Rosa Coeli

I

Rose of the World!

Ruby with blood from the bright veins of God

Caught in the chalice of your heart, and pearled

With dew at many a melting period

When the amethyst lustre of your eyes dissolves

The veil that hides your naked splendour

From these inform resolves

And halting loves of your poor poet's soul

With Radiance mild and tender,

So that I see awhile the golden goal!

Yea! all your light involves

Me, me tenebrous, me too cold and base

Ever to kindle to the maiden face

(Three years my wife, three years of me unwon!)

That would be mine, be mine,

Were I but man enough

To endure the rapture of that sudden sun

The knowledge of your love,

The assumption of me into that sweet shrine

Whose godhead duly knows

Only the one wind of the utmost heaven

Through hyacinthine deeps

Down from the sapphirine steeps

And azure abyss that blows;

Only the one sun on the stepped snows;

Only the one star of the sister seven;

Only the one moon in the orchard close

In the one hour that unto love is given

Of all the hours of bliss;

Only the one joy in a world of woes;

Only the one spark in the storm-cloud riven;

Only the one shaft through the rose-dawn driven,

Thy shaft, Eros!

Not as Apollo or as Artemis

Loosing gray death from golden thong

To slay the poet in a song,

The lover in a kiss;

But to divide the inmost marrow

With that ensanguine arrow;

But to unite each bleeding part

Of that most universal heart;

Leaving us slaves, and kings;

Bound, and with eagle's wings;

One soul, comprising all that may be thought,

One soul, conscious of naught.

II

Rose of the World! Your mystic petals spread

Like wings over my head.

The tide of burning blood upon my face

Drowns all the floating images

That danced their spectre saraband

In Bacchic race, phantastical embrace,

Upon the sepulchres, the dizzy seas

Of this my mind, Sabbatic rout that spanned

These straits my soul! Ay, they are dead and drowned

(And damned, I doubt!) Ah God! I am exhaust

In the red moon’s holocaust!

God! God! The chasms secret and profound

Suck down the porphyry flood

Of your maniacal, ensorcelled blood

That maddens and bewitches.

My life is suffocated—now I swoon—

I die! I am in hell, red hell, red hell,

Circles me closer; all the soul’s afire

As if the boreal moon

With all the icy Lapland hags

That shiver on ‘s hibernal crags

Were but a thin white shell

Hoarding the seed of many a million suns,

Giving its life up unto its desire—

Out bursts the womb of my unguessed-at godhead;

The rose flames out in the flood; and all at once,

A brilliance disembodied,

I am shattered like the dew upon your leaves;

So that the lampless hour

Strikes, and an unborn universe perceives

Its lonely mother-flower,

Us, in our love’s arcane Briatic bower.

We scatter light, a music-tingling shower;

We breathe out life, a crimson whisper;

We radiate love, a velvet-soft complaint,

Most like the echo of a chime at vesper

Rung far across narcissus-haunted leas,

Lilied lagoons, and moon-enchanted seas,

By the high-bosomed boy, large-eyed, with fasting faint

That shares an hermitage with some devoutest saint.

III

As, in our life, I passed the awful gate

Where like a Cerberus sate

The triform silence, Fate,

And bade the red blood bloom

Within that Palace of untasted gloom;

As, in our life, confronting the black forms—

Colossal ghosts, like storms!—

I did abide in the most holy hall

And let the dread word fall,

Nor bade the red axe falter

There as I bowed mine head

Upon the amber altar,

And shed my life out there before ye all,

Careless if I had summoned from the skies

Some young true God, or spoiled the sacrifice,

And were but dead as any man is dead!

So I have given up my inmost life

Even unto you, sweet wife,

Careless—yet conscious of the babe-stirred womb

Of some dread Mother older than the Tomb,

Wiser than Life, more pitiful than Death.

IV

Your wine-stained and wine-coloured hair unloosing,

Mingle your wine-wise breath,

Spiritual siren! with the scent seducing

Your body sheds, scarred with the bleeding kisses

My tenderness bit in,

Like to a lion feeding in wild white wildernesses,

My spirit sensible to your skin:

Mingle them to a crescent character

That shall set shimmering all the parchment fine

And send a steam like wine

Laden with ecstasy and pain

Choral through all the passion-stained and passion-trembling air.

Inspire a closer strain

Such as strange orchids give, and hyacinths,

Among the broken pedestals and plinths

Where the gray Lords of Time, of Time forgotten,

Lie in the herbage rotten

Of the unpeopled forest.

V

O Song! O amorous and seducing,

I see thee as thou soarest,

So that, the girders of the soul unloosing,

That Child of you and me, O rose of roses,

That Child whose life encloses

Our lives, is therefore I, may wander ever

By the fritillary-fringéd river,

Through lotus gardens of the sleepy gods,

On hills where every timid oread tries

Blue gentian as disguise

From holier (though she think profaner) eyes,

On seas where, it may be, (to even the odds!)

Each nymph and undine issues from the foam

Armed with a pearly mirror and with a coral comb

To tire her beauty, lure me to the lakes

Of light where strikes the day to hyaline floors

Whereon blithe fish and emerald water snakes

Play all the day, and all their innocence adores

Is some old anchor with its rusty flakes

Fallen from God knows what forgotten ship.

No! not in Fancy’s palace will I play,

Nor in imagination’s deep will dip

The timid foot; but rather will I strip

Each rag of thought, and leap

Into the sunset deep

Still glowing with the glamour

Of your life’s blood, and ashen gold

With floating gossamer your hair, that might enfold

A giant god, and strangle him anon

With starry serpents like Laocoon,

A stoic god that might enamour

And draw him with its tendrils into time.

VI

My mouth was wet with the delicious crime

Of kissing you, one night, when in a vision

Your hair was like a forest of tall pines

In winter; black strange dwarfs with crooked spines

And elfin eyes, and bleating mouths that worked

All manner of grimace and bleak derision

Bore them away; hollow-eyed ghosts that lurked

About the sea made thereof masts; they fitted

Tall ships and goodly, furrowing the deep

To harvest merchandise; strong and keen-witted

The mariners; oho! the breezes leap

Like lovers on them; lo! they faréd forth

To South, East, West and North,

Iceland, the Indies, Sicily, and Spain. . . .

Lo! men have heard of all these ships not one, not one for ever more again.

VII

Seeing your naked body in the bed

Against the jetty silk, I thought you lay

Just as the Milky Way

Lies in the unkenned hollows of the sky.

One swarthy ray of red

Leapt from your hither eye,

And straight my dream began

To map that heaven—your eye, Aldeboran!

I launched the magic boat, and early found

The Pirate’s cave and the Enchaunted Ground;

The cedared Lebanon,

The Wizard’s Grot, the well of spice,

The Hanging Gardens of great Babylon:—

All these then did I visit in a trice,

And even did confirm the Bible tale

By playing Jonah to your Jonah’s whale.

So, to the stars!

VIII

A poet is at ease

In all such voyages:

Why, as a boy, I steered

Up to the Scorpion and tweaked his tail,

Plucked foolish Capricornus by the beard

And kissed the Blessed Damozel that leaned upon the golden rail,

Drank from the glad rim of the grail

Or soothed the squally Twins (for they could weep!)

And while I smiled “In Heaven how safe I am!”

Found myself in my little bed asleep

Having been butted thither by the Ram.

IX

But in the dream of you, my starry sweet,

It is my earth I lose six times in seven.

I have the Freedom of the City of Heaven’

But strange (though fair) are all the stars I meet.

The dull familiar and the homely drear

Are lost for ever. Being asleep, I fear.

Wake! Let me cut the cable of my mind!

My harbour lies before, and not behind.

Dreams are all lies; those jetty shadows lie

When the full moon doth crown the midnight sky;

But shadows image truth, and dreams come true,

For when I wake my arms are full of you.

X

Another time, through tides from chaos rolled

I was upborne by this my scarabee

With scales like plates of porphyry and gold

And wings like flakes of the green light that pours

Through the blue heart of the Hawaian sea.

So to the hollow shore

We came, and did behold a silver avenue

That wound through cypress groves and woods of yew

Unto the hills; hideous hyaenas laughed,

Mean jackals snarled and screamed, and wild dogs bayed:

Bayed at the waning moon that lapsed above

Out of all light (had I not been in love,

And drunken on the quintessential draught)

So that the forest folk were sore afraid.

But when I came upon the open space

I might perceive my lady’s face,

And knew she waned because that I was late.

Twin hills like ivory glinted; on their slopes

Blue rivers coursed, and many a nightingale

Told all its tremulous tale

To viewless dryads, or elate

Trilled out its bleeding hopes

Into the mist of light that hid (I know)

Bassarids, Bassarids Dionysus-mad.

Then, in that vision glad,

I saw twin towers of crimson ruby rise

Into the scented snow

That fell like dew from the heart-hungry skies.

But when I came between the hills, behold

The moon’s silver and gold

Stood in the zenith, that I lost my guide.

There stood I passion-pale

Like a lost lamb that seeks the starry fold

Within that warm and scented vale

Clothed with narcissus, hyacinth, tuberose,

Snowdrop and lily, all white, all cream, all gold,

With never a blush like dawn’s to flush or fail

Upon their garden-close.

O wide is the world, wide, wide!

Be sure that I was lost,

Lost, lost for ever; are there palimpsests

Wherein a man might study at great cost

His journey thence? O Rose of gramarye,

My riddle you shall ree.

My head was happy, laid betwixt your breasts.

XI

Another time I passed the holy well

And plunged (as Phoebus in the western ocean)

Into a forest of fine flame that crowned

The holy hill; all was enchanted ground,

The flames like scented tendrils of a vine

Or sensitive rays that spell

Strange curves to match their master-god’s emotion,

And ever nearer to the scarlet slash

I clomb, where the strange perfumes struck me like a lash

And the dread fires scorched up my life.

There, O insufferable delight

I mock with the weak word of wife,

I was sucked down into the crater rim,

Into the crimson damask dim

Candescent cave of night—

O then I mock myself with words!

They are like cardinal-coloured birds

And honey-coloured doves:

Yet one thing mortal serves to name another

As mortal as itself.

Why must our deathless loves

Be stained by the black-hearted mother

That called things by dead names?

The sunny elf

Language shall play with the ethereal flames

But never dare approach

The central and volcanic fire,

The inmost Force, nor, like a glittering army

Send forth its scouts to encroach

Upon our citadel desire.

Ay! though these flaming sentences

Eat like strong acid in my vitals, char me,

Blast me like lightning, smash me like black seas

Towering above the lofty ship

Whose masts did menace to the skies,

They are but plaisters of cool leaves that dip

In pleasant water to the white-hot wise

Terrible flames of hell that would devour me,

Did not the raptures of they love embower me

In meads Elysian, fields of foamless fire,

Nights of invincible desire,

Things beyond words, beyond the want of them

Beyond the pauses and the ecstasies . . . .

Where should my dream get such a diadem

Of voiceless thoughts as these?

XII

These dreams reform

Themselves into a rainbow to the storm

Of simple passion; let me from the string

Take many-coloured wing

As a swift-thoughted arrow

Vertically shot against the sun!

I would you were a sow

And these my verses were your squealing farrow,

That they might suck the milk of your perfection

Unto them, that the world’s ear might be won,

The world’s heart melted now,

The world’s mind drawn from its dejection,

By the sure fact that not in idle dream

But sole in sense supreme

Certainly visible and tangible

Were you, O Rose, whose root remotest hell

Nourishes, and whose top flowers higher than the Throne

Of the Eternal one.

Thou shouldst not leave me alone

To gaze upon the sun

And take the glory of his excellence—

Not unto me close curled,

And on my body’s beauty crucified

In silver spirit clad with god of sense,

But sending forth thy rays life-pearled

As a bridegroom squandering his strength upon the bride

—Thou art sufficient to redeem the world.

XIII

O! is the secret of the starry deep

Nothing but pain and pleasure, grief and joy?

Is God a wanton boy

To play with us so bitter cheap

By such a jewelled light? Be thine the power,

Rose of the Stars, in this thy tortured hour

When the wee lips that clung to thee are cold,

To give the world a light of other gold

From that men hoard, from that the suns afford

In their implacable cars

As they roll on impassive; bid thy Lord

(O Rose, Rose of the Stars!)

And slave make known they beauty and thy passion

In his imperfect fashion,

So that thy wisdom and they strength are sold

In every mart of earth;

So that thine eyes enfold

The universe in one great look of love

Bring this, bring this to birth!

And neither hate below, nor hate above,

Nor chance, nor force, nor cunning shall deprive

Man of thy gift, a love alive

With more than men to-day can understand.

XIV

Give me thine hand,

Rose of the Stars, and we will soar above

Wisdom and Strength and Love,

Into the sphere where all delight retires

In azure flames and silver-edged fires.

Now through the veil we shoot

Like snaky lightning through a thundercloud

Up to the awful precipice-skirted place

Where deaf, blind, palsied, mute

There sits the leprous God; we laugh aloud

Seeing him face to face,

Blowing him like a shaken sheaf of snow

With a brief gust of wind

Over the cliffs of his ensanguine throne;

Seating ourselves thereon, as men shall know,

Above soul, spirit, heart, thought, being, mind,

All—but most irrevocably entwined

And irrevocably alone.

XV

There was a boy with O! the face of dawn,

The mother-of-pearl that shimmered on his skin.

The breasts like golden roses circling red,

The limbs like limbs of a young fawn

For litheness—O! for innocence of sin

His eyes burned wondrous bright, his sun-crowned head

Danced with its sweet and sacred hopes,

So that he paced the enamelled slopes

Laughing upon the laughing lake below,

Expectant of some strange experience

Worth all the woes of sense,

Some drop of nectar worth a world of wine,

Some grace of One divine

Worth more than all life’s grace, and more than life intense.

Was there a wonder if the silken boy

Found her a-playing on the bluebell marge

And drank from golden vats the wine of joy;

Hot, eager, overcoming in her breath,

As she would draw him to those large

And firm white breasts and mix her liquid life

With his in pagan strife?

Or with a grace like God, a stealth like love,

Pour on him from above

Wine from the purple vats of death?

Nay! ‘tis no wonder—shall they wonder then,

These bat-eyed newspaper-besotted men,

If thou and I have found the Elixir rater

That giveth Life to those whoso drinketh it,

The Stone beyond compare,

The harmony of the Circle and the Square,

All that surpasseth mortal wit

Even to imagine? we have found it, Rose,

Rose of the Stars, Rose of the utmost snows!

Where? Where Love knows.


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