Prologue: The Garden of Eros

PROLOGUE

THE GARDEN OF EROS

See, in a glade of green moss, watered by a spring, a merry company languidly playing. Flutes, and harps, and panpipes are there; and on wonderful chased silver, figured with the loves of the gods, are cups of beaded wine, and fruits, and honey, and cakes of divers sort. It is night, but the moon is exceeding bright; and the stars shine in the self-luminous blue of the vault. Around the glade are many trees; the ground is a mass of flowers, and gathered roses cover the white limbs of many of the players. One girl is standing, and a full nightingale song trills from the players, a vulture vast and vague in his black night of shadow. His face is human, of the ovine type, as that of a low-class Jew. He watches the scene throughout in silence, but with intense envy disguised as disgust.

DORIS
Praise the wine wittily !
      Praise the wine well!
Footing it prettily
      Down through the dell.

Are there not playmates
      Enough and to spare,
Gallant and gay to spare,
      Each one of us fair?

Bountiful measures of
      Beautiful wine:
Infinite treasures of
      Bacchus divine!
Hail to the Lord of us!
      Blithe is his reign.
Be thou adored of us,
      Soul without stain!

Fair are the faces, and
      Limbs of us light,
Tracing the paces, and
      Drunk with delight.
Io! let us tremble in
      Trance of the tune
Here that assemble in
      Joyaunce of June !

ATTHIS
Doris, our darling! How subtle and sweet
The throb of thy throat to the flit of our feet!
Come, I have chosen thee.

DORIS
                    Follow me then
Deep in the dance to the heart of the glen!

MARSYAS
Ho! you are rich, you are red, you are ripe!
Pace me your passions to plaint of my pipe!

OLYMPAS
Nay, I am with thee, my master, to match
Every my song to thy lyrical catch.

EROTION
Nay, let us follow you—all in a ring!
Wonder of wisdom and wit on the wing!

ANAXIMANDER
Come, my Giton, of the hyacinth hair!
Apollo, Apollo! indeed they are fair!

HYLAS
Kiss me again, my Lysander, my love !
Listen! Olympas is singing above.

LYSANDER
Ah! but Erotion beckons me yonder!
Beautiful curls on her bosom that wander
Tempt me to folly.

HYLAS
                    Indeed, let us press
The exquisite doubt in a certain Lysander

LYSANDER
Even as the feet of the maid on the grapes
Crush the wine of delight from ambiguous shapes!

OLYMPAS
Shrill, shrill the never-cloying
Thirst of maid’s enthusiasm !
Atthis with her Doris toying
In the moonlight filled with laughter,
Wrestling, kissing—follow after
To the summit of the spasm!

CHIRON
Ho, shall we sit idle gazing
On such beauty spirit-crazing?
No, my ladies, I’m the song!

ATTHIS
We can sing you !

DORIS
                    Sweet and strong !

ANAXAGORAS
Laughter, laughter! I’m for thee,
Doris of the blue-black tresses!
Mine are musical caresses
Like the murmur of the sea.

HYCINTHOS
Chiron, shall we dance with these
Under the acacia trees?

CHIRON
Yes, if Rhodon there will lend us
Her red fleece-like sunset glowing,
With the doubtful venture showing
Where-what God shall there befriend us?

RHODON
Mocker! I shall come. Beware
Lest my manhood match you there!

SILENUS
Ha, you rogue, if Rhodon rage,
Poets earn a cynic page;
And our lips with laughter curl
If she treat you as a girl.

CHIRON
Brute, get back to wine, and leave us
In our flower-love to inweave us.
All we know the shameless chorus:
“Fie! Silenus-Heliorus!”

HELIORUS
I had better right to mock you,
Graceless Chiron, with the quip
(Girls, come close—the jest will shock you)
“Pine-tree with the drooping tip!”

CHIRON
Oh, you little toad of spite!
Come, and I will set you right.
All your years of wantoness
Shall not save you much distress.

HELIORUS
Yes—the pain I had before.
“At the game that Chiron shouldn’t,
Chiron would—and Chiron couldn’t”

RHODON
Never heed the little whore!
Play a melody, Marsyas!

HELIORUS
He’s at Anaxagoras!

RHODOPE
Where is Doris, then?

ERRINNA
                    By Zeus,
Where her ribs are all in use!

ANTINOUS
Sprinkle me with poppy-juice
From the flowers of Syracuse
      On the lips relaxed with pleasure
      Of their kisses overmeasure!

Let them suck the heavenly sleep!
Let me sink into the deep!
      Till the morning pale and fresh
      Find my flesh against his flesh,
And mine eyes within his eyes
Watch the sun of glory rise!

All my breath is like new wine.
I have flaxen hair and fine.
      From my shoulders to my feet
      Like the sunlight in the wheat!
If I laugh, the moon-curved pearls
Match and master any weep,
      If I weep, as joy may weep,
      One would say the fountain-steep
Of Dione dropped its dew
Through the vivid veil of blue.

I am limber like a snake.
I am soft, and slow to slake—
      For a curling, crimson fire
      Floods my lips and feeds desire.
I am passionate and pale;
Virile—and most faery frail.
      All diverse delights are mine.
      Kiss within me, and combine
To a languorous lyric lure
Sweet as pleasure, and as sure!

SILENUS
Tut, my lad, you do not mention
Modesty.

ANTINOUS
’Twas mine intention,
But those loose lips wine-corrupt
Always itch to interrupt !

SILENUS
Nay, boy, all the song was true.
Come and frisk it once together!
Ah, the goodly Grecian Weather!
Ah, the heavenly haze of blue,
That must set an azure frame
Round the flaxen locks aflame!

CHRYSIS
Come, Evadne, let us fling
All thine opulence of love?

CHRYSIS
I am fair; I cannot fear.
Flowers upon them gambolling!

EVADNE
Chrysis! could one weary of
Was my tongue too eager, dear?

EVADNE
Never, never, never! Here,
Coil the roses close, a cluster
In the flax, the lyric lustre!

CHRYSIS
In the white waves that carouse
On the satyr’s beetle brows,
Plait a wreath of laurustine
With the broad leaves of the vine!

SALMACIS
Sweet Lysander, now thou knowest
All the oracle obscure!

LYSANDER
In my soul—my soul!—thou flowest
Suave and sibylline and sure.
O the stream I launched this boat on!
O the pool my fancies float on!
I am drowned in bays of bliss—
Salmacis!—my Salmacis!

HYACINTHOS
Heliorus, siren!
I have overmatched thee now;
From the bag of Chiron
Drawn a luckier lot than thou!

SILENUS
Come, we have dallied long enough
With music and with love.
Set to the wine, and slide.
Each twined like vines, fair boy, fair bride,
Down the long glade of sleep,
At the sun’s summoning.
We shall be carolling, upon the steep,
The happy dawn’s return.
We shall wake—and bathe—and burn.

EROTION
Now the drowsy Lord unloose
All his store of poppy-juice!
      To the murmurous bell-clear fret
      of the tremulous rivulet
Let us lisp the lullaby
Of Arcady—in Arcady!

Me ye know, the dazzling dream
Of the swimmer in the stream.
      Boy to girl and maid to man,
      Mine are all joys of Pan.
Chrysis seeks the darling dove,
Gets the eagle to her love.
      Hylas, trembling towards the pine,
      Finds the soft voluptuous vine.

RHODOPE
Curl ye close! Curl ye close!
Fold your petals like the rose!
All the satyr’s lust of limb;
All the delicate and slim
Slenderness of laughing faun
Twine like serpents on the lawn;

All the boy’s undulant grace
To the nymph’s fantastic face;
All the maiden’s chaste delight
To the flushed hermaphrodite;
While the balanced strength of man
Bears its witness unto Pan.

CHRYSIS
Ah, the purple vein that glows
Through the eyelids as they close!
Hush ! the breeze that fans the fern
Bids the midnight moon to turn.
We must sleep
Soft and deep:
We must wake—and bathe—and burn.

(The company being asleep, fallen lax in mid-caress, there enter a Philosopher Heracleitus and his Disciple Chrysippus.)

HERACLEITUS
Look, my darling, and confess
Life one flame of loveliness!

CHRYSIPPUS
Master! Master! How fairy fond
Is yonder maid like a lily-frond!
Let us lie on the moss by the spring, let us share
In their silence serene, the languor rare!
So goodly a company.

HERACLITUS
Wait but a moment—stand apart,
Revolving the light in thine innermost heart!
Content not the soul with the skin of the grape!
But the truer sense than the eye and the ear
Make to appear!

CHRYSIPPUS
Verily, master, I obey.
I travel the exalted way.
I pierce the sense ; I gain the goal,
Distill the essence of the soul—

HERACLEITUS
I shroud thee in the web of wool.
I lift the burden of the bull.
Lion and eagle! dart ye forth
Into the cold clime of the North,
Where past the star points the pole
Rest the unstirred axis of the soul.

CHRYSIPPUS
Hearthen! By Abrasax! the bar
Of the unshifting star
Is broken—Io! Asar!
My spirit is wrapt in the wind of light;
It is whirled away on the wings of night,
Sable-plumed are the wonderful wings,
But the silver of moonlight subtly springs
Into the feathers that flash with the pace
Of our flight to the violate bounds of space.
Time is dropt like a stone from the stars:
Space is a chaos of broken bars:
Being is merged in a furious flood
That rages and hisses and foams in the blood.
See! I am dead! I am passed, I am passed
Out of the sensible world at-last.
I am not. Yet I am, as I never was,
A drop in the sphere of molten glass
Whose radiance changes and shifts and drapes
The infinite soul in finite shapes.
There is light, there is life, there is love, there is sense
Beyond speech, beyond song, beyond evidence.
There is wonder intense, a miraculous sun,
As the many are molten and mixed into one
With the heat of its passion ; the one hath invaded
The heights of its soul, and its laughter is braided
With comets whose plumes are the galaxies
Like winds on the night’s inaccessible seas.
Oh master! my master! nay, bid me not ride
To the heaven beyond heaven ; for I may not abide.
I faint: I am frail: not a mortal may bear
The invisible light, the abundance of air.
I fail: I am sinking: O Thou, be my friend!
Bear me up! Bear me up! Bear me up to the end!
Now! Now! In the heart of the bliss beyond being
The None is involved in the One that, unseeing,
Dashes its infinite splendour to death
Beyond light, beyond love, beyond thought, beyond breath.
Ah! but my master! the death of the sun—
Break, break, the last veil ! It is done—It is done.

(He falls, as one dead, upon the grass.)

HERACLEITUS
I bless these happy virgins, souls unstained,
Through whose delight my darling hath attained
Even to the uttermost silence that may be
Even in this vast circuit of eternity.
So, o my golden charioteer, I creep
Into thine arms, and dream the dream of sleep.

(He sleeps. Upon the still beauty descends from his tree the man-vulture.)

THE VULTURE
Yaugh Waugh !
Butch! this is terrible
That all these people should be happy—Pss!—
Without a thought of Me!
Ga! Ga! the plague
Rot them in hell !
Cramp! Ague! Pox! Gout! Stone—Hoo!
What shall I do to stop it?

It’s sin—sin—sin. I hate them. Oog!
I want them to go groaning
Over imaginary ills
With white eyes twisted up to Me,
Where I sit and croak
And snarl! Ugh! Faugh!
I’m Yaugh Waugh!
I’m Yaugh Waugh!

Ga! Oa! Hoo! Hoo!
Scratch!
I must invent a plan
To ruin all this gladness.
Ha! Plup! I have it.
There’s nothing here
That would accept my favours—

Uck! Bulch!—
So I’ll abuse myself to chaos
And see what comes of it.
Ha—Ba! Ha—Ba!
Ab—ab—ab—ab—ab!
Utch—what is this?
Coagulated yolk of the addled egg
Of chaos! Hatch it out!
That’s why I AM. Hoo—hoo—hoo—hoo—hoo!
Oh!—now the white of the old egg is curled
Into a ragged fleece.
Ga! Ga! I’ve got a son:
What will it be?
O heaven—a lamb!
I’m Yaugh Waugh, Yaugh Waugh.
I’ll call it Yaugh Shaugh Waugh.
Good! Can you talk,
First born?—I’ll never have another,
I’m Yaugh Waugh, Yaugh Waugh.
Bow to me, you lumpy lambkin!
Haw! Haw! Haw!
Now at last a wooden thing
That will do my business for me.
Uck! Uck! The morning’s carrion
Bubbles in my paunch.
I am belching dreadfully.
What? Uck? Uck? How strange!
For the windy vomit of me
Shapes itself into a sorry
And bedraggled pigeon.
Birdie, have you got religion?
Yes, he bows most properly.
Come then, let us take our counsel
How to stop this sad behaviour,
This gross impropriety,
Irreligion—Uck! it’s awful.
Squat, then! Pigeon, you’re the youngest:
You speak first.

THE DOVE
Almighty father !
I have magnificent
And sublime and noble scheme.
Listen ! I will find a woman—

THE VULTURE
Oh! you dirty-minded rascal!

THE DOVE
Wait a moment—I will do it.
Find a virgin—if I can,
And on her beget this lambkin
In the image of a man.

THE VULTURE
That seems complicated, pigeon.
We’ve the lamb begotten here.

THE DOVE
Yes, I know; it seems absurd;
But in practice I am certain
It will work out splendidly.

THE VULTURE
Well, proceed!

THE DOVE
                    Of course I will;
I’m accustomed to “proceeding.”
Let the lamb grow up to manhood
Then we’ll have him whipped and tortured
And eventually killed.

THE VULTURE
That sounds lovely.

THE LAMB
                    Do you think so?
I record my vote against it.

THE DOVE
Stupid! in a day or so
We will have you rise again.

THE LAMB
Really! I may be a dullard;
But I cannot see the point
Of this most elaborate nonsense.

THE DOVE
Well, you will. We’ll make a rule
That anyone who disbelieves it
Shall be strictly prosecuted
—With the utmost rigour
Of the majesty of law.

THE LAMB
And if any fool believes it—

THE DOVE
He shall come to live with Us.
What a privilege!

THE VULTURE
                    Provided
He observe propriety,
Never laugh, never dance,
Never do the dreadful thing!

THE DOVE
Precisely so!

THE VULTURE
It’s settled then,
Charmingly unanimously
Carried by a show of wings.

THE LAMB
I protest.

THE VULTURE
You did not vote.

THE LAMB
If I had a pair of wings—

THE DOVE
You might fly; and so might pigs!

THE VULTURE
Pray, sir, do not mention pigs!
Gru—utch! Scheme approved, and entered in
The Minutes. I declare the board
Quite indefinitely adjourned.

THE LAMB
I oppose; I wish to enter
A minority report.

THE VULTURE
You are out of order, sir.

THE LAMB
I shall get my own back later
In the Theatres of London
Where a show of legs decides.

THE DOVE
By the way—

THE VULTURE                     These sleeping women
Are no good to us, of course?

THE DOVE
No indeed! I want a creature
Very different to that.

THE VULTURE
Well, you’ll have a job to find one.

THE DOVE
Would you lend me your red star?

THE VULTURE
With the greatest pleasure, pigeon!

THE DOVE
I’ll be off, then.

THE LAMB
                    So will I.

THE VULTURE
I shall know where I can find you.

THE LAMB
Would you had a moment’s patience!
I had a much better scheme
—One involving pigeon-pie!

THE VULTURE
Butch! be off with you. I’ll hop
Up again to the tree-top
Yaugh Waugh! That's me!
Always at the top of the tree!

(They depart separately, yet together. The old Philosopher wakes).

HERACLEITUS
Ah ! but some evil things have brooded here
Over the sleepers. May it be indeed
The truth that some strange fate threatens the world?
That Art and Love and Beauty, to renew
Their glory, must be bathed in their own blood?
But who shall understand the Soul of Pan?
Involved in All and still apart from All!
For steeped therein as I am all my life,
I know but exquisite beatitude,
Knowing the whole, Then who shall know or care
What may befall the part? One must remain;
Many must change. Then all is well. The strife
Is but the ferment of the forward still
Immune from grief, intolerant of ill,
Fronting the double foe—of pain and joy—
With equal eye—in the meantime—
                    Dear boy,
Wake ! Let us revel it the while we may,
Love dawning ever with the dawning day.
Wake, brothers, sisters ! It is time to stir.
The owl, the night-hawk, sad and sinister,
Have fled, The first flush animates the hills,
Reddens the rushes, flashes on the rills.
Come while the breeze blows and the air is cool
Down through the forest to the Fairies’ pool.

(All rise and follow the sage, singing:)

THE COMPANY
Praise Eros wittily!
      Praise Eros well!
Tripping it prettily
      Down through the dell!
Joyous and eager
      Our tresses adorning,
Away to beleaguer
      The city of morning!

Away to the leap to
      The soft-smiling pool
Whose kisses shall creep to
      Us virginal cool!
Race and bescatter
      The dew in the grass;
The nymph and her satyr!
      The lad and his lass!

O blest is the laughter
      Of Arcady’s groves
That chases us after
      To delicate loves,
The frolics, the fancies,
      The fires, the desires,
The dives and the dances,
      The lutes and the lyres!

Follow, o follow,
      Sweet seed of the sun!
Through the wood, through the hollow,
      The race is begun
That shall fill the day up
      With the roses of pleasure,
The rod—and the cup—
      And the crown of our treasure!

Sweet are our voices;
      Our bodies are bare;
Their spirit rejoices
      Afloat in the air,
Coiling and curling
      In maze of æons
Its vision unfurling
      A pageant of pæans!

Blessed be Love in his
      Palace of praise
Whom we follow above in his
      Wonderful ways!
Whom we follow above
      To the stars and the snows,
Immaculate Love!—
      We adore thee, Eros!

Praise Eros wittily!
      Praise Eros well!
Tripping it prettily
      Down through the dell!
Joyous and eager
      Our tresses adoring,
Away to beleaguer
      The city of morning!

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