bleed as one in the last lingering kiss. {43A}

Good-by, good-by, good-by! the echo rings

A harsh, jarred sound in my self-tortured ears,

And agony, a fount of blood, upsprings

And tears our bosoms with dividing fears.

The cruel sea its final billow rears

And I must pass to seek an unknown sky;

We dare not see each other’s face for tears,

And the last kisses — Did we only die!

Love! Ah! One kiss! One kiss! One kiss!

Good-by, Good-by!

 

A SPRING SNOWSTORM IN WASTDALE,30

ON rocky mountain bare

Of grass, and meadows fair,

Angels their trumpets blow upon the night.

While o'er the shrinking dale

The insatiable gale

Roars with unconquered and impassive might.

Their robes of snow they rend,

And their deep voices blend

With tempest, like that angry Amphitrite,31

Her hair blown wild and loose

On windy Syracuse,

Lashing the waves with words of wrath, a terror of bright light.

Here the thick snowflakes fall,

Till mountain in their pall,

And stream beneath their curtain are embraced;

They drive and beat and hiss,

Till their cold maiden kiss

Touches the lake’s intolerable waste,

And from the wave is born

A maiden like the morn,

In sudden foam, an Aphrodite chaste,

Clean as the cold wind blown

From each abyss of stone,

Where the north whirlpool rushes down with wreckage interlaced. {43A}

Here on the bank I stand

In this grey barren land

Of winter, and the doubtful glint of spring

If on the hills thee glow

Through the thick mist of snow

Sunshine from westward in the evening;

While in a dell appear

Violets and snowdrops clear,

Buds of the larch, and swallows on the wing,

Ere once again the storm

Lofty and multiform

Close the bright glimpse of summer and the hope of everything.

Silence her throne assumes,

Stars mount the sky, and looms

The misty monarch of the dale on high:

About the silver feet

I worship, as is meet,

The warrior God that fixed the curved sky,

Rent the cavernous earth,

Moulded in awful birth

The terror of the cloudy canopy,

And tore from underground

The lake’s immense profound,

And clad the mountains now with this faint snow embroidery.

Now the white flakes decrease.

Wastwater lies in peace,

Kissed by the breezes where the wind once bit;

Gable alone doth stand,

A Pyramid more grand

Than Pharaoh’s pride exalted, or the wit

Of magian shepherds built

Who sought his land and spilt

Blood of ten million slaves to conquer it.32

Clad in sparse robes of white

The mountain beckons Night

Her tracery of azure with the cold moon-rays to knit. {44A}

Armoured with secret might

I stand on earth upright,

Strong in the power of Him who welded earth,

Barred in the sky with steel,

And breathed upon the wheel

Of this vast scheme of stars, and made Him mirth

In the poor dreams of us

Who strive mysterious

To pierce the bands of sense, and break the girth

Of our own minds' desire,

Till He relume the fire

Lost at our fall, not kindled fresh till that diviner birth.

 

IN NEVILLE’s COURT, TRINITY COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE.33

I THINK the souls of many men are here

Among these cloisters, underneath the spire

That the moon silvers with magnetic fire;

But not a moon-ray is it, that so clear

Shines on the pavement, for a voice of fear

It hath, unless it be the breeze that mocks

My ear, and waves his old majestic locks

About his head. There fell upon my ear:

"O soul contemplative of distant things,

Who hast a poet’s heart, even if thy pen

Be dry and barren, who dost hold Love dear,

Speed forth this message on the fiery wings

Of stinging song to all the race of men:

That hey have hope; for we are happy here." {44A}

 

SUCCUBUS.34

WHO is Love, that he should find me as I strive,

Pale and weary, dumb and blind, where curses thrive,

Fold my sleep within his wings, and lead my dreams

Through a land of pleasant things, of woods and streams,

Bind my slumber with a chain of pure delight,

Though the canker of it strain at death of night,

Fill with passion and distaste and wakened pleasure

All the moments run to waste that else were treasure?

Who is Love? a fury red with all men’s blood

On his cruel altars shed, a deadly flood?

Or a veiled vision black with shame and fear,

Whose most loathliest attack at night is near,

When the gates of spirit tense with angel’s tread

Close, and all the gates of sense swing wide instead,

When the will of men is sleeping, and when the mind

Hears no sobs of spirits weeping above the wind,

All the subtle paths are clear for wicked breath,

And no angel warns the ear that this is death?

Is this fiend the Love that came when youth rose up

Purple with its holy flame, and flower-fair cup,

Gave me of his burning wine to fire my heart,

Filled me with desires divine toward my art?

Is he then the Love who robs me of my aim,

Doubts me if my heart still throbs with that cold flame, {45A}

Calm and eager purpose yet to reach the goal

That high hopes have sternly set before my soul,

To know, will, dare for man’s sake if man may,

Grasp the secret of the plans that rule the way

Of stars and suns, that shape the tiniest blade

Of Grass whose frailties 'scape the passing maid,

Whose light foot brushes fern and moss? But Love

Comes a thief to men who turn toward things above

To set snares, by night, and makes afraid

The spirit’s holy might with one slight maid

Visioned and unsubsisting save in foreign thought

To its own strength a slave by witchcraft brought!

This is not Love but Lust, not Life but Death is found: --

All the halls of sense with strife cry and resound.

The Brain awakes in wrath; behold! the foemen flee,

All the earth is clad with gold, and all the sea;

Driven back the demons yield, falter and cease;

For a little while the shield of sleep is peace.

Clear and bright the lamp burns; clean and sharp the sword,35

While I watch their paths between before the Lord.

 

A RONDEL.

REST, like a star at sea

Thrice loved, thrice blest,

Burns. Will there come to me

Rest? {45A}

By these suppressed

Desires my soul must flee,

By heaven’s crest,

I pray that secretly

Toward God’s breast

I draw, to find, maybe,

Rest!

 

NIGHTFALL.

THE seas that lap the sand

Where lilies fill the land

Are silent, while the moon ascends to span the curved leaves.

The lordly stars arise

With pity in their eyes

So large and clear and wise,

And angels yearn toward the world that wonders, wakes, and grieves.

Sleep holds the hand of life,

And, as a loving wife

Moves not for fear the sufferer should wake before his hour,

So sleep is deadly calm,

And fills with perfect balm

The night’s unquiet psalm

That wanders all too trembling up, and quivers as a flower.

The wise man opens wide

His casement, as a bride

Flings her bright arms to meet her spouse homeward who hasteneth;

He trims his lamp, and brings

The books of many kings

To spread their holy wings

About his head, and sing to him the secret ways of death.

He knows, and doth not fear;

His will is keen and clear;

His lips are silent to protect the secret mysteries. {46A}

No tempter spreads his net

So that his thoughts forget

The glory they have set

Before their face, nor loose their hold upon the perfect prize.

My hands no longer write:

Communion with the night

Is built, a bride of fiery truth across the subtle mind.

God’s angels, and His fire,

Consume the soul’s desire,

And strike a lighter lyre.

I seek; the angels lead me on, all light and truth to find.

 

THE INITIATION.

THERE is a bare bleak headland which the sea

Incessantly devours,

A rock impregnable, where herb and tree

Are not. A vision of it came to me

In night’s most ghastly hours.

I who desire, beyond all named desire,

To pass the envious bounds of air and fire,

And penetrate the bosom of the night,

Saw in a vision such a neophyte

Stand on the forehead of the rock; I saw

The armies of unalterable law

Shudder within their spheres, as to him came

His master’s spirit, like a tongue of flame,

To touch his lips and ears and eyes and hands

With that pale amber that divides the lands

Of sense and spirit, and beheld him quail

As fell from all his shaken soul the veil.

Then on the night began the awful gale

That did assume a voice

Whereat the air was peopled with such forms

As ride abroad upon the path of storms,

And in the awe rejoice.

They gather, chanting, round that noble head.

The master of the prisons of the dead

Loosens the bonds and bids the furies spring

For their last struggle ere they own a king.

This paean of the sky they sing. {46A}

"We ride upon the fury of the blast,

Fast, fast.

We race upon the horses of the wind:

The tameless thunder follows hard behind,

Fast, and too fast.

The lightning heralds us; the iron blast

Lends us its splendour for a steed fire-shod,

The steed of God!"

From all the caverns of the hollow sea,

And all the fortresses that guard the air,

And all the fearful palaces of fire,

And all the earth’s dwarf-ridden secrecy,

They come, they gather, and they ride, to bear

Destruction and disorder and desire;

They cling to him who braves the gale of night,

And mock his might.

They rush upon him like a wave, and break

In fiery foam against him, and they shake

Life in its citadel.

They open Hell

To let the Furies and the Fates spring forth

On their wild chargers of the icy North

To quench the holy lamp.

His spirit and his life within him quail,

And all the armaments of sin assail

With deadly tramp

And swordless fury. Hell devours and tears

The heart of any a man, whom heavenly airs

Shield and lead on afar,

Where beyond storm and passion is the sky,

And where the sacred hand of the Most High

Holds out a star.

He stands amid the storm, a mighty rock;

His long hair blows about, the demons mock

His entry to their kingdom, and despair.

Groans in the blackness, infamous and bare,

And hateful shapes and eyes surround his head —

O for the magic of those mightier dead

To scatter them, and utterly destroy

Their likeness, and to penetrate the joy

Of yonder places past the realm of fear!

O that some mighty seer {47A}

Came to avenge, that might deliver him

From this grim fight, whose horrid ranks are dim

With mist of spumed blood, whose long chill hour

Beats out each second with the ghastly power,

Reluctant till the morning. Shall they cease,

These black battalions, and the dawn bring peace

To a head holier? Or shall he succumb,

Fight through long agonies and perish dumb,

Sword gripped hard to the last? or shall he fall

Recreant, coward, and no more at all

Reach the dim martyr-hall of heroes? Yet

The surging shapes gape hideous, to beget

Fresh armed foemen to destroy the king.

And first, on black imperishable wing,

That Nameless Thing.

Darkness, a dragon, now devours

The vision of those deadly powers,

The legions of the lords of sin.

It is an hour ere dawn begin.

 

ISAIAH.

A SONNET.

THE world is dusk, expectant of its doom.

Foulness is rampant; purity is dumb;

Despair stalks terrible. But I am come,

God-nurtured, in the void abyss of gloom;

The Spirit of my God is set on me;

He hath anointed me to preach glad news

Unto the meek; the broken heart to loose,

To utter to the captive liberty,

The prison’s opening to all the bound,

And unto all men to proclaim aloud

The year acceptable before the Lord.

Therefore He fills my voice with silvery sound,

And by His spirit, a pillar of fire and cloud,

My eyes are lightning, and my tongue a sword. {47A}

 

THE STORM.

IN the storm that divides the wild night from the passionate kiss of the

morning

Stands there a tower by the sea unshaken by wave and by wind;

Lightning assails, and the sea breaks vain on the battlements, scorning

Even to fling back the foam shattered before and behind;

Save for one window its height rears up unbroken and blind.

Here may a man gaze out to the night by the stars of it stricken,

Out to the blind black air that the lightning divides, and is dumb;

Here, and look back in the tower where pallid shades murmur and quicken:

Low laughs leap in the silence, sink to a sigh ere there come,

Far from the feet of the storm, a pulse like the beat of a drum.

Throbs the wild sound through the storm, and the wings of it waken and

quiver,

Only the watcher, unmoved, looks on the face of the night;

Sees the strong hosts that unite, a fervent implacable river

Foaming from heaven and hell, two armies of crimson and white;

Flecked is the sky with their blood shed as by sabres of light.

Now they are clutching this arms, the phantoms that throng there behind

him,

Foul and distorted, whose sight may not on men ever dawn;

Now they entice and entreat, now strive with fresh fury to bind him,

Cords that are cut by an angel whose sword is unceasingly drawn,

Glitters, and bids them fall back as if struck by the eye of the morn.

Would he but turn he should see a woman laid naked before him, {48A}

Stretching her arms to his breast, reaching her lips to his face,

Lips that should grant but one kiss ere the demons descended and tore

him

Limb from wet limb, and devoured, and bore this stained soul into space

Far from the regions of hope and the lands that are holy with grace.

Alway the battle proceeds and alway the tempest re-quickens,

Pregnant with thunder, delivered when the swift knife is let flash;

Alway the wind has its will and the slaughter-steam rises and thickens;

Alway the sea is a lion, enraged by the wind and its lash;

Alway the heavens resound with the thunder’s reverberate crash.

Heaven has conquered, behold! and the hosts of the demons are fleeing;

Dawn drives before her fair feet the feather-light wings of the gale;

Silent the tower rears aloft its front into beauty and seeing.

Only the window is dark; only there hangs like a veil

Sleep on the chamber and clings. Heard I a woman-fiend wail?

Heard I the sound of a kiss? Has man been destroyed in the daylight,

Man whom the night could not quell? What angel fled weeping away?

There in the East there extends a white light devouring the grey light,

There the sun rises and brings hope with the dawn of the day.

Silence hides certainty — surely voices of angels that pray,

Surely the sound of delight, and of praise, and unspeakable glory

Rings in the wind like a bell, and wakes the white air of the lea;

All the bright sea is aflame, and the caps of it, golden or hoary,

Leap in the light of the sun, in the light of the eyes of the sea.

Triumph is born like a flower, and the soul of the adept is free. {48A}

 

WHEAT AND WINE.

CLEAR, deep, and blue, the sky

Is silvered by the morn,

And where the dewdrop’s eye

Catches its brilliancy

Strange lights and hues are born:

I have seen twelve colours hover on a single spray of thorn.

There is a great grey tower36

Cut clear against the deep;

In the sun’s awakening hour

I think it has the power

To touch the soul of sleep

With its tender thought, and bid me to awake for joy -- and weep.

This night I am earlier.

No drowsy thought drew nigh

At eve to make demur

That I be minister

To Cynthia maidenly:

All night I have watched her sail through a black and silver sky.

Within my soul there fight

Two full and urgent streams,

Work’s woe and dream’s delight:

Like snow and sun they smite,

Days battle hard with dreams:

On a world of misty beauty the Aurora clearly beams.

So labour fought with pride,

And love with idleness,

My soul was torn and tried

With the impassioned tide

Of storm and deathly stress —

I had never dreamed a lily should arise amid the press. {49A}

Yet such a flower sprang here

Within this soul of mine,

When foemen bade good cheer

To foemen, grew one clear

Concept, ideal, divine,

Of a god of light and laughter, of a god of wheat and wine.

Work on, strong mind, devise

The outer life aright!

Dream, subtle soul, and arise

To noblest litanies

That pierce the mask of night —

In a man work lifts his eyelids, but his dreams lend eyes their light.

So dreams and days are wed,

And soul and body lie

Ambrosial in Love’s bed.

See, heaven with stars is spread —

So glad of life am I

If an angel came to call me I am sure I would not die.

 

A RONDEL.

THE wail of the wind in the desolate land

Lifts voice where the heaven lies pallid and blind;

Sweeps over the hills from the sea and the sand

The wail of the wind.

The earth gives a bleak echo back, and behind

Lurk sorrows and sins in the grasp of a hand,

And love and despair are the lords of mankind.

The mountains are steadfast; immutably grand,

Bid me to their bosom the chain to unbind:

At peace and at pity I now understand

The wail of the wind. {49A}

 

THE VISIONS OF THE ORDEAL.

THE mind with visions clouded,

(Asleep? Awake?)

By bloodless shades enshrouded,

(By whom, and for whose sake?)

With visions dimly lighted,

By its own shade affrighted,

In its own light benighted,

The doors of hell may shake.

Unbidden spring the spectres

(Whence come, where bound?)

To baffle those protectors

Whose wings are broad around.

Uprise they and upbraid,

Till life shrinks back afraid,

And death itself dismayed

Sinks back to the profound.

Unholy phantom faces

(Of self? Of sin?)

Grin wild in all the places

Where blood is trodden in:

The ground of night enchanted

With deadly blooms is planted,

Where evil beasts have panted

And snakes have shed their skin.

With poison steams the air,

And evil scent

Is potent everywhere;

Creation waits the event:

In silence, without sighing,

The living and the dying,

Oppressed and putrefying,

Curse earth and firmament.

What dreams disturb my slumber,

Or what sights seen?

Foul orgies without number

In dens and caves obscene,

Accurst, detestable,

In which I laugh with hell,

And furies chant the knell

Of all things clean. {50A}

Ah God! the shapes that throng!

Ah God! what eyes!

The souls grown sharp and strong

That my lips made their prize,

The ruined souls, the wrecks

Of bodies fair of flecks

Long since, ere God did vex

My soul with sacrifice.

These press upon my lips

What lips of flame

To burn me, unless slips

Some cooler kiss, from shame

Washed clean by God’s desire,

To save me from their fire —

Those kiss and respire

The perfume of the Name.37

Remorse and terror banished

By pitying lovers,

Who from my eyes have vanished,

(The Lidless Eye38 discovers),

Repenting souls that turn,

Whose hearts with pity burn

For me, who now discern

Their lover around me hovers.

Their love wards from my head

The furious hate

Of those loves doubly dead

That may not pass the gate:

By their entreating prayer

The angels fill the air

To guard my steps, to bare

The veil inviolate.

The visions leave me now;

I sink to sleep;

Calm and content my brow;

My eyes are large and deep.

The morning shall behold

On feet and plumes of gold

My spirit soon enfold

The flocks on heaven’s steep. {50A}

Refreshed, encouraged, lightened,

Sent on the Way

Whose Sun and Star have brightened

From dawning into day,

I set my face, a flint,

Toward where the holy glint

Of lamps affords the hint

That leads me — where it may.

 

POWER.

THE mighty sound of forests murmuring

In answer to the dread command;

The stars that shudder when their king39

Extends his hand,

His awful hand to bless, to curse; or moves

Toward the dimmest den

In the thick leaves, not known of loves

Or nymphs or men;

(Only the sylph’s frail gossamer may wave

Their quiet frondage yet,

Only her dewy tears may lave

The violet;)

The mighty answer of the shaken sky

To his supreme behest; the call

Of ibex that behold on high

Night’s funeral,

And see the pale moon quiver and depart

Far beyond space, the sun ascend

And draw earth’s globe unto his heart

To make an end;

The shriek of startled birds; the sobs that tear

With sudden terror the sharp sea

That slept, and wove its golden hair

Most mournfully;

The rending of the earth at his command

Who wields the wrath of heaven, and is dumb;

Hell starts up — and before his hand

Is overcome. {51A}

It heard these voices, and beheld afar

These dread works wrought at his behest:

And on his forehead, lo! a star,

And on his breast.

And on his feet I knew the sandals were

More beautiful than flame, and white,

And on the glory of his hair

The crown of night.

And I beheld his robe, and on its hem

Were writ unlawful words to say,

Broidered like lilies, with a gem

More clear than day.

And round him shone so wonderful a light

As when on Galilee

Jesus once walked, and clove the night,

And calmed the sea.

I scarce could see his features for the fire

That dwelt about his brow,

Yet, for the whiteness of my own desire,

I see him now;

Because my footsteps follow his, and tread

The awful bounds of heaven, and make

The very graves yield up their dead,

And high thrones shake;

Because my eyes still steadily behold,

And dazzle not, nor shun the night,

The foam-born lamp of beaten gold

And secret might;

Because my forehead bears the sacred Name,

And my lips bear the brand

Of Him40 whose heaven is one flame,

Whose holy hand

Gathers this earth, who built the vaults of space,

Moulded the stars, and fixed the iron sea,

Because His41 love lights through my face

And all of me. {51A}

Because my hand may fasten on the sword

If my heart falter not, and smite

Those lampless limits most abhorred

Of iron night,

And pass beyond their horror to attack

Fresh foemen, light and truth to bring

Through their untrodden fields of black,

A victor king.

I know all must be well, all must be free;

I know God as I know a friend;

I conquer, and most silently

Await the end.

 

VESPERS.

THE incense steams before the Christ;

It wraps His feet with grey,

A perfumed melancholy mist,

Tears sacred from the day;

And awe, a holiness, I wist,

More sweet than man may say.

I bend my head to kiss the brow,

Scarred and serene and wide,

The bosom and the loin-cloth now

And where the blood has dried,

The blood whose purple tide doth flow

From out the smitten side.

The fragrance of his skin begets

Desire of holy things;

Through the dim air a spirit frets

His closely woven wings;

Like love, upon my brow he sets

The crown of many kings.

(The trembling demons of the sea

Before the poet bend;

He greets the angels quietly

As one who greets a friend;

He waiteth, passionless, to be

A witness of the end.) {52A}

I chant in low sweet verses still

A mystic song of dread,

As one imposing all his will

Upon the expectant dead;

And lights dip down, and shadows fill

The dreams that haunt my head.

I sing strange stories of that world

No man may ever see;

My lips with strong delight are curled

To kiss the sacred knee,

And all my soul is dewed and pearled

With tears of poetry.

The strong mysterious spell is cast

To bind and to release;

To give the devils hope at last,

To the unburied peace;

To gladden the reluctant past

With silent harmonies.

The song grows wilder now and strives

All heaven to enchain,

As who should grasp a thousand lives,

And draw their breath again

Into some cavern where he dives,

A hell of grisly pain.

And now behold! the barren Cross

Bursts out in vernal flowers;

The music weeps, as on the moss

The summer’s kissing showers,

And there sweep, as sweeps an albatross,

The happy-hearted hours.

My rapt eyes grow more eager now,

God smites within the host,

White fires illuminate my brow

Lit of the Holy Ghost;

I see the angel figures bow

On heaven’s silent coast.

Eternity, a wheel of light,

And Time, a fleece of snow,

I saw, and deep beyond the night,

The steady mystic glow

Of that lamp’s flame unearthly bright

That watches Earth below. {52A}

Long avenues of sleepy trees

And bowers arched with love,

And kisses woven for a breeze,

And lips that scarcely move,

Save as long ripples on he seas,

That murmur like a dove.

I saw the burning lips of God

Set fast on Mary’s face,

I saw the Christ, with fire shod,

Walk through the holy place,

And the lilies rosier where he trod

Blushed for a little space.

I saw myself, and still I sang

With lips in clearer tune,

Like to the nightingale’s that rang

Through all those nights of June;

Such nights when stars in slumber hang

Beneath the quiet moon.

Still, in those avenues of light,

No maid, with golden zone,

And lily garment that from sight

Half hides the ivory throne,

Lay in my arms the livelong night

To call my soul her own.

The Christ’s cold lips my lips did taste

On Time’s disastrous tide;

His bruised arms my soul embraced,

My soul twice crucified;

And always then the thin blood raced

From out the stricken side.

The incense fumes, the chant is low,

Perfume around is shed;

I am as one of Them who know

The secrets of the dead:

The sorrows that walk to and fro,

The love that hides his head.

O living Head! whose thorns are keen

To bruise and pierce and slay;

O Christ! whose eyes have always been

Fixed fast upon the way,

Where dim Jerusalem was seen

A city cold and grey! {53A}

The flowers of fire that grow beneath

And blossom on the Tree

Are fed from his despair and death

Who sings of land and sea,

And all those mountains where thy breath,

Jehovah, still must be.

The censer swings to slower time;

The darkness falleth deep:

My eyes, so solemn and sublime,

Relent, and close, and weep;

And on the silence, like a chime,

I heard the wings of Sleep.

 

BY THE CAM.

TWILIGHT is over, and the noon of night

Draws to its zenith. Here beyond the stream

Dance the wild witches that dispel my dream

Of gardens naked in Diana’s sight.

Foul censers, altars desecrated, blight

The corpse-lit river, whose dank vapours teem

Heavy and horrible, a deadly steam

Of murder’s black intolerable might.

The stagnant pools rejoice; the human feast

Revels at height; the sacrament is come;

God wakes no lightning in the broken East;

His awful thunders listen and are dumb;

Earth gapes not for that sin; the skies renew

At break of day their vestiture of blue.

 

ASTROLOGY.

A LONELY spirit seeks the midnight hour,

When souls have power

To cast away one moment bonds of clay,

And touch the day

With pallid wistful lips beyond the earth,

And bring to birth

New thoughts with which life long has travailed;

As if one dead {53A}

Should rise and utter secrets of the tomb,

And from hell’s womb

Or heaven’s breast bring all the load of fears,

Toils of long years,

Sorrows of life an agonies of death,

Hard caught-up breath,

The labouring hands of love, the cheeks of shame,

The gloomy flame

Of lust, the cruel torment of desire

More than hell fire,

And bid them fade, as if the bryony

Let her flower die,

And banished them through space, as if a star

Dropped through the far

Vault of the sky, and, as a lamp extinct

With blood-red tinct,

Went out. So lonely in mysterious night

A wild, strange light

Flickers around the sacred head of man,

And bids him scan

The scroll of heaven, and see if there be not,

Black with no blot

Of cloud, but golden lettered on the blue

That mothers dew,

This message of good hope, good trust, good fate

And good estate:

"Work on, hope ever, let your faith be built

Of gold ungilt;

Your love exceed the starry vault for height,

The heaven for might;

Your faith wax firmer than a ship at sleep

On the grey deep,

Anchored in some most certain anchorage

From ocean’s rage;

Your patience stand when mountains shake and quail

Before the gale

Of God’s great tribulation. Make thee sure

Thou canst endure!

And work, work ever, sleep not, gird thy head

With garlands red

Of blood from swollen veins forced in bitter toil

To win some spoil {54A}

Of knowledge from the caverns of the deep!

So shall the steep

Pathways of heaven gleam with loftier fires

Than earth’s desires.

So shalt thou conquer Space, and lastly climb

The walls of Time,

And by the golden path the great have trod

Reach up to God!"

 

DAEDALUS.

THE scorpion kisses and the stings of sin

Cling hard within

The heart whose fibres, like a slender vine,

Earth’s hopes entwine,

And all the furies of the air caress

The sorceress

Whose bosom beats in unison with shame,

A flower of flame

Whose root most secretly made fast in hell

Is watered by the seraphim that fell.

The heart wherein is lit the sacred fire

Of high desire,

Burnt clean from all untruth and sacrilege,

Her wings may fledge,

And fly a little in the broad sweet air,

Till unaware

The Spirit of Jehovah, like a dove

On wings of love,

Breathe the sweet kiss, a sacrament untold,

And clothe the heart’s desire with flames of gold.

No rash Icarian wing this passion plies,

But sanctifies,

As if a censer (that a cherub swings)

Blossomed with wings

And floated up, an incense-breathing bird,

With songs half heard {54A}

Before the throne of God. Even so this life

Of sordid strife

Is made most holy, beautiful, and pure,

By this desire, if this desire endure.

So to the altar of the Highest aspire

Those souls whose fire

Has on it cast one grain of pure incense,

(Who guesses — whence?)

Those souls that cast their trammels off, and spring

On eager wing,

Immaculate, new-born, toward the sky,

And shall not die

Until they cleave at last the lampless dome,

And lose their tent because they find their home.

 

EPILOGUE.

LIKE snows on the mountain, uplifted

By weather or wind as it blows,

In hollows the heaps of it drifted,

The splendour of fathomless snows;

So measure and meaning are shifted to fashion a rose.

The garland I made in my sorrow

Was woven of infinite peace;

The joy that was white on the morrow

Made music of viols at ease;

The thoughts of the Highest would borrow the roar of the seas.

This pastime of hope and of labour

Fled singing through bountiful hours,

With sleep for a bride, for a neighbour

With Death in the blossoming bowers

That slays with his merciless sabre the passion of flowers.

This pastime had hope for its metre,

And trust in high God for the tune,

And passion of sorrow made sweeter

Than loves of the leafiest June,

When Artemis' arrows are fleeter than rays of the moon. {55A}

My hope in the ocean was founded,

Nor changed for the wind and the tide;

My love by the heaven was bounded,

And knew not a barrier beside;

My faith beyond heaven was grounded, as God to abide.

Though death be the stain on our roses,

The roses of heaven are white;

Though day on the world of us closes

The stars only dream of the night

As of music that roars and reposes and dies in delight.

Dead stars in the season of sighing,

Lost worlds of unspeakable pain,

White winds in the winter-tide dying,

Or pestilence risen from rain;

So thoughts are that perish for lying and rise not again.

Blue waves in the summer uncrested,

New homes for the fair and the free,

Bright breezes in forest-leaves nested,

Sweet birds in the flowering tree;

So thoughts that by truth have been tested sing down to the sea.

But weak as the flowers of summer

Are the flowers that float on my stream;

My song-birds to others are dumber

Than voices half heard in a dream;

My muse, louder gods overcome her, the eyes of them gleam.

The sorrow that woke me to singing

Is deeper than songs that I sing;

The birds that fresh music are bringing

No chords for my memory bring;

Those lips like a soul that are clinging most silently cling.

Take though for these verses, though time be

So sure and so swift for thy feet.

Though far from this England thy clime be42

In years that sway slow as the wheat,

Take thought, for an hour let my rhyme be not wholly unsweet. {55A}

For truth and desire and devotion

May lend through the verses a voice,

They tremble with violent motion,

They yearn to be fair for thy choice

As billows and winds of the ocean that roar and rejoice.

For winds that are shaken and riven

I bound by my power unto me;

For these have I battled and striven

With winds that are rapid and free;

With weapons of words I have driven the pulse of the sea {56A}

There steals through my coldness a fire,

Between my slow words is a sword,

One lit by the heart of desire,

One sharp in the hand of the lord;

To these that sink, sleep, and expire, your welcome accord.

With wrath or repose for its raiment

Your power, like a pyramid, stands;

My love, with no claim, as a claimant

Came seeking out truth in the sands,

Found truth, and must place in poor payment this book in your hands. {56A}

{full page below}

 

1. In this volume and throughout Crowley’s works the visions, ordeals, etc., are, as a rule, not efforts of imagination, but records of (subjective) fact.

2. The supreme Deity is shadowed by Qabalists in this glyph. See Appendix, "Qabalistic dogma," for a synthesized explanation of this entire philosophy.

3. Commonly known as the Matterhorn.

4. A maternal aunt of the poet.

5. A qabalistic description of Macroprosopus. "Dew," "Deep Height," etc., are his titles.

6. Microprosopus.

7. Malkuth, the Bride. In its darkness the Light may yet be found.

8. The Hebrew characters composing the name Achd, Unity, add up to 13.

9. Binah, the Great Deep: the offended Mother who shall be reconciled to her daughter by Bn, the Son.

10. Bn adds to 52.

11. Jehovah, the name of 4 letters. 1+2+3+4=10.

12. The first Amen is = 91 or 7x13. The second is the Inscrutable Amoun.

13. "The Poisoners," finished later, by discarded as over-Tourneuresque.

14. A boomerang.

15. The image is Crowley’s own, drawn from the Spectre of the Brocken.

16. This voice is again heard, using the identical words, at the last great crisis of his life.

17. Chosen in accordance with the theory of Young and Helmholz.

18. Compare this octet with that of the "Sonnet to Sleep" of P. B. Marston, which Crowley had not at this time read.

19. Ash-covered.

20. Any being who, under the guise of love, draws the strength from another.

21. Binah.

22. "I.e.," that state of mind which perceives the hidden unity.

23. A hand is here used as a symbol of the Infinite Point because Yod — the Greek Iota — means a hand.

24. The Amrita, or Elixir of Immortality.

25. Because long shut, as in the story of Bruce and the spider.

WEH NOTE: This is the tale of Robert the Bruce, royal of Scotland, who was hid from his enemies by a spider spinning her web before the entrance of his cave. The same is told of the boy-Christ in the tale of the Slaughter of the Innocent. The former appears to be documented, while the latter is not.

26. Votaries of Bacchus, so called from the Bassara, or long mantle, which they wore.

27. "Paracelsus." I am he that aspired to KNOW; and thou?

But Crowley here opposes Browning.

28. See the story of Samson.

29. "I.e.," to serve as a direction.

30. Crowley was one of the pioneers of rock-climbing among the Cumbrian fells.

31. Goddess of the Mediterranean Sea.

32. The reference is to the "Shepherd Kings" of Abydos, who, says one theory, built Ghizeh.

33. The "Voice" is that of Lord Tennyson, whose rooms were in this court.

34. The Succubus, and its male counterpart the Incubus, bulk largely in mediaeval literature and philosophy. The poem explains itself.

35. Common magical implements. The lamp signifies Illumination and the sword Will.

36. St. John’s Chapel, Cambridge, which Crowley's rooms in 16 St. John’s Street overlooked. It was his habit to work from midnight to dawn, when he could no longer be disturbed by visits from friends.

37. Jehovah, here and throughout, unless expressly stated to the contrary.

38. That of Macroprosophus, who "neither slumbers nor sleeps."

39. G. C. Jones, then of Basingstoke, a profound mystic.

40. Jehovah.

41. Jehovah.

42. Julian Baker expected at this time to be abroad for some years.