THE TEMPLE OF THE HOLY GHOST1

1901.

I. The Court of the Profane

 

PROLOGUE.

OBSESSION.

TO CHARLES BAUDELAIRE.

“Car ce que ta bouche cruelle

Eparpilie en l’air,

Monstre assassin, c’est ma cervelle,

Mon sang et ma chair!”

THY brazen forehead, and its lustre gloom,

Great angel of Night’s legion chosen chief,

Beam on me like the hideous-fronted tomb,

Whereon are graven strange words of misbelief;

Thy brazen forehead, and its lustre gloom!

Sinister eyes, you burn into my breast,

Creating an infernal cavern of woe,

Where strange sleek leopards lash them in unrest,

And furtive serpents crawling to and fro —

Sinister eyes, you burn into my breast!

All hell, all destinies of death are written

Like litanies blaspheming in those eyes;

And where the lightning of high God hath smitten

Lie the charred brands of monstrous infamies,

Wherein all destinies of death are written. {166A}

Thou cam’st to obsess me first that Easter Eve,

When, from the contemplation of His pain,

I turned to look into my own heart’s heave,

And saw the bloody nails made fast again.

Thou cam’st to obsess me first that Easter Eve!

The lustre of old jet was over thee,

And through thy body coursed the scented blood;

Thy flesh was full of amorous ecstasy:

Polished, and gloomier than some black full flood,

The lustre of old jet was over thee!

In thy great brazen blackness I am bathed;

Through all thy veins, like curses, my blood runs;

In all thy flesh my naked bones are swathed,

My womb is pregnant with mad moons and suns.

In thy great brazen blackness I am bathed!

Imminent over me thy hatred hangs;

Thy slow blood trickles on my swollen sides,

Thy curdling purple where those poison-fangs

Struck, slays desire; and only death abides.

Imminent over me thy hatred hangs! {166B}

Thy jet smooth body clung to mine awhile,

Descending like the thunder-pregnant night.

Ominous, black, thy secret cruel smile

Lured me. We lay like death; until the light

Thy jet smooth body clung to mine awhile!

Thou was a lion as an angel then,

In copper-glowing lands that gnaws the prey

He has regotten from the tribes of men.

We lay like passion all that deadly day —

Thou wast a lion as an angel then!

Great angel of the brazen brows, great lover,

Great hater of my body as my soul,

To whom I gave my life and love thrice over,

Fill me one last caress — the poison-bowl!

Great angel of the brazen brows, great lover!

 

FAME.

O IF these words were swords, and I had might

From some old prophet in whose tawny hair

The very breath of the Jehovah were

To smite the Syrian, and to smite, and smite,

And splash the sun’s face with the blood, for spite

Of his downgoing, till I had made fair

All glories of my master, I could bear

To sink myself in the abundant night.

O if these words were lightnings, and their flame

Deluged the world, and drowned the seed of shame

In these ill waters where alone Truth’s ark

May float, where only lovers may embark,

I were contented to abandon fame

And live with love for ever in the dark. {167A}

 

THE MOTHER AT THE SABBATH.2

COME, child of wonder! it is Sabbath Night,

The speckled twilight and the sombre singing!

Listen and come: the owl’s disastrous flight

Points out the road! Hail, O propitious sight!

See! the black gibbet and the murderer swinging!

Come, child of wonder and the innocent eyes!

Come where the toad his stealthy way is taking.

Flaps the bat’s wing upon thy cheek? How wise,

How wicked are those faces! And the skies

Are muffled, and the firmament is quaking.

Spectres of cats misshapen nestle close,

And rub their phantom sides against our dresses.

Come, child of wonder! in these souls morose

Keen joys may shudder — how the daylight goes! —

Night shall betray thee to the cold caresses!

Yes; it is night the hour of subtlety

And strange looks meaning more than Hell can utter: —

Come, child of wonder! watch the woman’s eye

Who lurks towards us through the stagnant sky.

Hark to the words her serpents hiss or mutter! {167B}

Close we are come; before us is the Cross

To trample and defile: the bones shall shudder

Of many a self-slain darling. From the moss

Swamp-adders greet us. How the dancers toss

The frantic limb, the unreluctant udder!

See, how their frenzy peoples all the ground!

Strange demon-shapes take up the unholy measure,

Strange beast and worm and crab: the uncouth sound

Of the unheard-of-kisses: the profound

Gasps of the maniac, the devouring pleasure!

A curse of God is on them! — ha! the curse,

The curse that locks them in obscene embraces!

See how love mocks the melancholy hearse

Dressed as an altar: is she nun or nurse,

The priestess chosen of the half-formed faces?

An abbess, child of the unsullied eyes!

Why? To blaspheme! Sweet child, the dance grows madder.

O I am faint with pleasure! Ah! be wise;

One measure more, and then — the sacrifice?

What victim? Guess — a woman or an adder?

Nay, fear not, baby! In your mother’s hand

You must be safe? You trust the womb that bare you!

Who comes towards us? Why, our God, the Grand!

Our Baphomet!3 Come, baby, to the band:

Our God may kiss you — yes, he will not spare you! {168A}

Fall down, my baby; worship him with me.

There, go; I give you to his monster kisses!

Take her, my God, my God, my infamy,

My love, my master! take the fruit of me!

— Shrieks every soul and every demon hisses!

Out! out! the ghastly torches of the feast!

Let darkness hide us and the night discover

The shameless mysteries of God grown beast,

The nameless blasphemy, the slimed East —

Sin incarnated with a leprous lover!

“Hoc est enim”4 — the victim! ah! my womb,

My womb has borne the victim! Now I queen it

To-night upon the damned — thy love makes room,

My goat-head godhead, for my hecatomb!

I am thy mistress, and thy slaves have seen it!

Even as thy cold devouring kisses roll

Over my corpse; I hear its death-cry thrill me!

Thine! — O my god! I render thee the whole,

My broken body and my accursed soul!

Come, come, come, come! Ah! conquer me and kill me!

 

THE BRIDEGROOM.

No passion stirs the cool white throat of her;

No living glory fills the deep dead eyes;

No sleep that breaks her Southern indolence;

Not all the breezes out of heaven, that stir

The sleepy wells and woodlands, bid her rise;

Nor all a godhead’s amorous violence.

She is at peace; we will go hence. {168B}

Warm wealth of draperies, the broidered room,

And delicate tissues of pale silk that shine

About her bed: all kiss the dead girl’s face

With shadowy reluctances that gloom

Over and under, and the cold divine

Presence of Death bedews the quiet place.

She was so gracious; she was grace.

Once, in the long insidious hours that steal

Through summer’s pleasant kingdom, she would weave

Such songs, such murmurs of the dusky breeze

That passed, like silken tapestries that feel

The silkier cheeks of maidens as they cleave

Tender to patient lovers, for the ease

Of lips fulfilled of harmonies.

Such songs were hers. What song is hers to-night

When she is smitten in her bridal bed,

Because I would not trust the God that gave

Her smooth virginity to godlier might,

My glory? There she lies divine and dead

Because I would not trust the sullen wave

Of time; and chose this way — her grave.

I had not thought the poison left her so —

Smiling, enticing, exquisite. I meant

Rather that beauty to destroy, to leave

No subtle languors on that breast of snow,

No curves by God’s caressing finger bent,

To bid me think of her: I would deceive

My memory — now I can but grieve.

Perhaps our happiness, despite of all,

Would have grown comelier and never tired;

Perhaps the pitiful pale face had been {169A}

Alway my true wife’s; let me not recall

Her first shy glance! This woman I desired,

And sealed my own for ever by this keen

Death that crowns her Death’s queen.

Death’s and not mine: I was a fool to kiss

Her dead lips — ay, her living lips for that!

I cannot bid her rise and live again.

I would not. Nay, I know not; for is this

My triumph or my ruin, satiate

Of death, insatiate alway of pain?

What have I done? In vain, in vain!

I will not look at her; I dare not stay.

I will go down and mingle with the throng,

Find some debasing dulling sacrifice,

Some shameless harlot with thin lips grown grey

In desperate desire, and so with song

And wine fling hellward. Yes, she does not rise —

O if she opened once her eyes!

 

THE ALTAR OF ARTEMIS.

WHERE, in the coppice, oak and pine

With mystic yew and elm are found,

Sweeping the skies, that grow divine

With the dark wind’s despairing sound,

The wind that roars from the profound,

And smites the mountain-tops, and calls

Mute spirits to black festivals,

And feasts in valleys iron-bound,

Desolate crags, and barren ground; —

There in the strong storm-shaken grove

Swings the pale censer-fire for love.

The foursquare altar, rightly hewn,

And overlaid with beaten gold,

Stands in the gloom; the stealthy tune

Of singing maidens overbold

Desires mad mysteries untold, {169B}

With strange eyes kindling, as the fleet

Implacable untiring feet

Weave mystic figures manifold

That draw down angels to behold

The moving music, and the fire

Of their intolerable desire.

For, maddening to fiercer thought,

The fiery limbs requicken, wheel

In formless furies, subtly wrought

Of swifter melodies than steel

That flashes in the fight: the peal

Of amorous laughters choking sense,

And madness kissing violence,

Rings like dead horsemen; bodies reel

Drunken with motion; spirits feel

The strange constraint of gods that dip

From Heaven to mingle lip and lip.

The gods descent to dance; the noise

Of hungry kissings, as a swoon,

Faints for excess of its own joys,

And mystic beams assail the moon,

With flames of their infernal noon;

While the smooth incense, without breath,

Spreads like some scented flower of death,

Over the grove; the lover’s boon

Of sleep shall steal upon them soon,

And lovers’ lips, from lips withdrawn,

Seek dimmer bosoms till the dawn.

Yet on the central altar lies

The sacrament of kneaded bread

With blood made one, the sacrifice

To those, the living, who are dead —

Strange gods and goddesses, that shed

Monstrous desires of secret things

Upon their worshippers, from wings

One lucent web of light, from head

One labyrinthine passion-fed

Palace of love, from breathing rife

With secrets of forbidden life.

But not the sunlight, nor the stars,

Nor any light but theirs alone,

Nor iron masteries of Mars,

Nor Saturn’s misconceiving zone,

Nor any planet’s may be shone, {170A}

Within the circle of the grove,

Where burn the sanctities of love:

Nor may the foot of man be known,

Nor evil eyes of mothers thrown

On maidens that desire the kiss

Only of maiden Artemis.

But horned and huntress from the skies,

She bends her lips upon the breeze,

And pure and perfect in her eyes,

Burn magical virginity’s

Sweet intermittent sorceries.

When the slow wind from her sweet word

In all their conched ears is heard.

And like the slumber of the seas,

There murmur through the holy trees

The kisses of the goddess keen,

And sighs and laughters caught between.

For, swooning at the fervid lips

Of Artemis, the maiden kisses

Sob, and the languid body slips

Down to enamelled wildernesses.

Fallen and loose the shaken tresses;

Fallen the sandal and girdling gold,

Fallen the music manifold

Of moving limbs and strange caresses,

And deadly passion that possesses

The magic ecstasy of these

Mad maidens, tender as blue seas.

Night spreads her yearning pinions;

The baffled day sinks blind to sleep;

The evening breeze outswoons the sun’s

Dead kisses to the swooning deep.

Upsoars the moon; the flashing steep

Of heaven is fragrant for her feet;

The perfume of the grove is sweet

As slumbering women furtive creep

To bosoms where small kisses weep,

And find in fervent dreams the kiss

Most memoried of Artemis.

Impenetrable pleasure dies

Beneath the madness of new dreams;

The slow sweet breath is turned to sighs

More musical than many streams

Under the moving silver beams, {170}

Fretted with stars, thrice woven across.

White limbs in amorous slumber toss

Like sleeping foam, whose silver gleams

On motionless dark seas; it seems

As if some gentle spirit stirred

Their lazy brows with some swift word.

So, in the secret of the shrine,

Night keeps them nestled; so the gloom

Laps them in waves as smooth as wine,

As glowing as the fiery womb

Of some young tigress, dark as doom,

And swift as sunrise. Love’s content

Builds its own mystic monument,

And carves above its vaulted tomb

The Phoenix on her fiery plume,

To their own souls to testify

Their kisses’ immortality.

 

THE COURSE OF TRUE LOVE.

O CRIMSON cheeks of love’s fierce fever!

O amber skin, electric to the kiss!

O eyes of sin! O bosom of my bliss!

Sorrow, the web, is spun of Love the weaver.

Twelve moons have circled in their seasons;

The earth has swept, exultant, round the sun;

Our love has slept, and, sleeping, made us one.

The thirteenth moon, be sure, the time of treasons!

Another spirit waves its pinions.

Love vanishes: we hate each other’s sight.

In sullen seas sinks our sun-flaming light,

Darkness is master of the dream-dominions.

Lo! in thy womb a child! How rotten

Seems love to me who love it as my soul!

The love of thee hath broken its control,

The misconceived become the misbegotten. {171A}

In thee the love of me is broken.

Fear, hatred, pain, discomfort mock thy days;

Thou canst disdain; these solitary bays

Twine with decaying myrtles for a token.

Dislike, disgust (you say repulsers)

Link me to thee despite — because of — this

Skeleton key to charnel-house. My kiss

Is the dog’s kiss to Lazarus his ulcers!

Mock me, ye clinging lovers, at your peril!

God turns to dust the blossom of your youth.

The fruit of lust is poisonous with — truth!

Its immortality is — to be sterile!

This lie of Love hath no abiding:

"Two loves are ended; one, the infant band,

Rises more splendid." Spin the rope of sand!

Two loves are one; but O to their dividing!

Fertility — distaste’s adoption!

Her body’s growth — desire’s mortality!

I look and loathe. Behold how lovers die,

And immortality puts on corruption!

 

ASMODEL.5

CALL down the star whose tender eyes

Were on thy bosom at thy birth!

Call, one long passionate note that sighs!

Call, till its beauty bend to earth,

Meet thee and lift thee and devise

Strange loves within the gleaming girth,

And kisses underneath the star

Where on her brows its seven rays are.

Call her, the maiden of thy sleep,

And fashion into human shape

The whirling fountains fiery and deep,

The incense-columns that bedrape {171B}

Her glimmering limbs, when shadows creep

Among blue tresses that escape

The golden torque that binds her hair,

Whose swarthy splendours drench the air.

She comes! she comes! The spirit glances

In quick delight to hold her kiss;

The fuming air shimmers and dances;

The moonlight’s trembling ecstasies

Swoon; and her soul, as my soul, trances,

Knowing no longer aught that is;

Only united, moving, mixed,

A music infinitely fixed.

Music that throbs, and soars, and burns,

And breaks the possible, to dwell

One moving monotone, nor turns,

Making hell heaven, and heaven hell,

The steady impossible song that yearns

And brooks no mortal in its swell —

This monotone immortal lips

Make in our infinite eclipse!

Formless, above all shape and shade;

Lampless, beyond all light and flame;

Timeless, above all age and grade;

Moveless, beyond the mighty name;

A mystic mortal and a maid,

Filled with all things to fill the same,

To overflow the shores of God,

Mingling our proper period.

The agony is passed: behold

How shape and light are born again;

How emerald and starry gold

Burn in the midnight; how the pain

Of our incredible marriage-fold

And bed of birthless travail wane;

And how our molten limbs divide,

And self and self again abide.

The agony of extreme joy,

And horror of the infinite blind

Passions that sear us and destroy,

Rebuilding for the deathless mind {172}

A deathless body, whose alloy

Is gold and fire, whose passions find

The tears of their caress a dew,

Fiery, to make creation new.

This agony and bloody sweat,

This scarring torture of desire,

Refine us, madden us, and set

The feast of unbegotten fire

Before our mouths, that mingle yet

In this; the mighty-moulded lyre

Of many stars still strikes above

Chords of the mastery of love.

This subtle fire, this secret flame,

Flashes between us as she goes

Beyond the night, beyond the Name,

Back to her unsubstantial snows;

Cold, glittering, intense, the same

Now, yesterday, for aye! she glows

No woman of my mystic bed;

A star, far off, forgotten, dead.

Only to me looks out for ever

From her cold eyes a fire like death;

Only to me her breasts can never

Lose the red brand that quickeneth;

Only to me her eyelids sever

And lips respire her equal breath;

Still in the unknown star I see

The very god that is of me.

The day’s pale countenance is lifted,

The rude sun’s forehead he uncovers;

No soft delicious clouds have drifted,

No wing of midnight’s bird that hovers;

Yet still the hard blind blue is rifted,

And still my star and I as lovers

Year to each other through the sky

With eyes half closed in ecstasy.

Night, Night, O mother Night, descend!

O daughter of the sleeping sea!

O dusk, O sister-spirit, lend

Thy wings, thy shadows, unto me! {172B}

O mother, mother, mother, bend

And shroud the world in mystery

That secrets of our bed forbidden

Cover their faces, and be hidden!

O steadfast, O mysterious bride!

O woman, O divine and dead!

O wings immeasurably wide!

O star, O sister of my bed!

O living lover, at my side

Clinging, the spring, the fountain-head

Of musical slow waters, white

With thousand-folded rays of light!

Come! Once again I call, I call,

I call, O perfect soul, to thee,

With chants, and murmurs mystical,

And whispers wiser than the sea:

O lover, come to me! The pall

Of night is woven: fair and free,

Draw to my kisses; let thy breath

Mingle for love the wine of death!

 

MADONNA OF THE GOLDEN EYES.

NIGHT brings madness; moonlight dips her throat to madden us;

Love’s swift purpose darts, the flash of a striking adder.

Love that kills and kisses dwells above to sadden us;

Dawn brings reason back and the violet eyes grows sadder.

O Madonna of the Golden Eyes!

Swooned the deep sunlight above the summer stream;

Droned the sleepy dragon-fly by the water spring;

Stood we in the noontide in a misty dream,

Fearful of our voices, of some sudden thing.

O Madonna of the Golden Eyes! {173A}

Dared we whisper? Dared we lift our eyes to see there

In their desperate depth some mutual flame of treason?

Dared we move apart? So glad were we to be there,

Nothing in the world might change the constant season.

O Madonna of the Golden Eyes!

Did a breath of wind disturb the lazy day?

Did a soul of fear flit phantom-wise across?

Suddenly we clasped and clave as spirit unto clay;

Suddenly love swooped to us as swoops the albatross.

O Madonna of the Golden Eyes!

Did thy husband’s venom breathe on the trembling scale?

Did that voice corrupting cry across the midnight air?

What decided? Gabriel may spin the foolish tale.

What decided? We were lovers — who should care?

O Madonna of the Golden Eyes!

How we clave together! How we strained caresses!

How the swooning limbs sank fainting on the sward!

For the fiery dart raged fiercer; in excesses

Long restrained, it cried, “Behold! I am the Lord!”

O Madonna of the Golden Eyes!

Yes, we sat with modest eyes and murmuring lips

Downcast at the table, while the husband drank his wine.

So thy sly, slow hand stretched furtively; there slips

Deadly in his throat the poison draught divine!

O Madonna of the Golden Eyes! {173B}

Then we left his carcase with the stealthy tread

Reverent, in presence of the silent place;

Then you burned, afire, caught up the ghastly head,

Looked like Hell right into it, and sat upon the face!

O Madonna of the Golden Eyes!

“Come with me,” you whispered, “come, and let the moon

Lend her light to madden us through the hours of pleasure;

Let the dayspring pass and brighten into noon!

Yet no limit find our love, nor passion find a measure!”

O Madonna of the Golden Eyes!

Dawn brought reason back, and the violet eyes are sadder: —

O they were golden once, and I call them golden still!

Dawn has brought remorse, the sting of a foul swamp-adder —

I hate you! beast of Hell! I have snapped Love’s manacle!

O Murderess of the Golden Eyes!

O and you fix them on me! your lips curse now — ‘tis fitter!

Snarl on! eat out your heart with the poison that is its blood.

Speak! and her lips move now with blasphemies cruel and bitter.

Slow the words creep forth as a sleepy and deadly flood.

They glitter, those Satanic eyes!

”Beast! I gave you my soul and my body to all your lust!

Beast! I am damned in Hell for the kisses we sucked from death!

Now remorse is yours, and love is fallen in dust —

I shall seek Him again for its sacramental breath!

Yes, fear the gold that glitters from these eyes!” {174A}

She took a dagger, and I could not stir.

She pierced my silent fascinated breast.

She held me with the deadly look of her.

I cried to Mary in the House of Rest;

“O Madonna of the Virgin eyes!”

* * *

I pierced him to the very soul: I took

His whole life’s love to me before he died;

Mad kisses mingled that enduring look

Of death-caught passion: in his death he cried,

“O Madonna of the Golden Eyes!”

 

LOVE AT PEACE.

THE valleys, that are splendid

With sun ere day is ended

And love-lutes take to tune,

See joyless and unfriended

The perfect bowstring bended,

Whose bow is called the moon.

They see the waters slacken

And all the sky’s blue blacken,

While in the yellow bracken

Love lies in death or swoon.

The stars arise and brighten;

The summer lightnings lighten,

Faint and as midnight mute.

Afar the snowfields tighten

The iron bands that frighten

No fairy’s tender foot.

Across the stiller river

Stray flowers of ice may shiver,

Before the day deliver

The murmur of its lute.

The sleep of bird and flower

Proclaims that Heaven has power

To guard its gentlest child.

The lover knows the hour,

And goes with dew for dower

To wed in woodland wild.

The silvern grasses shake,

And through the startled brake

Glides the awakened snake,

Untamable and mild. {174B}

The song of stars; the wail

Of women wild and pale,

Forlorn and not forsaken;

The tremulous nightingale;

The waters wan that fail

By frost-love overtaken,

Make sacred all the valley;

And softly, musically,

The breezes lull and rally;

The pine stirs and is shaken.

Beneath whose sombre shade

I hold a lazy maid

In chaste arms and too tender.

Lo! she is fair! God said;

And saw through the deep glade

How sweet she was and slender.

But I — could I behold her

Curved shapeliness of shoulder?

I, whose strong arms enfold her

Immaculate surrender.

Pure as the dawns that quicken

On snow-topped mountains stricken

By first gray light that grows,

By beams that gather, thicken,

A web of fairy ticken6

To make a fairy rose:

Pure as the seas that lave

With phosphorescent wave

The sombre architrave

Of Castle No-man-knows.

Pure as the dreams, undreamt

(That men have in contempt,

That wise men yearn to see),

Of angel forms exempt

From mockeries that tempt

Who fly about the lea;

Proclaiming things unheard.

Unknown to brightest bird,

Things, whose unspoken word

Is utmost secrecy. {175A}

So pure, so pale we lie,

Like angels eye to eye,

Like lovers lip to lip.

So, the elect knight, I

Keep vigil to the sky,

While the dumb moments slip.

So she, my bride, my queen,

So virginal, so keen,

Swoons, while the moon-rays lean

To fan their silver ship.

No sleep, but precious kisses

In those pale wildernesses,

Mark the dead hours of night,

No sleep so sweet as this is,

Whose pulse of purple blisses

Beats calm and cool and light.

No life so fair with roses,

No day so swift to close is;

No cushion so reposes

Fair love so sweet and slight.

 

MORS JANUA AMORIS.

“None but the dead can know the worth of Love.” — KELLY.

IN the night my passion fancies

That an incense vapour whirls,

That a cloud of perfume trances

With its dreamy vapour-curls

All my soul, with whom their dances

The one girl of mortal girls.

The one girl whose wanton glances

Soften into living pearls

Comes, a fatal, fleeting vision,

Turns my kisses to derision,

Smiles upon my breast, and sighs,

Flits, and laughs, and fades, and dies.

By the potent starry speeches;

By the spells of mystic kings;

By the magic passion teaches;

By the strange and sacred things {175B}

By whose power the master reaches

To the stubborn fiery springs;

By the mystery of the beaches

Where the siren Sibyl sings;

I will hold her, live and bleeding;

Clasp her to me, pale and pleading;

Hold her in a human shape;

Hold her safe without escape!

So I put my spells about her

As she flew into my dreams;

So I drew her to the outer

Land of unforgetful streams;

So I laid her (who should doubt her?)

Where enamelled verdure gleams,

Drew her spirit from without her!

In her eyelids stellar beams

Glow renascent, now I hold her

Breast to breast, and shining shoulder

Laid to shoulder, in the bliss

Of the uncreated kiss.

Lips to lips beget for daughters

Little kisses of the breeze;

Limbs entwined with limbs, the waters

Of incredible blue seas;

Eyes that understand, the slaughters

Of a thousand ecstasies

Re-embodied, as they wrought us

Garlands of strange sorceries;

New desires and mystic passion

Infinite, of starry fashion;

The mysterious desire

Of the subtle formless fire.

Vainly may the Tyanaean7

Throw his misconceiving eye

To bewitch our empyrean

Splendours of the under sky!

If the loud infernal paean

Be our marriage-melody,

We are careless, we Achaean

Moulders of our destiny. {176A}

Hell, it may be, for his playing,

Renders Orpheus the decaying

Love — in Hell, if Hell there be,

I would seek Eurydice!

If she be the demon sister

Of my brain’s mysterious womb;

If she brand my soul and blister

Me with kisses of the tomb;

If she drag me where the bistre

Vaults of Hell gape wide in gloom;

Little matter! I have kissed her!

Little matter! as a loom

She has woven love around me,

As with burning silver bound me,

Held me to her scented skin

For an age of deadly sin!

So I fasten to me tighter

Fetters on her limbs that fret;

So my kisses kindle brighter,

Fiercer, flames of Hell, and set

Single, silent, as a mitre

Blasphemous, a crown of jet

On our foreheads, paler, whiter

Than the snowiest violet.

So I forge the chains of fire

Round our single-souled desire.

Heaven and Hell we reck not of,

Being infinite in love.

Come, my demon-spouse, to fashion

The fantastic marriage-bed!

Let the starry billows splash on

Both our bodies, let them shed

Dewfall, as the streams Thalassian

On Selene’s fallen head!

Let us mingle magic passion,

Interpenetrating, dead,

Deathless, O my dead sweet maiden!

Lifeless, in the secret Aidenn!8

Let our bodies meet and mix

On the spirit's crucifix! {176B}

 

THE MAY QUEEN.9

(OLD STYLE)

IT is summer and sun on the sea,

The twilight is drawn to the world:

We linger and laugh on the lea,

The light of my spirit with me,

Sharp limbs in close agony curled.

The noise of the music of sleep,

The breath of the wings of the night,

The song of the magical deep,

The sighs of the spirits that weep,

Make murmur to tune our delight.

Slow feet are our measures that move;

Swift songs are more soft than the breeze;

Our mouths are made mute for our love;

Our eyes are made soft as the dove;

We mingle and move as the seas.

The light of the passionate dawn

That kissed us, and would not awaken,

Grew golden and bold on the lawn;

The rays of the sun are withdrawn

At last, and the blossoms are shaken.

Oh, fragrant the breeze is that stirs

The grasses around us that lean!

Oh, sweet is the whisper that purrs

From those wonderful lips that are hers,

From the passionate lips of a queen.

A queen is my lover, I say,

With a crown of the lilies of light —

For a maiden they crowned her in May,

For the Queen of the Daughters of Day

That are flowers of the forest of Night.

They crowned her with lilies and blue,

They crowned her with yellow and roses;

They gave her a sceptre of rue,

And a girdle of laurel and yew,

And a basket of pansies in posies. {177A}

They led her with songs by the stream;

They brought her with tears to the river;

They danced as the maze of a dream;

They kissed her to roses and cream,

And they cried, “Let the queen live for ever!”

They took her, with all of the flowers

They had girded her with for God’s daughter;

They cast her from amorous bowers

To the river, the horrible powers

Of the Beast that lurks down by the Water!

My was was more swift than a bow

That flings out its barb to the night:

My sword struck the infinite blow

That smote him, and blackened the flow

Of the amorous river of light.

I plunged in the stream, and I drew

My queen from the clasp of the water;

I crowned her with roses and blue,

With yellow and lilies anew;

I called her my love and God’s daughter!

I gave her a sceptre of may;

I gave her a girdle of green;

I drew her to music and day;

I led her the beautiful way

To the land where the Winds lie between.

So still lingers sun upon sea;

Still twilight draws down to the world;

The light of my spirit is she;

The soul of her love is in me;

Lithe kisses with music are curled.

Like light on the meadows we dwell;

Like twilight clings heart unto heart;

Like midnight the depth of the spell

Our love weaves, and stronger than hell

The guards of our palace of art.

We are one as the dew that is drawn

By the sun from the sea: we are curled

In curves of delight an of dawn,

On the lone, the immaculate lawn,

Beyond the wild way of the world. {177B}

 

SIDONIA THE SORCERESS.10

SIDONIA the Sorceress! I revel in her amber skin,

Dream in her eyes and die in her caress.

She is for me the avatar of sin,

Sidonia the Sorceress.

The one unpardonable wickedness,

Strange serpent-blasphemies, are curled within

The heart of her Hell gives me to possess.

Her hair is fastened with a dagger thin;

A dead man’s heart is woven with each tress.

I murdered Christ before my lips could win

Sidonia the Sorceress.

 

THE GROWTH OF GOD.

(AS DEVELOPED ON A MOONLESS NIGHT IN THE TROPICS.)11

EVEN as beasts, where the sepulchral ocean

Sobs, and their fins and feet keep Runic pace,

Treading in water mysteries of motion,

Witch-dances: where the ghastly carapace

Of the blind sky hangs on the monstrous verge:

Even as serpents, wallowing in the slime;

So my thoughts raise misshapen heads, and urge

Horrible visions of decaying Time.

For in the fiery dusk arise distorted

Grey shapes in moonless phosphorus glow of death;

The keen light of the eyes thrust back and thwarted,

The quick scent stabbed by the miasma breath. {178A}

The day is over, when the lizard darted,

A flash of green, the emerald outclassed;

Night is collapsed upon the vale: departed

All but the Close, suggestive of the Vast.

The heavy tropic scent-inspiring gloom

Clothes the wide air, the circumambient aether.

The earth grins open, as it were a tomb,

And struggling earthquakes gnash their teeth beneath her.

The night is monstrous: in the flickering fire

Strange faces gibber as the brands burn low;

Old shapes of hate, young phantoms of desire

More hateful yet, shatter and change and grow.

There is a sense of terror in the air,

And dreadful stories catch my breath and bind me,

Soft noises as of breathing: unaware

What devils or what ghosts may lurk behind me!

Even my horse is troubled: vain it is

Invoking memory for sweet sound of youth;

The song, the day, the cup, the shot, the kiss!

This night begets illusion — ay! the truth.

I know the deep emotion of that birth,

When chaos rolled in terror and in thunder;

The abortion of the infancy of earth;

The monsters moving in a world of wonder;

The Shapeless, racked with agony, that grew

Into these phantom forms that change and shatter;

The falling of the first toad-spotted dew;

The first lewd heaving ecstasy of matter.

I see all Nature claw and tear and bite,

All hateful love and hideous: and the brood

Misshapen, misbegotten out of spite;

Lust after death; love in decreptitude. {178B}

Thus, till the monster-birth of serpent-man

Linked in corruption with the serpent-woman,

Slavering in lust and pain — creation’s ban.

The horrible beginning of the human.

The savage monkey leaping on his mate;

The upright posture for sure murder taken;

The gibberings modified to spit out hate:

Struggle to manhood — surely God-forsaken.

The bestial cause of Morals — fear and hate.

At last the anguish-vomit of despair,

The growth of reason — and its pangs abate

No whit: the knife replaces the arm bare.

Fear grows, and torment; and distracted pain

Must from sheer agony some respite find;

When some half-maddened miserable brain

Projects a God in his detesting mind.

A God who made him — to the core all evil,

In his own image — and a God of Terror;

A vast foul nightmare, and impending devil;

Compact of darkness, infamy, and error.

Some bestial woman, beaten by her mates,

In utter fear broke down the bar of reason;

Shrieked, crawled to die; delirium abates

By some good chance her terror in its season.

Her ravings picture the cessation of

Such life as she had known: her mind conceives

A God of Mercy, Happiness, and Love;

Reverses life and fact: and so believes.

So man grew up; and so religion grew.

Now in the aeons shall not truth dissever

The man and maker, smite the old lie through,

Cast God to black oblivion for ever?

Picture no longer in fallacious thought

A doer for each deed! the real lurks

Nowhere thus hidden: there is truly nought

Substantial in these unsubstantial works. {179A}

But work thou ever! Thou who art or art not,

Work that the fever of thy life abate;

Work! though for weary ages thou depart not,

At last abideth the sequestered state.

Sure is the search! O seeker, as the bird,

Homing through distant skies toward its rest,

Shall surely find — and thou shalt speak the word

At last that shall dissolve thee into rest.

 

TO RICHARD WAGNER.

O MASTER of the ring of love, O lord

Of all desires, and king of all the stars,

O strong magician, who with locks and bars

Dost seal that kingdom silent and abhorred

That stretches out and binds with iron cord

The hopes and lives of men, and makes and mars!

O thou thrice noble for the deadly scars

That answered vainly thy victorious sword!

Wagner! creator of a world of light

As beautiful as God’s, bend down to me.

And whisper me the secrets of thy heart,

That I may follow and dispel the night,

And fight life through, a comrade unto thee,

Under Love’s banner with the sword of Art!

 

THE TWO EMOTIONS.

HOW barren is the Valley of Delight!

Swift the gaunt hounds that nose the warm close trail

Of all my love’s content; in vain I veil

My secret of remorse; from their keen sight

And scent my poor deception takes to flight.

I borrow perfume from young loves waxed pale;

I borrow music from the nightingale.

In vain: she knows me, and I hate he quite. {179B}

Not altogether: in my patchwork brain

Some rag of passion tears its woof asunder.

Strange, that its own insatiable pain

Should find an opiate in her eyes of wonder!

Yes, though I hate her well enough to kill,

I know that then my soul would love her still.

 

THE SONNET.

I.

 

THE solemn hour, and the magnetic swoon

Of midnight in a poet’s lonely hall!

Grave spirits answer (angels if he call)

The invocation of his lofty tune.

Thus in his measure nature craves the boon

To be reflected; and his rhymes appal

Or charm mankind as tides that flow or fall,

Waxes or wanes the tempestival moon.

Her course is measured in the sonnet’s tether.

Waxes the eightfold ecstasy; exceeds

The minor sestet, where some passion bleeds

Or truth discovers: or eclipse may end,

Proof against thought; but if man comprehend

The stars is all their stations sing together.

 

II.

 

What power or fascination can there lie

In this fair garden of the straight-kept rows,

The sonnet? Surely some archangel knows

Why, having written in mere ecstasy

One sonnet-thought, the metre cannot die

But urges, but compels me to compose

More and still more,12 and still my spirit goes

Striving up glittering steeps of symphony. {180A}

There is an angel who is guardian.

Surely her wings are rosy, and her feet

Black as the wind of frost; but oh! her face!

Whoso may know it is no more a man,

But walks with God, and sees the Lady sweet

Whose body was the vehicle of grace.

 

WEDLOCK.

A SONNET.

I SAW the Russian peasants13 build a ring

Of glowing embers of the bubbling pine.

In the green heart o’ the salamander line

They scatter roses. Now the youngsters spring

Within, who with hard-shut eyes hope to bring

From out the fiery circle one divine

Blossom of rose, as from a poisonous mine

Gold comes to gird the palace of a king.

Envious I sprang — and found the last rose gone.

So in the fiery ring of wedlock, blind,

Mad, one may leap, no rose perhaps to find

(Or, if no rose, good fortune finds no thorn),

But — mark the difference — palpable and plain:

Rose or no rose, one leaps not out again.

 

SONNET FOR GERALD KELLY’S DRAWING OF JEZEBEL.

LIFT up thine head, disastrous Jezebel!

Fire and black stars are melted in thine hair

That curls to Hell, as in Satanic prayer;

Thy mouth is heavy with its riper smell

Than clustered pomegranates beside a well;

The cruel savour of thy lust lies there,

That blood may tinge thy kisses unaware

To fill thy children with the hope of Hell. {180B}

O evil beauty! Heart of mystery

Wherein my being toils, and in the blood

Mixed with thy poison finds its subtle food,

Intoxicating my divinity!

Disdainful hands behind thee, I may take

What joys I will — but thou wilt not awake.

 

MANY WATERS CANNOT QUENCH LOVE.14

IN my distress I made complaint to Death:

Thy shadow strides across the starry air;

Thou comest as a serpent unaware,

Striking love’s heart and crushing out man’s breath:

Thy destiny is even as God saith

To mark the impotence of human prayer,

Choke hope, sting all but Love; and never care

If man or flower or sparrow perisheth.

Thee, I invoke thee, though no mercy move

Thy heart! No power is to thy hate assigned

On love (sing, poets! shrill, Pandean reeds!).

But me, look on me, how my bossom bleeds —

Invoke new power of cruelty; be kind,

And ask authority to quench my love!

 

COENUM FATALE.

“La cour d’appel de la volonté de l’homme — C’est le ventre!” - Old proverb.

THE worst of meals is that we have to meet.

They trick my purpose and evade my will,

Remind my conscience that I love her still,

And pull my spirit from its lofty seat.

For I withdraw myself: my stealthy feet

Seek half-ashamed the alembic which I fill

To the epic-mark — one sonnet to distil,

In this poor miracle — my love to cheat. {181A}

Dinner clangs cheerily from my lady’s gong.

A man must eat in intervals of song!

Swift feet run back, to hide my hate of her.

And then — that hate flies truant, as my thought

Rests (surely it beseems the overwrought)

And I am left her slave and minister.

 

THE SUMMIT OF THE AMOROUS MOUNTAIN.

TO love you, Love, is all my happiness;

To kill you with my kisses; to devour

Your whole ripe beauty in the perfect hour

That mingles us in one supreme caress;

To drink the purple of your thighs; to press

Your beating bosom like a living flower;

To die in your embraces, in the shower

That dews like death your swooning loveliness

To know you love me; that your body leaps

With the quick passion of your soul; to know

Your fragrant kisses sting my spirit so;

To be one soul where Satan smiles and sleeps; —

Ah! in the very triumph-hour of Hell

Satan himself remembers whence he fell!

 

CONVENTIONAL WICKEDNESS.

BEFORE the altar of Famine and Desire

The Two in One, a golden woman stands

Holding a heart in her ensanguine hands,

The nightly victim of her whore's attire.

Quick sobs of lust instead of prayers inspire

Some oracle of Death. From many lands

Come many worshippers. Their fading brands

Rekindle from the sacrificial fire.

Before the altar of Plenty, Love, and Peace,

Stand purer priests in bloodless sacrifice,

And quiet hymns of happiness are heard.

Here sound no hatreds and no ecstasies;

Here no polluted sacrament of Vice

Unveiled! I chose the first without a word! {181B}

 

LOVE’S WISDOM.

THERE is a sense of passion after death.

Passion for death, desire to kiss the scythe,

All know, whose limbs in envious glory writhe,

And lie exhausted, mingling happy breath.

“Could I end so — this moment!” Lingereth

The lazy gaze half mournful and half blithe.

But there’s another, when the body dieth —

Hast thou no knowledge what the carcase saith?

I watched all night by my dead lover’s bed.

I saw the spirit; heard the motionless

Lips part in uttering a supreme caress:

“I care not or for life or death;” they said,

“Only for love.” “What difference?” said I,

“Dead or alive, I love thee utterly.”

 

THE PESSIMIST’S PROGRESS.15

MORTAL distrust of mortal happiness

Is born of madness and of impotence;

A miserable and distorted sense,

Defiant in its hatred of success.

Even where love’s banners flame, and flowers bless

The happy head; all faith and hope immense

Fly, for possession dwells supreme, intense;

And to possess is only — to possess.

But, as the night draws snailwise to its end,

And sleep invades the obstinate desire,

And lovers sigh — but not for kisses’ sake —

There comes this misery, as half awake

I watch the embers of my passion-fire,

And see love dwindled in my — call her friend! {182A}

 

NEPHTHYSS.

“There is no light, nor wisdom, nor knowledge in the grave, wither thou goest.” — SOLOMON.

A FOOLISH and a cruel thing is said

By the Most High that mocks man’s empty breast,

As if the grave were mere eternal rest,

Or merest resurrection of the dead.

All petty wishes: at the fountain-head,

A dead girl’s whisper — I have stooped and pressed

My ear unto her heart — her soul confessed

That none of life her joy relinquished.

"I died the moment when you tore away

The bleeding veil of my virginity.

The pain was sudden — and the joy was long.

Persists that triumph, keenly, utterly!

Write, then, in thy mysterious book of song:

“Death chisels marble where life moulded clay.”

 

AGAINST THE TIDE.

I KILLED my wife — not meaning to, indeed —

Yet knew myself the sheer necessity:

For I too died that miracle-hour —and she,

She also knew the immedicable need.

She sighed, and laughed, and died. How loves exceed

In that strange fact! Yet robbed (you say) are we

Of God’s own purpose of fecundity.

Exactly! You have read the golden rede.

That is the pity of all things on earth:

That all must have its consequence again.

Life ends in death and loving ends in birth.

All’s made for pleasure: man’s device is pain.

And in that pain and barrenness men find

Triumph on God; and glory of the mind. {182B}

 

STYX.

(TO M. M. M.)

“The number nine is sacred, as the Oracles inform us, and attaineth the summits of philosophy.” — ZOROASTER.

NINE times I kissed my lover in her sleep:

The first time, to make sure that she was there;

The second, as a sleepy sort of prayer;

The third, because I wished that she should weep;

The fourth, to draw her kisses and to keep;

The fifth, for love; the sixth, in sweet despair;

The seventh, to destroy us unaware;

The eighth, to dive within the infernal deep.

The last, to kill her — and myself as well!

Ah! joy of sweet annihilation,

The blackness that invades the burning sun,

My swart limbs and her limbs adorable!

So nine times dead before the night is done,

Even as Styx nine times embraces Hell.

 

LOVE, MELANCHOLY, DESPAIR.16

DEEP melancholy — O, the child of folly! —

Looms on my brow, a perched ancestral bird;

Black are its plumes, its eyes melancholy,

It speaks no word.

Like to a star, deep beauty’s avatar<<Incarnation.>>

Pales in the dusky skies so far above:

Seven rays of gladness crown its passionate star,

One heart of love. {183A}

The fringing trees, marge of deep-throated seas,

Move as I walk: like spectres whispering

The spaces of them: let me leave the trees —

It is not spring!

Spring — no! but dying autumn fast and flying,

Sere leaves and frozen robins in my breast!

There is the winter — were I sure in dying

To find some rest!

There is a shallop — how the breakers gallop,

Grinding to dust the unresisting shore,

A moon-mad thought to wander in the shallop!

Act — think no more!

Pale as a ghost I leave the sounding coast,

The waters white with moonrise. I embark,

Float on to the horizon as a ghost,

Confront the dark.

The cadent curve of Dian seems to swerve,

Eluding helmcraft: let me drift away

Where sea and sky unite their clamorous curve

In praise of Day.

Is it an edge? Some spray-bechiselled ledge?

Some sentry platform to an under sky?

Let me drift onward to the azure edge —

I can but die!

The moon hath seen! An arrow cold and keen

Brings some cold being from the water chill,

Rising between me and the world — unseen,

Most terrible.

Dawns that unheard-of terror! Never a word of

The spells that chain ill spirits I remember.

And oh! my soul! What hands of ice unheard-of

Disturb, dismember! {183B}

It hath no shape; and I have no escape!

It wraps around me, as a mist, despair.

Fear without sense and horror without shape

Most surely there!

O melancholy! charming child of folly,

Where is thy comfort told without a word?

Where are thy plumes, beloved melancholy,

Familiar bird? {184A}

O emerald star, deep beauty’s avatar,

Are thy skies dim? What throne is thine above?

Where is the crown of thee — thy sevenfold star,

My heart of love?

Then from the clinging mist there came a singing;

A dirge re-echoes to the poet prayer:

“I am their child to whom thy soul is clinging,

I am Despair!” {184B}

 

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1. At the publisher”s suggestion, this volume was split up into “The Soul of Osiris” and “The Mother’s Tragedy.“ The original design of the poet is now restored.

2. The Sabbath of the Witches. The reader should consult Payne Knight, “Two Essays on the Worship of Priapus”; Eliphaz Levi, “Historie de la Magie” and “Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie”; P. Christian, “Histoire de la Magie”; and Goethe, “Faust.” Also J. Glanvil, “Saducismus Triumphatus.”

3. Supposed to be the abbreviation of the Templar's Order spelt backwards: Tem. o. h. p. ab. = Templi Omnium hominum pacis pater (Heb. Ab, father). Some assert the word to be really a synthesis of a great body of secret doctrine, discoverable by any one who knows the Qabalistic meaning of each letter.

4. “Hoc est enim corpus meum,” the words used in the Mass at the elevation of the Host.

5. One of the “Intelligences” of the Planet Venus.

6. A closely woven fabric.

7. Apollonius of Tyana, the sage whose glance dissolved the illusion which Lamia had cast about herself. See Keats’s poem.

8. This word is taken direct from Poe’s “Raven” in the sense in which it is used by him.

9. See Frazer, “The Golden Bough,” for proof of the universality of the ritual described. The parallelism is accidental, Crowley having read no sociology at this time.

10. For her history see Wilhelm Meinhold.

11. When Crowley was benighted on the way from Iguala to Mexico City, whither he was riding unattended.

12. This is a singular psychological fact.

13. In my mind’s eye, Horatio. The story is a pretty fiction.

14. Canticles viii. 6,7.

15. The obscurity of this poem demands explanation. Its thesis is the fact that human happiness is only found in strife and aspiration. Victory and achievement inevitably lead to discontent, because only the impossible is truly desirable.

16. This poem is partially composed on Mr. Poe’s scheme of verse — vide “The Philosophy of Composition.” — A.C.

 

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