My Lattice and Other Poems

by Frederick George Scott




HERE stood the great god Thor,
    There he planted his foot,
And the whole world shook, from the shore
    To the circle of mountains God put
For its crown in the days of yore.

The waves of the sea uprose,
    The trees of the wood were uptorn,
Down form the Alps’ crown of snows
    The glacial avalanche borne
Thundered at daylight’s close.

But the moon-lady curled at his feet,
    Like a smoke which will not stir,
When the summer hills swoon with the heat,
    Till his passion was centred on her,
And the shame of his yielding grew sweet.

Empty the moon-lady’s car,
    And idly it floated away,
Tipped up as she left it afar,
    Pale in the red death of day,
With its nether lip turned to a star.

Fearful the face of the god,
    Stubborn with sense of his power,
The seas would roll back at his nod
    And the thunder-voiced thunder-clouds lower,
While the lightening he broke as a rod.

Fearful his face was in war,
    Iron with fixed look of hate,
Through the battle-smoke thick and the roar
    He strode with invincible weight
Till the legions fell back before Thor.

But the white thing that curled at his feet
    Rose up slowly beside him like mist,
Indefinite, wan, incomplete,
    Till she touched the rope veins on his wrist
And love pulsed to his heart with a beat.

Then he looked, and from under her hair,
    As from out of a mist grew her eyes,
And firmer her flesh was and fair
    With the tint of the sorrowful skies,
Sun-widowed and veiled with thin air.

She seemed of each lovable thing
    The soul that infused it with grace,
Her thoughts were the song the birds sing,
    The glory of flowers was her face
And her smile was the smile of the spring.

Madly his blood with a bound
    Leaped from his heart to his brain,
Till his thoughts and his senses were drowned
    In the ache of a longing like a pain,
In a hush that was louder than sound.

Then the god, bending his face,
    “Loveliest,” said he, “if death
Mocked me with skulls in this place
    And age and spent strength and spent breath,
Yet would I yield to thy grace;

“Yet would I circle thee, love,
    With these arms which are smoking from wars,
Though the father up-gathered above,
    In his anger, each ocean that roars,
Each boulder the cataracts shove,

“To hurl at me down from his throne,
    Though the flood were as wide as the sky.
Yea, love, I am thine, all thine own,
    Strong as the ocean to lie
Slave to thy bidding alone.”

Folds of her vesture fell soft,
    As she lifted her eyes up to his:
“Nay, love, for a man speaketh oft
    In words that are hot as a kiss,
But man’s love may be donned and be doft.”

“Love would have life for its field—
    Love would have death for its goal;
And the passion of war must yield
    To the passion of love in the soul,
And the eyes that Love kisses are sealed.”

“Wouldst thou love if the scorn of the world
    Covered thy head with its briars;
When, soft as an infant curled
    In its cradle, thou, chained with desires,
Lay helpless when flags were unfurled?”

Fiercely the god's anger broke,
    Fired with the flames in his blood:
“Who careth what words may be spoke?
     For the feet of this love is a flood,
And its finger the weight of a yoke.

“I bow me, sweet, under its power,
    I, who have stooped to none;
I bring thee my strength for a dower,
    And deeds like the path of the sun;
I am thine for an age or an hour.”

Then the moon-lady softly unwound
    The girdle of arms interlaced,
And the gold of her tresses unbound,
    Till it fell from her head to her waist,
And then from her waist to the ground.

“Love, thou art mine, thou art mine,”
    Softly she uttered a spell;
“Under the froth is the wine,
    Under the ocean is hell,
Over the ocean stars shine.

“Lull him, ye winds of the South,
    Charm him, ye rivers that sing,
Flowers be the kiss on his mouth,
    Let his heart be the heart of the spring,
And his passion the hot summer drouth.”

Swiftly extending her hands,
    She made a gold dome of her hair;
Dumb with amazement he stands,
    Till down, without noise in the air,
The moon-car descends to the sands.

He taketh her fingers in his,
    Shorn of his strength and his will;
His brave heart trembles with bliss—
    Trembles and will not be still,
Mad with the wine of her kiss.

They mount in the car, and its beams
    Shoot over the sea and the earth,
And clothe in a net-work of dreams
    The mountains where rivers have birth,
And the lakes that are fed by the streams.

Swiftly ascending, the car
    Silvers the clouds in its flight,
Piercing the ether afar
    Up to a bridge out of sight
That skirteth that path of a star.

One end of the bridge lay on land,
    The other hung over the deep;
It was fashioned of ropes of grey sand,
    And cemented together with sleep,
With its undergirths formed like a hand.

Pleasant the land to the sight,
    Laden with blossoms and trees,
And the grasses to left and to right
    Waved in the wind like the seas,
When the blue day is high in the height.

Under the breezy bowers
    Cushions of moss were laid,
And ever through sultry hours
    Fairy-like fountains played,
Cooling the earth with their showers.

The horizon was crowned with blue hills,
    And woodland and meadowland lay
Lit with the glory which thrills
    Souls in some dreamland way,
Where the nightingales sing to the rills.

Deer and the white kine feed
    On the foam-fretted shores of the lake,
And through many a flowery mead,
    And from many a forest and brake,
The gold birds of paradise speed.

The lissome moon-lady led on
    Up to a bower on a hill
With the flowers at its door rained upon
    By a fountain as constant and still
As the bow in the cloud that has gone.

“O love, thou art weary,” she said,
    “Who erst wast so valiant and strong,
And here will I make thee a bed,
     And here will I sing thee a song
To the tune of the leaves overhead.

“And here will thy great strength flow,
    Melted away in the sweet,
Soft touch of ineffable woe,
    Which is heart of the joy made complete,
And the taste of the pleasure we know.”

Where the mosses were piled in a heap,
    He laid his giant form down,
And she charmed all his senses to sleep,
    With her hands on his head like a crown,
Till the sound of his breathing was deep.

With a noise like a serpent’s hiss,
    The moon-lady bent her head,
And she sucked out his breath with a kiss—
    A kiss that was subtle and dread,
Like the sorrow which lurks in a bliss.

Then she rose and waved her hands
    In circles over the sod,
And her gold hair wove in strands
    Round the limbs of the sleeping god,
With the strength of adamant bands.

She opened the great, clenched fist,
    And softly the lady withdrew,
Was it only a serpent that hissed?
    For her face is transparent as dew,
And her garments are thin as the mist.

Spell-bound on the dreamland floor,
    Chained with the golden hair,
Weak as a babe lay Thor,
    While the fountain played soft in the air,
And the nightingales sang evermore.

Like a babe in its cradle curled,
    He was chained with his chain of desires,
Though they needed his arm in the world,
    For the battle-strife raged, and its fires
And the flags of the gods were unfurled.

Then Odin, the father of Heaven,
    Called a council of gods on high,
To each was a white cloud given
    At the foot of his throne in the sky,
And the steps of his throne were seven.

“Children,” the father cried,
    “Lost is the great god Thor,
Lost is the sword at his side,
    Lost is his arm in the war,
And the fury which all things defied.

“In the heart of a dreamland bower,
    Sleepeth he under a spell,
For he yielded his strength for an hour,
    And under the meshes of Hell
He is chained by invincible power.

“None may the meshes unbind;
    Strength must return to his will,
And himself must unshackle his mind
    From the dreams he is dreaming still,
In the moon-lady’s tresses entwined.

“Over the mountains the road,
    Dismal and drear to return,
Face it he must with his load,
    Though the underbrakes crackle and burn,
Though the serpent-bites blister and goad.

“Not a mere shadow is sin,
    Clinging like wine to the lip,
To be wiped from the mouth and the chin
     After man taketh a sip;
But a poison that lurketh within.

“The forces that hold back the sea,
    That grapple the earth from beneath,
Are not older than those which decree
    The marriage of sin unto death
In the sinner, whoever he be.

“Who of our numbers will go
    Up to the death-tainted land,
Braving the dangers, and so
     Reaching the heart and the hand
And the form of the god lying low?”

“Sire,” answered Balder the fair,
    “Rugged the journey and long,
Manifold dangers are there,
     But my heart and my arms are strong,
And my soul is as pure as the air.

“I will go, for we need him in war,
    And without him we struggle and die;
I will put on the armour he bore
    And gird on his sword to my thigh;
I will sit by and say, ‘I am Thor.’

“Perchance when he opens his eyes,
    Shorn of his own armour-plate,
Smitten with rage and surprise,
    Burning with anger and hate,
He will burst from the bed where he lies.

“Swift as the kiss of the fire,
     Knowledge shall flash to his brain,
And the thought of his past self inspire
    His spirit with valour again,
Till he shatter the bonds of desire.”

So Balder, the fairest of all,
    And purest of gods by the throne,
Went from the heavenly hall
    Into the darkness alone,
To loosen the god from his thrall.

Black was the charger he rode,
    Winged, and its eye-balls of fire;
From mountain to mountain it trode,
    Spurning the valleys as mire,
Till it sprang into air with its load.

Then swift, with its neck side-curled,
    Half hid in the smoke of its breath,
Upward it bounded, and hurled
    Volleys and splinters of death
From the fire of its hoofs on the world.

The moon-lady leaned from her car
    And beheld the fierce course of the god,
For, as though with the birth of a star,
    A fire track as straight as a rod
Burnt in the heavens afar.

Then she trembled and sickened with fear,
    Till her face grew as white as the mist
When at day-dawn the stars disappear,
    And her body did coil and untwist
Like a serpent’s folds caught in a weir.

Her heart was a fire that was spent,
    Her lips could not utter a charm,
And she cowered from his sight as he went,
    While Balder flew by without harm,
’Neath the shield of a pure intent.

He came to the moon-lady’s bower,
     And girded the sword to his thigh,
And put on the cincture of power,
    Unbound from the god lying by,
Nor waited a day nor an hour;

For, startled, the sleeper awoke,
     Black-visaged, like a storm on the skies;
But Balder sat upright, nor spoke,
     Till the flames darted out of Thor’s eyes,
And the passionate silence he broke.

“Who is it, when dreaming is o’er,
    Mocks me with helm like to mine,
Ungirding the armour I bore,
    From the sweet silken nets that entwine?
Quoth Balder, “Behold! I am Thor.

“I am he that was ‘Thunderer’ called,
    And my fame is as wide as the world;
At my anger the rocks were appalled,
    And the waves of the sea were up-curled,
But now I am weak and enthralled.

“The battle is fierce on the earth,
    While I sit here idle and still;
Unfulfilled are the hopes of my birth,
    For the strength of the mind is the will,
And the will is more potent than girth.

“The foes of the gods wax bold,
    And they mock at the armies of heaven;
At their banquets the story is told—
    ‘A weak woman’s heart hath been given
To Thor, the avenger of old.’

“And the wives as they sit by the cot,
    Sing, ‘Sleep, for the god cannot come;
Sleep, the avenger is not;
    Hush, let his praises be dumb;
Hush, let his name be forgot.’”

Then the god, smitten with pain,
    Shamèd and stung to the heart,
Knowing a god's voice again,
    Rending his fetters apart,
Sprang from the moon-lady’s chain.

Instantly vanished in night
    Fountains and meadows and streams,
Never a glimmer of light
    Lit up the palace of dreams,
As the god made his way, without sight,

Back to the heavenly shore,
    Over mountain and wild ravine,
Morasses, and seas that roar,
    Till the portals of heaven were seen
And he stood in Valhalla once more.