THE TEMPLE OF THE HOLY GHOST1

1901.

II. The Gate of the Sanctuary

TO LAURA

MISTRESS, I pray thee, when the wind

Exults upon the roaring sea,

Come to my bosom, kissed and kind

And sleep upon the lips of me!

 

Dream on my breast of quiet days,

Kindled of slow absorbing fire!

Sleep, while I ponder on the ways

And secret paths of my desire!

 

Dream, while my restless brain probes deep

The mysteries of its magic power,

The secret of forgotten sleep,

The birth of knowledge as a flower!

 

Slow and divine thy gentle breath

Woos my warm throat: my spirit flies

Beyond the iron walls of death,

And seeks strange portals, pale and wise.

 

My lips are fervent, as in prayer,

Thy lips are parted, as to kiss:

My hand is clenched upon the air,

Thy hand's soft touch, how sweet it is!

 

The wind is amorous of the sea;

The sea's large limbs to its embrace

Curl, and thy perfume curls round me,

An incense on my eager face. {184A}

 

I see, beyond all seas and star,

The gates of hell, the paths of death

Open: unclasp the surly bars

Before the voice of him that saith:

 

“I will!” Droop lower to my knees!

Sink gently to the leopard's skin!2

I must not stoop and take my ease,

Or touch the body lithe and thin.

 

Bright body of the myriad smiles,

Sweet serpent of the lower life,

The smooth silk touch of thee defiles,

The lures and languors of a wife.

 

Slip to the floor, I must not turn:

There is a lion in the way!3

The star of morning rise and burn:

I seek the dim supernal day!

 

Sleep there, nor know me gone: sleep there

And never wake, although God's breath

Catch thee at midmost of the prayer

Of sleep—that so dream turns to death!

 

Pass, be no more! The beckoning dawn

Woos the white ocean: I must go

Wither my soul's desire is drawn.

Whither? I know not. Even so. {184B}

 

THE LESBIAN HELL

THE unutterable void of Hell is stirred

By gusts of sad wind moaning; the inane

Quivers with melancholy sounds unheard,

Unpastured woes, and unimagined pain,

And kisses flung in vain.

 

Pale women fleet around, whose infinite

Long sorrow and desire have torn their wombs,

Whose empty fruitlessness assails the night

With hollow repercussion, like dim tombs

Wherein some vampire glooms.

 

Pale women sickening for some sister breast;

Lone sisterhood of voiceless melancholy

That wanders in this Hell, desiring rest

From that desire that dwells forever free,

Monstrous, a storm, a sea.

 

In that desire their hands are strained and wrung;

In that most infinite passion beats the blood,

And bursting chants of amorous agony flung

To the void Hell, are lost, not understood,

Unheard by evil or good.

 

Their sighs attract the unsubstantial shapes

Of other women, and their kisses burn

Cold on the lips whose purple blood escapes,

A thin chill stream; they feel not nor discern,

Nor love's low laugh return.

 

They kiss the spiritual dead, they pass

Like mists uprisen from the frosty moon,

Like shadows fleeting in a seer's glass,

Beckoning, yearning, amorous of the noon

When earth dreams on in swoon.

 

They are so sick for sorrow, that my eyes

Are moist because their passion was so fair,

So pure and comely that no sacrifice

Seems to waft up a sweeter savour there,

Where God's grave ear takes prayer. {185A}

 

O desecrated lovers! O divine

Passionate martyrs, virgin unto death!

O kissing daughters of the unfed brine!

O sisters of the west wind's pitiful breath,

There is One that pitieth!

 

One far above the heavens crowned alone,

Immitigable, intangible, a maid,

Incomprehensible, divine, unknown,

Who loves your love, and to high God hath said:

“To me these songs are made!”

 

So in a little from the silent Hell

Rises a spectre, disanointed now,

Who bears a cup of poison terrible,

The seal of God upon his blasted brow,

To whom His angels bow.

 

Rise, Phantom disanointed, and proclaim

Thine own destruction, and the sleepy death

Of those material essences that flame

A little moment for a little breath,

The love that perisheth!

 

Rise, sisters, who have ignorantly striven

On pale pure limbs to pasture your desire,

Who should have fixed your souls on highest Heaven,

And satiated your longings in that fire,

And struck that mightier lyre!

 

Let the ripe kisses of your thirsty throats

And beating blossoms of your breath, and flowers

Of swart illimitable hair that floats

Vague and caressing, and the amorous powers

Of your unceasing hours,

 

The rich hot fragrance of your dewy skins,

The eyes that yearn, the breasts that bleed, the thighs

That cling and cluster to these infinite sins,

Forget the earthlier pleasures of the prize,

And raise diviner sighs; {185B}

 

Cling to the white and bloody feet that hang,

And drink the purple of a God's pure side;

With your wild hair assuage His deadliest pang,

And on His broken bosom still abide

His virginal white bride.

 

So, in the dawn of skies unseen above,

Your passion's fiercest flakes shall catch new gold,

The sun of an immeasurable love

More beautiful shall touch the chaos cold

Of earth that is grown old.

 

Then, shameful sisterhood of earth's disdain,

Your lips shall speak your hearts, and understand;

Your lovers shall assuage the amorous pain

With spiritual lips more keen and bland,

And ye shall take God's hand.

 

THE NAMELESS QUEST4

THE king was silent. In the blazoned hall

Shadows, more mute than at a funeral

True mourners, waited, waited in the gloom;

Waited to hear what child was in the womb

Of his high thoughts. As dead men were we all;

As dead men wait the trumpet in the tomb.

 

The king was silent. Tense the high-strung air5

Must save itself by trembling—if it dare.

Then a lone shudder ran across the space;

Each man ashamed to see his fellow's face,

Each troubled and confused. He did not spare

Our fear—he spake not yet a little space. {186A}

 

After a while he took the word again:

“Go thou then moonwards6; on the great salt plain;

So to a pillar. Adamant, alone,

It stands. Around it see them overthrown,

King, earl, and knight. There lie the questing slain,

A thousand years forgotten—bone by bone.

 

“No more is spoken—the tradition goes:

'There learns the seeker what he seeks or knows,'

Thence—none have passed. The desert leagues may keep

Some other secret—some profounder deep

Than this one echoed fear: the desert shows

Its ghastly triumph—silence. There they sleep.

 

“There, brave and pure, there, true and strong, they stay

Bleached in the desert, till the solemn day

Of God's revenge—none knoweth them: they rest

Unburied, unremembered, unconfessed.

What names of strength, of majesty, had they?

What suns are these gone down into the West?

 

“Even I myself—my youth within me said:

Go, seek this folly; fear not for the dead,

And God is with thine arm! I reached the ridge,

And saw the river and the ghastly bridge

I told you of. Even then, even there, I fled.

Nor knight, nor king—a miserable midge!

 

“Yet from my shame I dare not turn and run.

My oath grows urgent as my days are done.

Almost mine hour is on me: for its sake

I tell you this, as if my heart should break:—

The infinite desire—a burning sun!

The listening fear—the sun-devouring snake!” {186B}

 

The king was silent. None of us would stir.

I sat, struck dumb, a living sepulchre.

For—hear me! in my heart this thing became

My sacrament, my pentecostal flame.

And with it grew a fear—a fear of Her.

What Her? Shame had not found itself a name.

 

Simply I knew it in myself. I brood

Ten years—so seemed it—O! the bitter food

In my mouth nauseate! In the silent hall

One might have heard God's sparrow in its fall.

But I was lost in mine own solitude—

I should not hear Mikhael's7 trumpet-call.

 

Yet there did grow a clamour shrill and loud:

One cursed, one crossed himself, another vowed

His soul against the quest; the tumult ran

Indecorous in that presence, man to man.

Stilled suddenly, beholding how I bowed

My soul in thought: another cry began.

 

“Gereth the dauntless! Gereth of the Sea!

Gereth the loyal! Child of royalty!

witch-mothered Gereth! Sword above the strong,

heart pure, head many-wiled!” The knightly throng

Clamour my name, and flattering words, to me—

If they may 'scape the quest—I do them wrong;

They are my friends! Yet something terrible

Rings in the manly music that they swell.

 

They are all caught in this immense desire

Deeper than heaven, tameless as the fire.

All catch the fear—the fear of Her—as well,

And dare not—even afraid, I must aspire. {187A}

 

A spirit walking in a dream, I went

To the high throne—they shook the firmament

With foolish cheers. I knelt before the queen

And wept in silence. Then, as it had been

And angel's voice and touch, her face she bent,

Lifted and kissed me—oh! her lips were keen!

 

Her voice was softer than a virgin's eyes:

“Go! my true knight: for thither, thither lies

The only road for thee; thou hast a prayer

Wafted each hour—my spirit will be there!”

Too late I knew what subtle Paradise

Her dreams and prayers portend: too fresh, too fair!

 

I turned more wretched than myself knew yet.

I told my nameless pain I should forget

Its shadow as it passed. The king did start,

Gripped my strong hands, and held me to his heart,

And could not speak a moment. Then he set

A curb of sorrow and subdued its dart.

 

“Go! and the blessing of high God attend

Thy path, and lead thee to the doubtful end.

No tongue that secret ever may reveal.

Thy soul is god-like and thy frame is steel;

Thou mayst win the quest—the king, thy friend,

Gives thee his sword to keep thee—Gereth, kneel!

 

“I dub thee Earl; arise!” And then there rings

The queen's voice: “Shall my love not match the king's?

Here, from my finger drawn, this gem of power

Shall guard thee in some unimagined hour.

It hath strange virtue over mortal things.

I freely give it for thy stirrup's dower.” {187B}

 

I left the presence. Now the buffeting wind

Gladdens my face—I leave the court behind.

Am I Stark mad? My face grows grim and grave;

I see—O Mary Mother, speak and save!

I stare and stare until mine eyes are blind—

There was no jewel in the ring she gave!8

 

Oh! my pure heart! Adulterous love began

So subtly to identify the man

With its own perfumed thoughts. So steals the grape

Into the furtive brain—a spirit shape

Kisses my spirit as no woman can.

I love her—yes; and I have no escape.

 

I never spoke, I never looked! But she

Saw through the curtains of the soul of me,

And loved me also! It is very well.

I am well started on the road to Hell.

Loved, and no sin done! Ay, the world shall see

The quest is first—a love less terrible.

 

Yet, as I ride toward the edge of snow

That cuts the blue, I think. For even so

Comes reason to me: “Oh, return, return!

What folly is it for two souls to burn

With hell's own fire! What is this quest of woe?

What is the end? Consider and discern!”

 

Banish the thought! My working reason still

Is the rebellious vassal to my will,

Because I will it. That is God's own mind.

I cast all thought and prudence to the wind:

On, to the quest! The cursed parrot hill

Mocks on, on, on! The thought is left behind. {188A}

 

Night came upon me thus—a wizard hand

Grasping with silence the reluctant land.

Through night I clomb—behind me grew the light

Reflected in the portal of the night.

I reached the crest at dawn—pallid I stand,

Uncomprehending of the sudden sight.

 

The river and the bridge! The river flows,

Tears of young orphans for its limpid woes.

The red bridge quivers—how my spirit starts,

Its seeming glory built of widows' hearts!

And yet I could disdain it—heaven knows

I had no dear ones for their counterparts.

 

Yet the thought chilled me as I touched the reins.

Ah! the poor horse, he will not. So remains,

Divided in his love. With mastered tears

I stride toward the parapet. My ears

Catch his low call; and now a song complains.

The bridge is bleeding and the river hears.

 

Ah! God! I cannot live for pity deep

Of that heart-quelling chant—I could not sleep

Ever again to think of it. I close

My hearing with my fingers. Gently goes

A quivering foot above them as they weep—

I weep, I also, as the river flows.

 

Slowly the bridge subsides, and I am flung

Deep in the tears and terrors never sung.

I swim with sorrow bursting at my breast.

Yet I am cleansed, and find some little rest.

Still from my agonised unspeaking tongue

Breaks: I must go, go onward to the quest.

 

Again the cursed cry: “What quest is this?

Is it worth heaven in thy lover's kiss?

A queen, a queen, to kiss and never tire!

Thy queen, quick-breathing for your twin desire!”

I shudder, for the mystery of bliss;

I go, heart crying and a soul on fire! {188B}

 

“Resolve all question by a moonward tread.

Follow the moon!” Even so the king had said.

My thought had thanked him for the generous breath

Wherewith he warned us: for delay were death.

And now, too late! no moon is overhead—

Some other meaning in the words he saith?

 

Or, am I tricked in such a little snare?

I lifted up my eyes. What soul stood there,

Fronting my path? Tall, stately, delicate,

A woman fairer than a pomegranate.

A silver spear her hands of lotus bear,

One shaft of moonlight quivering and straight.

 

She pointed to the East with flashing eyes:

“Thou canst not see her—but my Queen shall rise.”

Bowed head and beating heart, with feet unsure

I passed her, trembling, for she was too pure.

I could have loved her. No: she was too wise.

Her presence was to gracious to endure.

 

“She did not bid me go and chain me to her,”

I cried, comparing. Then, my spirit knew her

For One beyond all song9—my poor heart turned:

Then, 'tis no wonder. And my passion burned

Mightier yet than ever. To renew her

Venom from those pure eyes? And yet I yearned.

 

Still, I stepped onward. Credit me so far!

The harlot had my soul: my will, the star!

Thus I went onward, as a man goes blind,

Into a torrent crowd of mine own king;

Jostlers and hurried folk and mad they are,

A million actions and a single mind. [189A}

 

“What is thy purpose, sweet my lord?” I pressed

One stalwart. “Ah! the quest,” he cried, “the quest.”

God's heart! the antics, as they toil and shove!

One grabs a coin, one life, another love.

All shriek, “The prize is mine!” as men possessed.

I was not fooled at anything thereof.

 

Rather I hated them, and scorned for slaves;

“Fools! all your treasure is at last the grave's!”

Mine eyes had fixed them on the sphinx, the sky.

“Is then this quest of immortality?”

And echo answered from some unseen caves:

Mortality! I shrink, and wonder why.

 

Strange I am nothing tainted with this fear

Now, that had touched me first. For I am here

Half-way I reckon to the field of salt,

The pillar, and the bones—it was a fault

I am cured of! praise to God! What meets mine ear,

That every nerve and bone of me cries halt?

 

What is this cold that nips me at the throat?

This shiver in my blood? this icy note

Of awe within my agonising brain?

Neither of shame, nor love, nor fear, nor pain,

Nor anything? Has love no antidote,

Courage no buckler? Hark! it comes again.

 

Friend, hast thou heard the wailing of the damned?

Friend, hast thou listened when a murderer shammed

Pale smiles amid his fellows as they spoke

Low of his crime: his fear is like to choke

His palsied throat. How, if Hell's gate were slammed

This very hour upon thy womanfolk? {189B}

 

Conceive, I charge thee! Brace thy spirit up

To drink at that imagination's cup!

Then, shriek, and pass! For thou shalt understand

A little of the pressure of the hand

That crushed me now. Yes, yes! let fancy sup

That grislier banquet than old Atreus10 planned!

 

Mind cannot fathom, nor the brain conceive,

Nor soul assimilate, nor heart believe

The horror of that Thing without a Name.

Full on me, boasting, like Death's hand it came,

And struck me headlong. Linger, while I weave

The web of mine old agony and shame.

 

A little shadow of that hour of mine

Touches thy heart? Fill up the foaming wine,

And listen for a little! How profound

Strikes memory keen-fanged; memory, the hound

That tracks me yet! a shiver takes my spine

At one half-hint, the shadow of that sound.

 

Where am I? Seven days my spirit fell,

Down, down the whirlpools and the gulfs of hell:

Seven days a corpse lay desolate—at last

Back drew the spirit and the soul aghast

To animate that clay—O horrible!

The resurrection pang is hardly past.

 

Yet in awhile I stumbled to my feet

To flee—no nightmare could be worse to meet.

And, spite of that, I knew some deadlier trap

Some worm more poisonous would set—mayhap! {190A}

I turned—the path? My horror was complete—

A flaming sword across the earthquake gap.

 

I cried aloud to God in my despair.

“The quest of quests! I seek it, for I dare!

Moonward! on, moonward!” And the full moon shone,

A glory for God's eyes to dwell upon,

A path of silver furrowed in the air,

A gateway where an angel might have gone.

 

And forward gleamed a narrow way of earth

Crusted with salt: I watch the fairy birth

Of countless flashes on the crystal flakes,

Forgetting it is only death that makes

Its home the centre of that starry girth.

Yet, what is life? The manhood in me wakes.

 

The absolute desire hath hold of me.

Death were most welcome in that solemn sea;

So bitter is my life. But carelessness

Of life and death and love is on me—yes!

Only the quest! if any quest there be!

What is my purpose? Could the Godhead guess?

 

So the long way seemed moving as I went,

Flashing beneath me; and the firmament

Moving with quicker robes that swept the air.

Still Dian drew me to her bosom bare,

And madness more than will was my content.

I moved, and as I moved I was aware!

 

The plain is covered with a many dead.

Glisten white bone and salt-encrusted head,

Glazed eye imagined, of a crystal built.

And see! dark patches, as of murder spilt.

Ugh! “So thy fellows of the quest are sped!

Thou shall be with them: onward, if thou wilt!” {190B}

 

So was the chilling whisper at my side,

Or in my brain. Then surged the maddening tide

Of my intention. Onward! Let me run!

Thy steed, O Moon! Thy chariot, O Sun!

Lend me fierce feet, winged sandals, wings as wide

As thine, O East wind! And the goal is won!

 

Was ever such a cruel solitude?

Up rears the pillar. Quaintly shaped and hued,

It focussed all the sky and all the plain

To its own ugliness. I looked again,

And saw its magic in another mood.

A shapeless truth took image in my brain.

 

A hollow voice from every quarter cries:

“O thou, zelator of this Paradise,

Tell thou the secret of the pillar! None

Can hear thee, of the souls beneath the sun.

Speak, or the very Godhead in thee dies.

For we are many and thy name is One.&”

 

The Godhead in me! As a flash there came

The jealous secret and the guarded name.

The quest was mine! And yet my thoughts confute

My intuition; and my will was mute.

My voice—ah! flashes out the word of flame:

“Eternal Beauty, One and absolute!”

 

The overwhelming sweetness of a voice

Filled me with Godhead. “Still remains the choice!

Thou knowest me for Beauty! Canst thou bear

The fuller vision, the abundant air?”

I only wept. The elements rejoice;

No tear before had ever fallen there.

 

I thought within myself a bitter thing,

Standing abased. The golden marriage ring

The queen had given—how her beauty stank {191A}

Now in mine yes, where once their passion drank

Its secret sweets of poison. Let the spring

Of love once dawn—all else hath little thank!

 

Yet resolute I put my love away.

It could not live in this amazing day.

Love is the lotus that is sickly sweet,

That makes men drunken, and betrays their feet:

Beauty, the sacred lotus: let me say

The word, and make my purity complete.

 

The whole is mine, and shall I keep a part?

O Beauty, I must see thee as thou art!

Then on my withered gaze that Beauty grew—

Rosy quintessence of alchemic dew!

The Self-informing Beauty! In my heart

the many were united: and I knew.

 

Smitten by Beauty down I fell as dead—

So strikes the sunlight on a miner's head.

Blind, stricken, crushed! That vast effulgence stole,

Flooded the caverns of my secret soul,

And gushed in waves of weeping. I was wed

Unto a part, and could not grasp the whole.

 

Thus, I was broken on the wheel of Truth.

Fled all the hope and purpose of my youth,

The high desire, the secret joy, the sin

That coiled its rainbow dragon scales within.

Hope's being, life's delight, time's eager tooth;

All, all are gone; the serpent sloughs his skin!

 

The quest is mine! Here ends mortality

In contemplating the eternal Thee.

Here, she is willing. Stands the Absolute

Reaching its arms toward me. I am mute,

I draw toward. Oh, suddenly I see

The treason-pledge, the royal prostitute. {191B}

 

One moment, and I should have passed beyond

Linked unto spirit by the fourfold bond.

Not dead to earth, but living as divine,

A priest, a king, an oracle, a shrine,

A saviour! Yet my misty spirit conned

The secret murmur: “Gereth, I am thine!”

 

I must have listened to the voice of hell.

The earthly horror wove its serpent spell

Against the Beauty of the World: I heard

Desolate voices cry the doleful word

“Unready!” All the soul invisible

Of that vast desert echoed, and concurred.

 

The voices died in mystery away.

I passed, confounded, lifeless as the clay,

Somewhere I knew not. Many a dismal league

Of various terror wove me its intrigue,

And many a demon daunted: day by day

Death dogged despair, and misery fatigue.

 

Behold! I came with haggard mien again

Into the hall, and mingled with the train,

A corpse amid the dancers. Then the king

Saw me, and knew me—and he knew the ring!

He did not ask me how I sped: disdain

Curled his old lips: he said one bitter thing.

 

“You crossed the bridge—no man's heart trod you there?”

Then crossed his breast in uttering some prayer:

“I pray you follow of your courtesy,

My lord!” I followed very bitterly.

“Likes you the sword I gave?” I did not dare

Answer one word. My soul was hating me.

 

He bade me draw. I silently obeyed.

My eye shirked his as blade encountered blade.

I was determined he should take my life.

“Went your glance back—encountering my wife?”

“Taunt me!” I cried; “I will not be afraid!”

My whole soul weary of the coward strife. {192A}

 

He seemed to see no opening I gave,

But hated me the more. Serene and suave,

He fenced with deep contempt. I stumble, slip,

Guard wide—and only move his upper lip.

“You know I will not strike, Sir pure and brave!

Fight me your best—or I shall find a whip!”

 

That stung me, even me. He wronged me, so:

Therefore some shame and hate informed the blow;

Some coward's courage pointed me the steel;

Some strength of Hell: we lunge, and leap, and wheel;

Hard breath and laboured hands—the flashes grow

Swifter and cruel—this court hath no appeal!

 

He gladdened then. I would not slip again,

And baulk the death of half its shame and pain.

I, his best sword, must fall, in earnest fight.

The old despair was coward—he was right.

Now, king, I pay your debt. A purple stain

Hides his laced throat—I sober at the sight.

 

“King, you are touched!” “Fight on, Earl Lecherer!”

I cursed him to his face—the added spur

Sticks venom in my lunge—a sudden thrust!

No cry, no gasp; but he is in the dust,

Stark dead. The queen—I hate the name of her!

So grew the mustard-seed, one moment's lust.

 

I too was wounded: shameful runs the song.

She nursed me through that melancholy long

Month of despair: she won my life from death.

Ah God! she won that most reluctant breath

Out of corruption: love! ah! love is strong!

What waters quench it? King Shalomeh11 saith. {192B}

 

I am the king: you know it, friend! We wed.

That is the tale of how my wooing sped.

And oh! the quest: half won—incredible?

I am so brave, and pure—folk love me well.

But oh! my life, my being! That is dead,

And my whole soul—a whirlwind out of hell!

 

THE REAPER

IN middle music of Apollo's corn

She stood, the reaper, challenging a kiss;

The lips of her were fresher than the morn,

The perfume of her skin was ambergris;

The sun had kissed her body into brown;

Ripe breasts thrown forward to the summer breeze;

Warm tints of red lead fancy to the crown,

Her coils of chestnut, in abundant ease,

That bound the stately head. What joy of youth

Lifted her nostril to respire the wind?

What pride of being? What triumphal truth

Acclaimed her queen to her imperial mind?

 

I watched, a leopard, stealthy in the corn,

As if a tigress held herself above;

My body quivered, eager to be torn,

Stung by the snake of some convulsive love!

The leopard changed his spots; for in me leapt

The mate, the tiger. Murderous I sprang

Across the mellow earth: my senses swept,

One torrent flame, one soul-dissolving pang.

How queenly bent her body to the grip!

How lithe it slips, her bosom to my own!

The throat leans back, to tantalise the lip:—

The sudden shame of her is overthrown!

O maiden of the spirit of the wheat,

One ripening sunbeam thrills thee to the soul,

Electric from red main to amber feet!

The blue skies focus, as a burning bowl,

The restless passion of the universe

Into our mutual anger and distress, {193A}

To be forbidden (the Creator's curse)

To comprehend the other's loveliness.

We cannot grasp the ecstasy of this;

Only we strain and struggle and renew

The utter bliss of the unending kiss,

The mutual pang that shudders through and through,

Repeated and repeated, as the light

Can build a partial palace of the day,

So, in our anguish for the infinite,

One moment gives, the other takes away.

(I, the mere rhymer, she, the queen of rhyme,

As sweeps her sickle in the falling wheat,

Her body's sleek intoxicating time,

The music of the motion of her feet!)

 

I swoon in that imperial embrace—

Lay we asleep till evening, or dead?

I knew not, but the wonder of her face

Grew as the dawn and never satiated.

She knew not in her strong imperial soul

How hopeless was the slavery of life,

How by the part man learns to love the whole,

How each man's mistress calls herself a wife.

I tired not of the tigress limbs and lips—

Only, my soul was weary of itself,

Being so impotent, who only sips

The dewdrops from the flower-cup of an elf,

Not comprehending the mysterious sea

Of black swift waters that can drink it up,

Not trusting life to its own ecstasy,

Not mixing poison with the loving-cup.

I, maker of mad rhymes, the reaper she!

We lingered by a day upon the lawn.

O thou, the other Reaper! come to me!

Thy dark embraces have a germ of Dawn!

 

THE TWO MINDS

“THEY SHALL BE NO MORE TWAIN, BUT ONE FLESH.”

WELL have I said, “O God, Thou art, alone,

In many forms and faces manifest!

Thou, stronger than the universe, Thy throne!

Thou, calm in strength as the sea's heart at rest!” {193B}

But I have also answered: “Let the groan

Of this Thy world reach up to Thee, and wrest

Thy bloody sceptre: let the wild winds own

Man's lordship, and obey at his behest!”

 

Man has two minds: the first beholding all,

As from a centre to the endless end:

The second reaches from the outer wall,

And seeks the centre. This I comprehend.

But in the first: “I can—but what is worth?”

And in the second: “I am dust and earth!”

 

THE TWO WISDOMS

SOPHIE! I loved her, tenderly at worst.

Yet in my passion's highest ecstasy,

When life lost pleasure in desire to die

And never taste again the deadly thirst

For those caresses; even then a curst

Sick pang shot through me: looking afar on high,

Beyond, I see Σοφία in the sky.

 

The petty bubble of Love's pipe is burst!

Yea! through the portals of the dusky dawn

I see the nameless Rose of Heaven unfold!

Yea! through rent passion and desire withdrawn

Burns in the East the far ephemeral gold.

O Wisdom! Mother of my sorrow! Rise!

And lift my love to thine immortal eyes!

 

THE TWO LOVES

WHAT is my soul? The shadow of my will.

What is my will? The sleeper's sigh at waking.

Osiris! Orient godhead! let me still

Rest in the dawn of knowledge, ever slaking

My lips and throat where yon rose-glimmering hill,

The Mountain of the East, its lips is taking {194A}

To Thy life-lips: I hear Thy keen voice thrill;

Arise and shine! the clouds of earth are breaking!

 

The clouds are parted: yes! And there above

I bathe in ether and self-shining light;

My soul is filled with eternal love;

I am the brother of the Day and Night.

I AM! my spirit, and perhaps my mind!

But O my heart! I left thy love behind!

 

A RELIGIOUS BRINGING-UP

WITH this our “Christian” parents marred our youth:

“One thing is certain of our origin.

We are born Adam's bastards into sin,

Servants to Death and Time's devouring tooth.

God, damning most, had this one thought of ruth

To save some dozens—Us: and by the skin

Of teeth to save us from the devil's gin—

Repentance! Blood! Prayer! Sackcloth!

This is truth.”

 

Our parents answer jesting Pilate so.12

I am the meanest servant of the Christ:

But, were I heathen, cannibal, profane,

My cruel spirit had not sacrificed

My children to this Moloch. I am plain?

“Blasphemer! Damned!”? Undoubtedly

— I know!

 

THE LAW OF CHANGE

SOME lives complain of their own happiness.

In perfect love no sure abiding stands;

In perfect faith are no immortal bands

Of God and man. This passion we possess

Necessitous; insistent none the less

Because we know not how its purpose brands

Our lives. Even on God's knees and in His hands:

The Law of Change. “Out, out, adulteress!”? {194B}

These be the furies, and the harpies these?

That discontent should sum the happiest sky?

That of all boons man lacks the greatest—rest!

Nay! But the promise of the centuries,

The certain pledge of immortality,

Child-cry of Man at the eternal Breast.

 

SYNTHESIS

WHEN I think of the hundreds of women I have loved from time to time,

White throats and living bosoms where a kiss might creep or climb,

Smooth eyes and trembling fingers, faint lips or murderous hair,

All tunes of love's own music, most various and rare;

When I look back on life, as a mariner on the deep

Sees, tranced, the white wake foaming, fancies the nereids weep;

As, on a mountain summit in the thunders and the snow,

I look to the shimmering valley and weep: I loved you so!

For a moment cease the winds of God upon the reverent head;

I lose the life of the mountain, and my soul is with the dead;

Yet am I not unaware of the splendour of the height,

Yet am I lapped in the glory of the Sun of Life and Light:—

Even so my heart looks out from the harbour of God's breast,

Out from the shining stars where it entered into rest—

Once more it seeks in memory for reverence, not regret,

And it loves you still, my sisters! as God shall not forget.

It is ill to blaspheme the silence with a wicked whispered thought—

How still they were, those nights! when this web of things was wrought! {195A}

How still, how terrible! O my dolorous tender brides,

As I lay and dreamt in the dark by your shameful beautiful sides!

And now you are mine no more, I know; but I cannot bear

The curse—that another is drunk on the life that stirs your hair:

Every hair was alive with a spark of midnight's delicate flame,

Or a glow of the nether fire, or an old illustrious shame.

Many, so many, were ye to make one Womanhood—

A thing of fire and flesh, of wine and glory and blood,

In whose rose-orient texture a golden light is spun,

A gossamer scheme of love, as water in the sun

Flecked by wonderful bars, most delicately crossed,

Worked into wedded beauties, flickering, never lost—

That is the spirit of love, incarnate in your flesh!

Your bodies had wearied me, but your passion was ever fresh:

You were many indeed, but your love for me was one.

Then I perceived the stars to reflect a single sun—

Not burning suns themselves, in furious regular race,

But mirrors of midnight, lit to remind us of His face.

Thus I beheld the truth: ye are stars that give me light;

But I read you aright and learn I am walking in the night.

Then I turned mine eyes away to the Light that is above you:

The answering splendid Dawn arose, and I did not love you.

I saw the breaking light, and the clouds fled far away:

I was the resurrection of the Golden Star of Day. {195B}

And now I live in Him; my heart may trace the years

In drops of virginal blood and springs of virginal tears.

I love you now again with an undivided song.

Because I can never love you, I cannot do you wrong.

I saw in your dying embraces the birth of a new embrace;

In the tears of your pitiful faces, another Holier Face.

Unknowing it, undesiring, your lips have led me higher;

You have taught me purer songs that your souls did not desire;

You have led me through your chambers, where the secret bolt was drawn,

To the chambers of the Highest and the secrets of the Dawn!

You have brought me to command you, and not to be denied; {196midA}

You have taught me in perfection to be unsatisfied;

You have taught me midnight vigils, when you smiled in amorous sleep;

You have even taught a man the woman's way to weep.

So, even as you helped me, blindly, against your will,

So shall the angel faces watch for your own souls still.

A little pain and pleasure, a little touch of time,

And you shall blindly reach to the subtle and sublime;

You shall gather up your girdles to make ready for the way,

And by the Cross of Suffering climb seeing to the Day.

Then we shall meet again in the Presence of the Throne,

Not knowing; yet in Him! O Thou! knowing as we are known. {196midB}

 

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1. A 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. An actual rug: not a symbol.

3. Tennyson: the Holy Grail The phrase is, however, much older.

4. This poem has no foundation in tradition.

5. Here and in several other passages intense energy of will, or importance of situation, is represented as producing an actual condition of strain in the air or the ether. The fact observed is at least subjectively true to many people.

6. The moon here symbolises the path of ג, which leads from Tiphereth, the human will, to Kether, the divine Will.

7. Correct of “Michael.” A piece of pedantry pardonable in a youth of 25.

8. The gift of a wedding ring is of course typical of the supreme surrender on the part of a married woman.

9. The “Higher Self.”

10. Atreus, King of Mycenae, gave a banquet of pretended reconciliation to his half-brother Thyestes, at which the two sons of Thyestes were served up.

11. Hebrew form of Solomon. See Canticles viii. 6, 7.

12. See Bacon's Essay on Truth.