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DE PROFUNDIS.1

BLOOD, mist, and foam, then darkness. On my eyes

Sits heaviness, the poor worn body lies

Devoid of nerve and muscle; it were death

Save for the heart that throbs, the breast that sighs.

The brain reels drowsily, the mind is dulled,

Deadened and drowned by noises that are lulled

By the harsh poison of the hateful breath.

All sense and sound and seeing is annulled. {109A}

Within a body dead a deadened brain

Beats with the burden of a shameful pain,

The sullen agony that dares to think,

And think through sleep, and wake to think again.

Fools! bitter fools! Our breaths and kisses seem

Constrained in devilry, debauch, and dream:

Lives logged in the morass of meat and drink,

Loves dipped in Phlegethon,2 the perjured stream.

Behold we would that hours and minutes pass,

Watch the sands falling in the eager glass;

To wile their weariness is pleasure’s bliss;

But ah! the years! like smoke They fade, alas!

We weep them as they slip away; we gaze

Back on the likeness of the former days –

The hair we fondle and the lips we kiss –

Roses grow yellow and no purple stays.

Ah! the old years! Come back, ye vanished hours

We wasted; come, grow red, ye faded flowers!

What boots the weariness of olden time

Now, when old age, a tempest-fury, lowers?

Up to high God beyond the weary land

The days drift mournfully; His hoary hand

Gathers them. Is it so? My foolish rhyme

Dreams they are links upon an endless band.

The planets draw in endless orbits round

The sun; itself revolves in the profound

Deep wells of space; the comet’s mystic track

By the strong rule of a closed curve is bound. {109B}

Why not with time? To-morrow we may see

The circle ended – if to-morrow be –

And gaze on chaos, and a week bring back

Adam and Eve beneath the apple tree.

Or, like the comet, the wild race may end

Out into darkness, and our circle bend

Round to all glory in a sudden sweep,

And speed triumphant with the sun to friend.

Love will not leave my home. She knows my tears,

My angers and caprices; still my ears

Listen to singing voices, till I weep

Once more, less sadly, and set hounds on fears.

She will not leave me comfortless. And why?

Through the dimmed glory of my clouded eye

She catches one sharp glint of love for her:

She will not leave me ever till I die: –

Nay, though I die! Beyond the distant gloom

Heaven springs, a fountain, out of Change’s womb!

Time would all men within the grave inter: –

For Time himself shall no god find a tomb?

Glory and love and work precipitate

The end of man’s desire – so sayeth Fate.

Man answers: Love is stronger, work more sure,

Glory more fadeless than her shafts abate.

Though all worlds fail, the pulse of Life be still,

God fall, all darken, she hath not her will

Of deeds beyond recall, that shall endure:

For us, these three divinest glasses fill,

Fill to the brim with lustrous dew, nor fail

To leave the blossom and the nightingale,

Love’s earlier kiss, and manhood’s glowing prime,

These us suffice. Shall man or Fate prevail? {110A}

Lo, we are blind, and dubious fingers grope

In Despair’s dungeon for the key of Hope;3

Lo, we are chained, and with a broken rhyme

Would file our fetters and enlarge our scope.

Yet ants may move the mountain; none is small

But he who stretches out no arm at all;

Toadstools have wrecked fair cities in a night,

One poet’s song may bid a kingdom fall.

Add to thy fellow-men one ounce of aid –

The block begins to shift, the start is made:

The rest is thine; with overwhelming might

The balance changes,and the task is paid.

Join’st thou thy feeble hands in foolish prayer

To him thy brain hath moulded and set there

In thy brain’s heaven? Such a god replies

As thy fears move. So men pray everywhere.

What God there be, is real. By His might

Begot the universe within the night;

If he had prayed to His own mind’s weak lies

Think’st thou the heaven and earth had stood upright?

Remember Him, but smite! No workman hews

His stone aright whose nervy arms refuse

To ply the chisel, but are raised to ask

A visionary foreman he may choose

From the distortions of a sodden mind.

God did first work on earth when woman-kind

He chipped from Adam’s rib – a thankless task

I wot His wisdom has long since repined. {110B}

Christ touched the leper and the widow’s son;

And thou wouldst serve the work the Perfect One

Began, by folding arms and gazing up

To heaven, as if thy work were rightly done.

I tell thee, He should say, if ye were met:

“Thou hadst a talent – ah, thou hast it yet

Wrapped in a napkin! thou shalt drain the cup

Of that damnation that may not forget

“The wasted hours!” Ah, bitter interest

Of our youth’s capital – forgotten zest

In all the pleasures of o’erflowing life,

Wine tasteless, tired the brain, and cold the breast!

Ah! but if with it is one good deed wrought,

One kind word spoken, one immortal thought

Born in thee, all is paid; the weary strife

Grows victory. “Love is all and Death is nought.”

Such an one wrote that word4 as I would meet,

Lay my life’s burden at his silver feet,

Have him give ear if I say “Master.” Yea!

I know no heaven, no honour, half so sweet!

He passed before me on the wheel of Time,

He who knows no Time – the intense sublime

Master of all philosophy and play,

Lord of all love and music and sweet rhyme.

Follow thou him! Work ever, if thy heart

Be fervent with one hope, thy brain with art,

Thy lips with song, thine arm with strength to smite:

Achieve some act; its name shall not depart.

Christ laid Love’s corner-stone, and Caesar built

The tower of glory; Sappho’s life was split

From fervent lips the torch of song to ignite:

Thou mayst add yet a stone – if but thou wilt. {111A}

And yet the days stream by; night shakes the day

From his pale throne of purple, to allay

The tremors of the earth; day smiteth dark

With the swift poignard dipped in Helios’ ray.

The days stream by; with lips and cheeks grown pale

On their indomitable breast we sail.

There is a favouring wind; our idle bark

Lingers, we raise no silk to meet the gale.

The bank slips by, we gather not its fruit,

We plant no seed, we irrigate no root

True men have planted; and the tare and thorn

Spring to rank weedy vigour; poisons shoot

Into the overspreading foliage;

So as days darken into weary age

The flowers are fewer; the weeds are stronger born

And hands are grown too feeble to assuage

Their venom; then, the unutterable sea!

Is she green-cinctured with the earlier tree

Of Life? Do blossoms blow, or weeds create

A foul rank undergrowth of misery?

From the deep water of the bitterest brine

Drowned children raise their arms; their lips combine

To force a shriek; bid them go contemplate

The cold philosophy of Zeno’s5 shrine?

Nay, stretch a hand! Although their eagle clutch

O’erturn thy skiff, yet it is overmuch

To grieve for that: life is not so divine –

I count it little grief to part with such! {111B}

We are wild serpents in a ring of fire;

Our necks stretch out, our haggard eyes aspire

In desperation; from the fearful line

Our coils revulse in impotence and ire.

An idle song it was the poet sang,

A quavering note – no brazen kettle’s clang,

But gentle, drooping, tearful. Nay, achieve!

I can remember how the finish rang

Clear, sharp, and loud; the harp is glad to die

And give the clarion one note silver-high.

It was too sweet for music, and I weave

In vain the tattered woof of memory.

Ashes and dust!

Cold cinders dead!

Our swords are rust;

Our lives are fled

Like dew on glass.

In vain we lust;

Our hopes are sped,

Alas! alas!

From heaven we are thrust, we have no more trust.

Alas!

Gold hairs and gray!

Red lips and white!

Warm hearts, cold clay!

Bright day, dim night!

Our spirits pass

Like the hours away.

We have no light,

Alas! alas!

We have no more day, we are fain to say

Alas!

In Love’s a cure

For Fortune’s hate;

In Love’s a lure

Shall laugh at Fate;

We have toiled Death’s knell;

All streams are pure; {112A}

We are new-create;

All’s well, all’s well!

We have God to endure, we are very sure

All’s well!

In such wise rang the challenge unto Death

With clear high eloquence and happy breath;

So did a brave sad heart grow glad again

And mock the riddle that the dead Sphinx saith.

When I am dead, remember me for this

That I bade workers work, and lovers kiss;

Laughed with the Stoic at the dream of pain,

And preached with Jesus6 the evangel – bliss.

When I am dead, think kindly. Frail my song?

’Twas the poor utterance of an eager tongue;

I stutter in my rhyme? my heart was full

Of greater longings, more divinely wrung

By love and pity and regret and trust,

High hope from heaven that God will be just,

Spurn not the child because his mind was dull,

Still less condemn him for his father’s lust.

Yet I think priests shall answer Him in vain:

Their gospel of disgrace, disease, and pain,

Shall move His heart of Love to such a wrath –

O Heart! Turn back and look on Love again!

Behold, I have seen visions, and dreamed dreams!

My verses eddy in slow wandering streams,

Veer like the wind, and know no certain path –

Yet their worst shades re tinged with dawning beams! {112B}

I have dreamed life a circle or a line,

Called God, and Fate, and Chance, and Man, divine.

I know not all I say, but through it all

Mark the dim hint of ultimate sunshine!

Remember me for this! And when I go

To sleep the last sleep in the slumberous snow,

Let child and man and woman yet recall

One little moment that I loved you so!

Let some high pinnacle my tombstone be,

My epitaph the murmur of the sea,

The clouds of heaven be fleeces for my pall,

My unknown grave the cradle of the free.

 

1. Composed while walking home through the starry streets from an evil evening in St. Petersburg. Vv. 1-3 are the feelings, vv.”sqq.“ the reflections thus engendered.

2. The fiery river of Hades.

3. See Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, where Hope unlocks the dungeon of Giant Despair. Crowley more wisely would use the key of Work.

4. Browning, in “The Householder.”

5. The Stoic. To be distinguished from the Eleatic and the Epicurean of the same name. He was born at Citium in Cyprus in 340 B.C. He preached απαθεια, happiness in oneself independent of all circumstance, as the highest good.

6. The allusion betrays Crowley’s ignorance (at this time) of the results of modern criticism of the New Testament.

 

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