THE HONOURABLE ADULTERERS

I.

I LOOKED beneath her eyelids, where her eyes

Like stars were deep, and dim like summer skies;

I looked beneath their lashes; and behold!

My own thought mirrored in their maiden gold.

Shame drew to them to cloud their light with lies,

And shrank back shamed; but Love waxed bright and bold.

The devilish circle of the fiery ring1)

Became one moment like a little thing,

And Truth and God were near us to withdraw

The veil of Love's unalterable law.

We feared no fury of the jealous King,

But, lest in honour love should find a flaw. {98B}


Only our looks and trembling lips we dread,

And the dear nimbus of a lover's head,

The dreamy splendour and the dim-delight

That feels the fragrance fallen from the night,

When soul to soul is locked, and eyes are wed,

And lips not touched kiss secretly by sight.

These things we fear, and move as in a mist

One from the other, and we had not kissed.

Only the perfume of her lips and hair

Love's angel wafted slowly to me there,

And as I went like death away I wist

Its savour faded, nor my soul aware.

I turned and went away, away, away,

Out of the night that was to me the day,

And road to meet the sun to hide in light

The sorrow of the day that was the night.

So I rode slowly in the morning gray,

And all the meadows with the frost were white.

And lo! between the mountains there uprose

The winter sun; and all the forest glows,

And the frost burns like fire before my eyes,

While the white breeze awoke with slumberous sighs

And stirred the branches of the pine; it knows,

It surely knows how weary are the wise!

Even my horse my sorrow understands,

Would turn and bear me to those western lands;

In love would turn me back; in love would bring

My thirsty lips to the one perfect spring –

My iron soul upon my trembling hands

Had its harsh will; my bitterness was king.

So verily long time I rode afar.

My course was lighted by some gloomy star

That boded evil, that I would not shun,

But rather welcome, as the storm the sun,

Lowering and red, a hurtful avatar,

Whose fatal forehead like itself is dun {99A}


It was no wonder when the second day

Showed me a city on the desert way,

Whose brazen gates were open, where within

I saw a statue for a sign of sin,

And saw the people come to it and pray,

Before its mouth set open for a gin.

And seeing me, a clamour rose among

Their dwarfish crowds, whose barbarous harsh tongue

Grated, a hateful sound; they plucked me down,

And mocked me through the highways of the town,

And brought me where they sang to censers swung

A grotesque hymn before her body brown.

For Sin was like a woman, and her feet

Shone, and her face was like the windy wheat;

Her eyes were keen and horrible and cold,

Her bronze loins girdled with the sacred gold;

Her lips were large, and from afar how sweet!

How fierce and purple for a kiss to hold!

But somehow blood was black upon them; blood

In stains and clots and splashes; and the mud

Trampled around her by the souls that knelt,

Worshipping where her false lewd body dwelt,

Was dark and hateful; and a sleepy flood

Trickled therefrom as magic gums that melt.

I had no care that hour for anything:

Not for my love, not for myself; I cling

Desperate to despair, as some to hope,

Unheeding Saturn in their horoscope;

But I, despair is lord of me and king;

But I, my thoughts tend ever to the rope. {99B}


But I, unknightly, recreant, a coward,

Dare not release my soul from fate untoward

By such a craven's cunning. Nay, my soul

Must move unflinching to what bitter goal

The angry gods design – if gods be froward

I am a man, nor fear to drain the bowl.

Now some old devil, dead no doubt and damned,

But living in her life, had wisely crammed

Her fierce bronze throat with such a foul device

As made her belly yearn for sacrifice.

She leered like love on me, and smiled, and shammed,

And did not pity for all her breast of spice.

They thrust me in her hateful jaws, and I

Even then resisted not, so fain to die

Was my desire, so weary of the fight

With my own love, so willing to be quite

Sure of my strength by death; and eagerly

Almost I crossed the barrier keen and white.

When lo! a miracle! Her carven hand

Is lifted, and the little space is spanned,

And I am plucked from out her maw, and set

Down on the pedestal, whose polished jet

Shone like a mirror out of hell – I stand

Free, where the blood of other men is wet.

So slowly, while the mob stood back, I went

Out of the city, with no life content,

And certain I should meet no death at least.

Soon, riding ever to the stubborn east,

I came upon a shore whose ocean bent

In one long curve, where folk were making feast. {100A}


So with no heart to feast, I joined the mirth,

Mingled the dances that delight the earth,

And laughing looked in every face of guile.

Quick was my glance and subtle was my smile;

Ten thousand little loves were brought to birth,

Ten thousand loves that laughed a little while.

No; for one woman did not laugh, too wise!

But came so close, and looked within my eyes

So deeply that I saw not anything.

Only her eyes grew, as a purple ring

Shielding the sun. They grew; they uttered lies –

They fascinate and cleave to me and cling.

Then in their uttermost profound I saw

The veil of Love's unalterable law

Lifted, and in the shadow far behind

Dim and divine, within the shadow blind

My own love's face most amorously draw

Out of the deep toward my cloudy mind.

O suddenly I felt a kiss enclose

My whole live body, as a rich red rose

Folding its sweetness round the honey-bee!

I felt a perfect soul embracing me,

And in my spirit like a river flows

A passion like the passion of the sea.


II.

HE did not kiss me with his mouth; his eyes

Kissed mine, and mine kissed back; it was not wise,

But yet he had the strength to leave me; so

I was so glad he loved enough to go.

My arms could never have released his neck;

He saved our honour from a single speck.

And so he went away; and fate inwove

The bitterest of treason for our love. {100B}


For scarce two days when sickness took the King,

And death dissolved the violence of the ring.

I ruled alone: I left my palace gate

To see if Love should have the laugh at Fate.

And so I violated Death, and died;

But in the other land my spirit cried

For incarnation; conquering I came

Within my soulless body as a flame.

Endowing which with sacred power I sought

A little while, as thought that seeks for thought.

I found his changeless love endure as mine,

His passion curl around me as a vine.

So clinging fibres of desire control

My perfect body,and my perfect soul

Shot flakes of light toward him. So my eyes,

Seeking his face, wee made divinely wise.

So, solemn, silent, 'mid a merry folk

I bound him by my forehead's silver yoke,

And grew immense about him and within,

And so possessed him wholly, without sin.

For I had crossed the barrier and knew

There was no sin. His lips reluctant grew

Ardent at last as recognizing me,

And love's wild tempest sweeps upon his sea.

And I? I knew not anything, but know

We are still silent, and united so,

And all our being spells one vast To Be,

A passion like the passion of the sea.


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1)
i.e. the wedding ring.


Thelema

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