T H E  P O E M S  O F

W I L F R E D
C A M P B E L L



 


Dramatic, Classic and Imaginative Verse
 

 



The Last Scene from “Mordred”


Another part of the field.
  Enter ARTHUR surrounded by knights.


Arthur.
  Now where is he, that monster, foul; deformed
In shape and spirit, Nature calls my son?


Enter MORDRED.


Mordred.
  Here!
Arthur.  Ah, Blot on all this sunlight, Creature dire,
Spawn of mine incest. There standest thou my sin,

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Incarnate now before me, mine old doom;
Thou that wast stronger in thine influences
To work dread evil in this hideous world
Than all the glory all my good might win.
Mordred.  Father!

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Arthur.  Yea, well say Father! Parent I this ill
That hath enrent my kingdom all in twain.
In that dread night of my licentious youth,
When I in darkness thy foul shape begot,
I worked a web of blackness round my fate

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And thine, distorted phantom of my sin,
Not all the tolling of sweet abbey-bells,
And murmur of masses sung these thousand years,
Can sweep from this doomed kingdom. Father! yea,
There is no truce betwixt us. Thou art Death

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To all that I hold dearest on this earth.
Thou stood’st betwixt me and my gladder fate,
The one black spot on all my glory’s sun.
In thee once more mine evil blackens in,
Reddens mine eyesight. Have at thee, foul Curse!

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Mordred.  Father!  [Page 207]
Arthur.  Have at you!

     (They fight. Arthur wounds Mordred. He falls. A Knight stabs                Arthur from behind.)

Arthur.  Ho! all the sunlight blackens! Mordred! Oh!
My glory darkens! Curtain not yon sun! (Dies.)
Mordred.  Yea, this is all and I were made for this,

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To scatter death and desolation round
On this fair kingdom, ruin this sweet land,
And level all the pride of Arthur’s glory,
As men might level some great castle walls
And sow with salt the fields of his desire,

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And make him mock before the eyes of men.
Turn all his great joy into bitterness.
Yea, I his blood, and I were made for this.
Oh, ancient, cruel Laws of human life,
Oh, deep, mysterious, unfathomable Source

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Of man’s poor being, we are ringed about
With such hard rinds of hellish circumstance,
That we can never walk or breathe or hope,
Or eye the sun, or ponder on the green
Of tented plain, or glorious blue of heaven,

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Or know love’s joy, or knotted thews of strength,
But imps of evil thoughts creep in between,
Like lizards in the chinks of some fair wall,
And mar life’s splendor and its fairness all.
’Tis some damned birth-doom blended in the blood

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That prophesies our end in our poor acts.
Oh! we are but blind children of the dark,
Wending a way we neither make nor ken.
Yea, Arthur, I had loved thee sweet and well,
And made mine arm a bulwark to thy realm,

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Had I been but as fair as Lancelot.
What evil germ, false quickening of the blood,
Did breed me foul, distorted as I am,
That I should mar this earth and thy great realm
With my wry, knotted sorrows? Lancelot’s love  [Page 208]

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Was manly, kind, and generous as became
A soul encased in such propitious frame.
The kingly trees well turn them to the sun,
And glory in their splendor with the morn.
’Tis natural that noble souls should dwell

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’Twixt noble features, but the maimèd soul
Should ever be found in the distorted shape.
But I had loved as never man hath loved
Did nature only plant me sweet at first.
(To his Knights.)  And now I die, and blessed be my death,

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More blessed far that I had never breathed.
Murder and Treason were my midwives dire,
Rapine and Carnage, priests that shrive me now.
               Enter VIVIEN, disguised as a Squire.
Vivien.  Mordred! thou diest!
Mordred.  Who art thou?

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Vivien.  I am Vivien.
Mordred.  Hence, hence, Viper, incarnate Fiend!
Not natural woman, but Ambition framed,
And all lust’s envy. Thou wert unto me
A blacker blackness. Did an angel come,

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And whisper sweeter counsel in mine ears,
And trumpet hopes that all were not in vain;
And thou wouldst wool mine ears with malice dire,
And play upon the black chords of my heart.
Hence, Devil! Mar not these my closing hours.

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Vivien.  O, Woe! Woe! (Steals out.)
Mordred.  (To the Knights.) Now bear me slowly to great Arthur’s         side
And let me place my hands upon his breast,
For he was mine own father! Alas! Alas!
So hideous is this nature we endure!

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               (The Soldiers place him by Arthur.)
How calm he sleeps, Allencthon, as those should
Who die in glorious battle. Dost thou know,  [Page 209]
O mighty Father, that thine ill-got son,
Ill-got of nature and mysterious night,
To mar thy splendor and enwreck this world,

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Now crawls to thy dead body near his death,
As would some wounded dog of faithful days,
To lick his master’s hand? Blame not, O King,
If thou somewhere may know what I here feel,
Thy poor, misshapen Mordred. Blame him not

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The turbulent, treacherous currents of his blood
Which were a part of thine, nor let one thought
Of his past evil mar thy mighty rest;
He would have loved thee; but remember that.
Now past is all this splendor, new worlds come;

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But nevermore will Britain know such grace,
Such lofty glory and such splendid days.
Back of the clang of battle, back of all
The mists of life, the clamor and the fall
Of ruined kingdoms built on human days;

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Arthur! Merlin! Mighty dead, I come!
                                                  (Springs to his feet.)
Ho! Horse! To Horse! My sword! A trumpet calls!
A Mordred!                                             (Dies.)

 



Pan the Fallen


HE wandered into the market
     With pipes and goatish hoof;
He wandered in a grotesque shape,
     And no one stood aloof.
For the children crowded round him,

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     The wives and greybeards, too,
To crack their jokes and have their mirth,
     And see what Pan would do.  [Page 210]

The Pan he was they knew him,
     Part man, but mostly beast,

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Who drank, and lied, and snatched what bones
     Men threw him from their feast;
Who seemed in sin so merry,
     So careless in his woe,
That men despised, scarce pitied him,

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     And still would have it so.

He swelled his pipes and thrilled them,
     And drew the silent tear;
He made the gravest clack with mirth
     By his sardonic leer.

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He blew his pipes full sweetly
     At their amused demands,
And caught the scornful, earth-flung pence
     That fell from careless hands.

He saw the mob’s derision,

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     And took it kindly, too,
And when an epithet was flung,
     A coarser back he threw;
But under all the masking
     Of a brute, unseemly part,

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I looked, and saw a wounded soul,
     And a godlike, breaking heart.

And back of the elfin music,
     The burlesque, clownish play,
I knew a wail that the weird pipes made,

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     A look that was far away,—
A gaze into some far heaven
     Whence a soul had fallen down;
But the mob only saw the grotesque beast
     And the antics of the clown.  [Page 211]

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For scant-flung pence he paid them
     With mirth and elfin play,
Till, tired for a time of his antics queer,
     They passed and went their way;
Then there in the empty market

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     He ate his scanty crust,
And, tired face turned to heaven, down
     He laid him in the dust.

And over his wild, strange features
     A softer light there fell,

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And on his worn, earth-driven heart
     A peace ineffable.
And the moon rose over the market,
     But Pan the beast was dead;
While Pan the god lay silent there,

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     With his strange, distorted head.

And people, when they found him,
     Stood still with awesome fear.
No more they saw the beast’s rude hoof,
     The furtive, clownish leer;

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But the lightest spirit in that strong
     Went silent from the place,
For they knew the look of a god released
     That shone from his dead face.

 



Phaethon


I PHAETHON:  dwelling in that golden house,
Which Hephaistos did build for my great sire,
Old Helios, king of glowing heaven and day;
Knowing this life but mortal in its span,
Hedged in by puling youth and palsied age,

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Where poor men crawl like insects, knowing pain  [Page 212]
And mighty sorrow to the gates of death;
Besought the god my father by his love
To grant me that which I did long for most
Of all things great in earth and heaven and sea,

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The which he granting in his mighty love,—
Of all things splendid under the splendid sky
Built of old by toil of ancient gods,
To me the dearest; for one round golden day,
To stand in his great chariot built of fire,

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And chase the rosy hours from dawn to dusk,
Guiding his fleeting steeds o’er heaven’s floors.
He gave to me.—No god yet brake his word.
Speaking to me in sorrow:  “O my son,
Know what my foolish pride hath made for thee.

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That mortal life which is to men a span,
From childhood unto youth, and manhood’s prime,
Reaching on out to happy olden age,
For thee must shrink into one woeful day.
For, O my son, impetuous in thy pride,

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Who would be as the gods and ape their ways,
And sacrilegious leave thy mortal bounds,—
Know thou must die upon that baleful day,
That terrible day of days thou mountest up
To ride that chariot never mortal rode,

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And drive those steeds that never man hath driven.”
Then I—“My father, know me, thine own son,
Better to me to live one day a god,
Going out in some great flame of death,
Than live this weary life of common men,

35

Misunderstood, misunderstanding still,
Half wakeful, moving dimly in a dream,
Confused, phantasmic, men call history;
Chasing the circles of the perishing suns,
The summers and dim winters, hating all,

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Heart-eaten for a longing ne’er attained,  [Page 213]
Despising all things named of earth or heaven,
Or mortal birth that they should ever be;
Knowing within this mystery of my being,
This curbed heredity, lies a latent dream

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Of some old vanished, banished, lease of being,
When life was life and man’s soul lived its hour,
Uncurbed, uncabined, like the mighty gods,
Vast, splendid, capable, and heraclean,
To drain the golden beaker of his days.”

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Thus I—“My father, I am over weary,
Chained in this summer-plot of circumstance,
Beaten by fearful custom, childish, chidden,
Hounded of cruel wolves of superstition,
And rounded by a petty wall of time,

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Plodding the dreary years that wend their round,
Aping the sleeping, sensual life of beasts,
Fearful of all things, dreading mostly death,
Past pain and age and all their miseried end,
Where all must rot, who smile and weep and sleep,

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And be a part of all this grim corruption.
Nay, better to me than the long-measured draught,
Trickling out through many anxious years,
Iron-eaten, haggard, to the place of death—
To drain my flagon of life in one glad draught,—

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To live, to love, aspire, and dare all things;
Be all I am and others ought to be,
Real man or demi-god, to blossom my rose,
To scale my heights, to live my vastest dream,
To climb, to be, and then, if chance my fate,

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To greatly fall.”
                              Then my great father, laden
With woe divine, “My son, take thou thy way;
As thou hast chosen, thus ’twill be to thee;”
And passing, darkened down his godlike face
And shadowed splendor thence for evermore.  [Page 214]

75

’Twas night ambrosial down the orient meads,
With stars like winking pearls, far-studding heaven,
And dews all glorious on the bending stem,
Odorous, passionate as the rose of sleep
Half-budded on the throbbing heart of night;

80

And in the east a glowing sapphire gloomed,
When I awoke and lifted up mine eyes,
And saw through rose and gold and vermeil dyes,
And splendid mists of azure hung with pearl,
Half-hid, half-seen, as life would apprehend,

85

As in a sleep, the presence of dim death
And fate and terrible gods, the car of day.

Like morn within the morning, glad, it hung,
Light hid in light, swift blinding all who saw,
Dazzled, its presence; motionless though vibrate,

90

Where it did swing athwart the deep-welled night,
The heart of morning in the folds of dark,
Pulsating sleep, and conquering death with life;
So glowed its glory, folded, cloud in cloud,
Gold within azure, purple shut in gold,

95

The bud of morning pulsing ere it break,
And spill its splendors many vermeil-dyed,
Reddening Ocean to his outmost rim.

Here charmèd dreams and drowsèd magic hung,
And wingèd hopes and rosy joys afloat

100

Filled all the air, and I was short aware
That this was life, and this mine hour supreme,
To seize and act and be one with the gods.
So dreamed I reckless when to think, to act,
And moved, elate, with quick life-flaming step

105

Athwart the meadow’s budding asphodels,
Song on my lip, and life at heart and eye,
Exultant, breathing flame of pride and power.  [Page 215]

Joy rose and sang, a bird, across the fields,
Hope’s rosy wings shot trembling to the blue,

110

And courage with dauntless steps before me went,
Brushing the veils of fierce cobwebby fires.
And there, before me, sprawled grim ancient Power,
A hideous Ethiop, huge in sodden sleep,
The golden reins clutched in his titan hands.

115

I snatched, leaped, shouted; morning rose in flame,
And ashweed paled to lily, lily blushed
To ruddy crocus, crocus flamed to rose,
And out of all, borne on the floors of light,
I floated, gloried, up the orient walls,

120

And all things woke, and sang of conquering day.

Higher, yet higher, out of fiery mists,
Filling those meadows of the dew-built dawn,
Gloried and glorying, power clutched in my hand,
Wreathed about in terrible spendors, I drave,

125

Glowing, the dawn’s gold coursers, champing steam
Of snow and pearly foam from golden bridles,
Forged in blue eidolon forges of the night,
Beaten on steely anvils of the stars.
These, champing, reared their fetlocks; breathing flame,

130

In red, dew-draining lances, thundered on,
’Whelming night, as golden stair by stair
They climbed the glimmering bridgeway of the day.

Far under, wreathed in mists, old ocean swayed;
And, cyclops-like, the bearded mountains hung.

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Vast shining rivers with their brimming floors
And broad curved courses gleamed and glanced and shone,
And loneliness and gloom and grey despair  [Page 216]
With sombre hauntings fled to shuddering night,
Hidden in caves and coral glooms of seas.

140

Low down the east the morn’s ambrosial meads
Sank in soft splendors.  Sphering out below,
Gilded in morning, anchored the patient earth,
Mountain and valley, ocean and wide plain,
Opening to dawn’s young footsteps where we wheeled,

145

And blossomed wide the rosebud of the day.
Glory was mine, but greater, sense of power,
Nor marred by fear, as loftier we climbed,
With glinting hoofs, that clanged the azure bridge
That arched from dawning up to flaming noon.

150

Dauntless my soul, and fiery-glad my heart,
And “vastness,” “vastness,” sang through all my being,
As gloved with adamant I guided on
The day’s red coursers up their flaming hill,
To reach the mighty keystone of the day.

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All things conspired to build my upward road:
The fitful winds of morning, the soft clouds,
That fleece-like swept my cheek, the azure glint
Of ocean swaying, restless, on his rim,
Where slept the continents like a serpent curled

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In sleep, leviathan, huge, about the world.

Then sudden all my waking turned to dream,
A madness wherein, hideous, all things hung.
Thought fled confused, and awful apprehension
Shadowed my spirit, power and reason fled;

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And, maddening, day’s red coursers thundered on,
Uncurbed, unguided by my palsied hand.
Then with loud ruin, blundering from the bridge,
Through space went swaying, now high up, now down,[Page 217]
Scattering conflagration and fierce death

170

O’er earth’s shrunk verges where their scorchings scarred.
Time fled in terror, forests shriveled up,
Ocean drew back in shudderings to his caves,
Huge mountains shook and rumbled to their base,
Great streams dried up, old cities smoked and fell,

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And all life met confusion and despair,
And dread annihilation.
                                Then the gods,
Pitying wrecked nature, in their sudden vengeance,
Me, impious, hurled from out my dizzying height.
Time vanished, reason swooned, then left her throne,

180

And darkness wrapt me as I shuddering fell,
Oblivion-clouded, to the plunging seas.
Ocean received me, folding in his deeps,
Cooling and emerald.  Here in coral dreams
I rest and cure me, never wholly waking,

185

Filled with one splendor, fumbling in a dream,
As waves do fumble all about a cave,
For one clear memory of that one high day.

I failed, was mortal; where I climbed I fell.
But all else little matters; life was mine,

190

I dreamed, I dared, I grappled with, I fell;
And here I live it over in my dreams.
All things may pass, decline, and come to naught,
Death ’whelm life as day engulfed in dark;
But I have greatly lived, have greatly dared,

195

And death will never wholly wrap me round
And black me in its terrors.  I am made
One with the future, dwelling in the dreams
And memories dread of envious gods and men.  [Page 218]

 



Sir Lancelot


HE rode, a king, amid the armored knights,
The glory of day tossing on helm and shield,
And all the glory of his youth and joy
In the strong, wine-like splendor of his face.
He rode among them, the one man of men,

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Their lordliest, loveliest, he who might have been,
Because of very human breadth of love,
And his glad, winning sympathy for earth,
Greater than even Arthur under heaven.

Kindlier than the morning was his face,

10

Swift, like the lightning, was his eagle glance,
No bit of beauty earth had ever held,
Of child or flower or dream of woman’s face,
Or noble, passing godliness of mood,
In man toward man, but garnered in his eye,

15

As in some mere that gathereth all earth’s face,
And foldeth it in beauty to its breast.

He rode among them, Arthur’s own right hand,
Arthur, whom he loved as John loved Christ,
And watched each day with joy that lofty brow

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Lift up its lonely splendor, isolate,
Half godlike, o’er that serried host of spears;
And knew his love the kingliest, holiest thing,
’Twixt man and man upon this glowing earth.

So passed those days of splendor and of peace,

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When all men loved his majesty and strength
And kindliness of spirit, which the king,
Great Arthur, with his lofty coldness lacked.  [Page 219]
’Twas Lancelot fought the mightiest in the lists,
And beat with thunders back the brazen shields,

30

And stormed the fastness of the farthest isles,
Slaying the grizzly warriors of the meres,
And winning all men’s fealty and love,
And worship of fair women in the towers,
Who laid their distaffs down to watch him pass;

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And made the hot blood mantle each fair cheek,
With sweet sense of his presence, till all men
Called Arthur half a god, and Lancelot
The greatest heart that beat in his great realm.

Then came that fatal day that brake his life,

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When he, being sent of Arthur, all unknowing,
Saw Guinevere, like some fair flower of heaven,
As men may only see in dreams the gods
Do send to kill the common ways of earth,
And make all else but drear and dull and bleak;

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Such magic she did work upon his soul,
Till Arthur, God, and all the Table Round,
Were but a nebulous mist before his eyes,
In which the splendor of her beauty shone.

Henceforth the years would rise and wane and die,

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And glory come and glory pass away,
And battles pass as in a troubled dream,
And Arthur be a ghost, and his knights ghosts;—
The castles and the lists and the mad fights,
Sacking of cities, scourging of country-sides,

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All dreams before his eyes;—all, save her love.

So girded she her magic round his heart,
And meshed him in a golden mesh of love,
And marred his sense of all earth’s splendor there.

But in the after-days when brake the end,

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And she had fled to Glastonbury’s cells,  [Page 220]
With all the world one clamor at her sin:
And Arthur like a storm-smit pine-tree stood,
Alone amid his kingdom’s blackened ruins;—
Then Lancelot knew his life an evil dream,

65

And thought him of the friendship of their youth,
And all the days that they had been together,
And “Arthur, Arthur,” spake from all the meres,
And “Arthur, Arthur,” moaned from days afar.
And Lancelot grieved him of his woeful sin:—

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“And this the hand that smote mine Arthur down,
That brake his glory, ruined his great hope
Of one vast kingdom built on noble deeds,
And truth and peace for many days to be.
This hand that should have been his truest strength,

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Next to that high honor which he held.”
And all the torrents of his sorrow brake
For his own Arthur—Arthur standing lone,
Like some unriven pine that towers alone
Amid the awful ruins of a world.

80

And then a woeful longing smote him there,
To ride by murk and moon, by mere and waste,
To where the king made battle with his foes,
And look, unknown, upon his face, and die.

So thinking this he fled, and the queen’s wraith,

85

A memory, in the moonlight fled with him.
But stronger with him fled his gladder youth
And all the memories of the splendid past,
Until his heart yearned for the days that were,
And that great, noble soul who fought alone.

90


Then coming by cock-crow and the glimmering dawn,
He reached the grey-walled castle of the land,
Where the king tarried ere he went to fight
The last dread battle of the Table Round.  [Page 221]
And the grim sentinels who guarded there,

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Thinking only of him as Arthur’s friend,
And knowing not the Lancelot scandal named,
And judging by the sorrow of his face,
Deemed him some knight who came to aid the king,
And pointing past the waning beacon fires,

100

Said, “There he sleeps as one who hath no woes.”

And Lancelot passing silent left them there,
And entering the old abbey, (’twas some ruin
Of piety and worship of past days,)
Saw in the flicker of a dying hearth,

105

Mingled with faint glimmering of the dawn,
The great king sleeping, where a mighty cross
Threw its dread shadow o’er his moving breast.

And Lancelot knew the same strong, godlike face
That he had worshipped in the days no more;

110

And all their olden gladness smote him now,
And he had wept but that his awful sin,
That made a wall of flame betwixt them there,
Had seared the very fountains of his soul.
Whereat he moaned, “O noble, saintly heart,

115

Couldst thou but know amidst thine innocent sleep,
Save for the awful sin that flames between,
That here doth stand the Lancelot of old days,
The one of all the world who loved thee most,
The joyous friend of all thy glorious youth;

120

O noble! godlike! Lancelot, who hath sinned
As none hath sinned against thee, now hath come
To gaze upon thy majesty and die.
O Arthur! thou great Arthur of my youth,
My sun, my joy, my glory!”
                                        Here the king

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Stirred in his sleep, and murmured, “Guinevere!”  [Page 222]
And Lancelot, feeling that an age of ages,
Hoary with all anguish of old crime
And hideous bloodshed, were now builded up
Betwixt him and the king at that one name,

130

Clothed with the mad despairings of his shame,
Stole like some shrunken ghost-life from that place,
To look no more upon great Arthur’s face.

Then it did smite upon him he must die;
And in him the old ghost of honor woke

135

That he must die in battle, and go out
Where no dread sorrow could gnaw at his heart,
But all forgetting and eternal sleep.

Whereat the madness of old battle woke,
For his dread sin now burned all softness out,

140

And the glad kindliness of the Table Round,
And left him, shorn of all the Christian knight,
The gentle lord who only smote to save,
Or shield the helpless from the brutal stroke;
And flamed his heart there with the lust to slay,

145

And slaying be slain as his grim sires went out.

Then some far trumpet startled all the morn,
Trembling westward from its dewy sleep.
And with the day new battle woke the meres,
And as a wood-wolf scents the prey afar,

150

The noise of coming battle smote his ears,
And woke in him the fierceness of his race,
And the old pagan, joyous lust of fight.
And crying, “Farewell, Arthur, mine old youth,
Farewell, Lancelot, mine old kinder self,

155

Lancelot, Arthur’s brother, lie there low,
Slain with the glory wherewithal you fell,  [Page 223]
While this new Lancelot, new-bred of old time,
Before the new hope of the loftier day,
Before the reign of mercy and glad law,

160

Thunders in old madness forth to war.”

And as in some bleak ruin of a house
Where all the sweet, home joys are ravaged out,
And some grim, evil pack hath entered in
To tear and snarl, so the old Lancelot passed.

165

And where he closed the battle’s fiercest shock
Did hem him round, till as a mighty surf,
That clamors, thundering round some seaward tower,
Toward him the battle roared, and clanged his shield.
And fast his blade went circling in the sun,

170

Like some red, flaming wheel, where’er he went;
Nor cared for friend or foe, so that he slew,
And drank his cup of madness to the death.
Till those he fought with dreamed a giant earl
Of grim old days had come once more to earth,

175

To fight anew the battles of his youth.

But some huge islesmen of the west were there:
And they were fain to hew him down, and came
Like swift, loud storm of autumn at him there.
Then there grew clamor of the reddest fight

180

That ever man beheld, and all outside
Were stayed in awe to see that one man fight
With that dread host of wilding warriors there.
Nor stayed his awful brand, but left and right
Whirled he its bloody flamings in the sun,

185

And men went down as in October woods
Do crash the mighty trunks before the blast,
Till all were slain but one grim islesman left.
But Lancelot by this was all one stream
Of ruddy wounds, and like some fire his brain.  [Page 224]

190

And, with one awful shout of battle joy,
He sent his sword-blade wheeling in the sun,
And cleft that mighty islesman to the neck;
And crying, “Arthur!” smote the earth, and died.

Then spread such terror over all the foe,

195

That gods did fight with them there, that they fled.
And all that day the battle moved afar,
Out to the west by distant copse and mere,
Till died the tumult, and the night came in,
With mighty hush far over all that waste.

200

And one by one the lonely stars came out,
And over the meres the wintry moon looked down,
Unmindful of poor Lancelot and his wounds,
His dead, lost youth, the stillness of his face,
And all that awful carnage silent there.

205

 



The Wayfarer


HE woke with the dawning,
     Met eyes with the sun,
And drank the wild rapture
     Of living begun.

But he went with the moment

5

     To follow the clue,
Ere the first red of dawning
     Had drunk the blue dew.

Follow him, follow him,
     Where the world will,

10

Under the sunlight
     By meadow and hill.  [Page 225]

Down the blue distance,
     Round the world’s rim,
Where the hosts of the future

15

     Are horning for him.

Follow him, call to him,
     Pray to him, Sweet,
Tell him the morning
     Is fresh for his feet;

20


Sing him the rapture,
     The glamor, the gleam,
Of pearly dew-azure
     That curtains the stream;

Sing the glad thrush-note

25

     That never knew pain,
But sing him and call him
     And pray him in vain.

For ere the red dewdrop
     In sunlight was pearled,

30

He heard that mad ocean
     That whelms the world.

Yea, heard that voice calling
     Past sunlight and dew,
That rarest, alluringest,

35

     Ever heart knew.

That siren of sunrise,
     That weaver of songs,
Till the heart of man hearkens
     And gladdens and longs,  [Page 226]

40


Till o’er the blue distance,
     As opens the rose,
The yearning impulsion
     Of all his life goes.

And many a dragon

45

     Chimera so grim,
Down the dream of the morning
     Is vanquished by him.

Yea, sing to him, call him through
     Heartache in vain;

50

But the gladdest day wakened
     To glory, must wane.

And the noonday he longed for
     To fierce light will burn,
And the battles he wages

55

     Grow bitter and stern,

And the surge of life sink
     To the moan of a bar,
And the hopes of the morning
     Grow hollow and far;

60


And the road that he follows,
     Less luring and true,
Till he longs for a whiff
     Of the morning he knew.

For he hears thy far singing,

65

     That lures not in vain,
Till he comes to thy beauty
     Of morning again.  [Page 227]

But the roads of returning
     Are never the same

70

As the sweet dewy meadows
     Of morning we came.

But the song of alluring
     Is ever as true,
To lead the heart back

75

     To the beauty it knew.

And vain the mad magic
     Where life’s glories burn,
For the heart of the yearner
     Who longs to return.

80


For he hears that voice calling,
     Voiced never in vain,
To world-heart aweary
     For all dreamings fain.

And he hears the low grasses

85

     The green tents of sod,
From rooftrees of slumber
     As voices of God.

And the spinning and turning,
     Of madness amain,

90

Fade out from his dreaming
     As night from the pane;

When the rosy-red splendor
     In dew-dreams impearled,
From ashes of slumber,

95

     Lifts over the world.  [Page 228]

Yea, back to those echoes
     Of bugles that blew,
Heart-weary, life-broken,
     He wanders to you;

100


Yea, back to his truest,
     Those far broken gleams
Of that rosy-red, morning-lit
     House of his dreams.

Where all hours were splendid,

105

     And all hearts held true,
In those glory-lit visions
     Of beauty and you.

Yea, call to him, cry to him,
     Mother of all;

110

You lit his youth’s torches,
     You saw their flames fall.

You loved him, upheld him,
     This child of your breast;
And now give him surcease

115

     In dreamings and rest.

Your note was the one note
     He heard in the fray,
That bore him far out
     In the heat of the day;

120


Your call is the one call
     That beckons him home,
When day-fires darken
     By forest and foam.  [Page 229]

When o’er all the heartache,

125

     The visions untrue,
Love draws her dim curtains
     Of duskfire and dew.

While the bells ring for slumber
     As out of the deep,

130

Come pleading those velvet-winged
     Spirits of sleep.

And there at your doorways
     Of slumber he stands,
Like him of old Horeb,

135

     And sees his heart’s lands;

While under the white awe
     Of planets that swim,
Knows dawning and even
     As one world to him.

140

 



Peniel


IN a place of the mountains of Edom,
     And a waste of the midnight shore,
When the evil winds of the desolate hills
     Beat with an iron roar;
With the pitiless black of the desert behind,

5

     And the wrath of a brother before:—

In a place of the ancient mountains,
     And the time of the midnight dead,
Where the great wide skies of his father’s land
     Loomed vastly overhead;

10

Jacob, the son of the ancient of days,
     Stood out alone with his dread.  [Page 230]

And there in that place of darkness,
     When the murk of the night grew dim,
Under the wide rooftree of the world

15

     An unknown stood with him,—
Whether a devil or angel of God,—
     With presence hidden and grim,

And spake, “Thou son of Isaac,
     On mountain and stream and tree,

20

And this wide ruined world of night,
     Take thy last look with me:
For out of the darkness have I come,
     To die, or conquer thee.”

Then Jacob made stern answer,

25

     “Until thy face I see,
Though I strive with life or wrestle with death,
     Yet will I strive with thee:
For better it were to die this hour
     Than from my fate to flee.

30


“Yea, speak thy name or show thy face,
     Else shall I conquer thy will.”
But the other closed with an iron shock,
     Till it seemed the stars so still,
With the lonely night, in a wheeling mist,

35

     Went round by river and hill.

And Jacob strove as the dying strive,
     In the woe of that awful place.
Yea, he fought with the desperate soul of one
     Who fights in evil case:

40

And he called aloud in the pauses dread,
     “O give me sight of thy face.  [Page 231]

“Yea, speak thy name, what art thou, spirit,
     Or man, or devil, or God?
Yea, speak thy name!”  But no voice came,

45

     From heaven or deep or sod:
And the spirit of Jacob clave to his flesh
     As the dews in a dried-up clod.

Then they rocked and swayed as Autumn storms
     Do rock the centuried trees:

50

Yea, swayed and rocked: that other strove,
     And drave him to his knees:
And Jacob felt the wide world’s gleam
     And the roar of unknown seas.

Like to a mighty storm, it seemed,

55

     There thundered in his ears:
And a mighty rushing water teemed,
     Like brooks of human tears:
And opened the channels of his spent heart,
     And washed away his fears.

60


And he rose with the last despairing strength
     Of life’s tenacity,
And he swore by the blood of man in him,
     And God’s eternity,
“’Tis my life, my very soul he wants;

65

     That he shall not have of me.”

Then his heart grew strong and he felt the earth
     Grow iron beneath his feet,
And he drank the balmy airs of night
     Like rose-blooms rare and sweet:

70

And his soul rose up as a welling brook,
     His life or death to meet.  [Page 232]

And he spake to that unknown enemy there,—
     “By yon white stars I vow,
That be thou devil or angel or man,

75

     Thou canst not conquer me now:
For I feel new lease of life and strength
     In this sweat that beads my brow.”

They locked once more; the stars, it seemed,
     Went round in dances dim,

80

Where the great white watchers over each hill,
     With the black night, seemed to swim;
But Jacob knew his enemy now
     Could nevermore conquer him.

Yes, still with grip of death they strove,

85

     In iron might, until,
Planet by planet, the great stars dropped
     Down over the westward hill:
And Jacob stood like one who stands
     In the strength of a mighty will.

90


Then at that late, last midnight hour,
     When the little birds rejoice,
And out of the lands of sleep life looms
     With the rustle of day’s annoys,
That other spake as one who speaks

95

     With a sad despairing voice,

And cried aloud, “I have met my fate,
     Loosen, and let me go:
For I have striven with thee in vain,
     Till my heart is water and woe.”

100

“Nay, nay,” cried Jacob, “we strive, we twain,
     Till the mists of dawning blow.”  [Page 233]

Then spake that other, “I hate thee not,
     My spirit is spent, alas.
Thou art a very lion of men,

105

     Release, and let me pass;
For thou hast my heart and sinews ground
     As ocean grinds his grass.”

Then answered Jacob, “Nay, nay, thou liar,
     This is the lock of death;

110

For thee or me it must be thus,
     The will of my being saith,
Thou man or devil, I hold thee here
     Unto thy latest breath.

“For I do feel in thee I hold

115

     My life’s supremest hour:
I would as lief let all life slip
     As thee from out my power,
Until I gaze on thy hid face,
     And read my spirit’s dower.

120


“Yea, show thy face or who thou art,
     Or man or angel or fiend,
I rend thy being fold from fold,
     And scatter thee to the wind.”
Then they twain rocked as passions rock,

125

     When madness wrecks the mind.

For each now knew this was the end,
     And one of them must die,
Then Jacob heaved a mighty breath,
     With a last great sobbing cry,

130

And gripped that other in a grip
     Like the grip of those who die.  [Page 234]

For he felt once more his spirit faint,
     And his strong knees quake beneath,
And it seemed the mountains flamed all red

135

     At the coming of his breath;
And he prayed if he were conquered now
     That this might be his death.

The tight grip eased, the huge form slipped
     Back earthward with a moan,

140

And Jacob stood there ’neath the dawn,
     Like one new-changed to stone;
For in the face of the prone man there
     He read his very own.

Not as man sees who reads his fellows

145

     In the dim crowds that pass;
Nor as a soul may know himself,
     Who looks within a glass;
But as God sees, who kneads the clay,
     And parts it from the mass.

150


And over his head the great day rose
     And gloried leaf and wing,
And the little boughs began to tremble,
     And the little birds to sing;
But on his face there shone a strength

155

     Like the power of a new-crowned king.  [Page 235]

 



Cain


My hand is red with brother blood,
     My heart is bleak with woe,
’Mid dark despairs a bitter brood,
     Forth, forth alone I go.

By mists of dread fierce hate I grope

5

     Forth over a wide, wide sea;
For out from love and light and hope
     My sin hath driven me.

Dread, dread the portals that I face,
     The foes that front me there,

10

And evermore back, back I trace
     Old roads of death’s despair.

And by the crowded demon mart,
     Or by the haunted sea,
Manacled, close heart to heart,

15

     My brute sin stalks with me.

And often in my middle sleep
     I dream I see its face,
As one looks down into a deep
     And sees an evil place

20


Of hideous holes, where slimy things
     Of horror and strange woe
Round, round forever in weird rings
     Of endless motion go.

And ever round me closes in

25

     A wall both black and dread.  [Page 236]
It is my sin, mine evil sin
     That binds me to the dead.

Nor am I desolate where I track
     The deserts bleak and wide;

30

For the great God, a shadow black,
     Moves ever by my side.

I feel Him ’mid the morning dews,
     And at the dread midnight;
For He alone will never lose

35

     The murderer from His sight.

Nor brings He peace.  I could not steal
     A sense of happiness;
But some grim law that makes me feel
     The manacle’s caress.

40


A sense of One who ever goes
     And bears my load with me,
Down roads of grim and hideous woes
     And horrid agony.

Down, down, where things of doom are dree

45

     And demon fancies ride;
And ever, ever as I flee,
     That shadow by my side.

And dread, more dread than all, hath been
     That sense of woe in me,

50

To know His greatness, and my sin
     That parts us like a sea;

As down weird worlds of bale and blight
     My tortured way I trace,
And ever before me blinded night

55

     That smites the murderer’s face.  [Page 237]

 



Lazarus


O FATHER ABRAM, I can never rest
     Here in thy bosom in the whitest heaven,
     Where love blooms on through days without an even;
     For up through all the paradises seven,
There comes a cry from some fierce, anguished breast.

5


A cry that comes from out of hell’s dark night,
     A piercing cry of one in agony,
     That reaches me here in heaven white and high;
     A call of anguish that doth never die,
Like dream-waked infant wailing for the light.

10


O Father Abram, heaven is love and peace,
     And God is good; eternity is rest.
     Sweet would it be to lie upon thy breast
     And know no thought but loving to be blest,
Save for that cry that nevermore will cease.

15


It comes to me above the angel-lyres,
     The chanting praises of the cherubim;
     It comes between my upward gaze and Him,
     All-blessed Christ.  A voice from the vague dim,
O Lazarus, come and ease me of these fires!

20


“O Lazarus, I have called thee all these years,

     It is so long for me to reach to thee,
     Across the ages of this mighty sea,
     That loometh dark, dense, like eternity,
Which I have bridged by anguished prayers and tears.

25
[Page 238]


“Which I have bridged by knowledge of God’s love,

     That even penetrates this anguished glare;
     A gleaming ray, a tremulous star-built stair,
     A road by which love-hungered souls may fare
Past hate and doubt, to heaven and God above.”

30


So calleth it ever upward unto me.
     It creepeth in through heaven’s golden doors,
     It echoes all along the sapphire floors,
     Like smoke of sacrifice, it soars and soars,
It fills the vastness of eternity.

35


Until my sense of love is waned and dimmed,
     The music-rounded spheres do clash and jar,
     No more those spirit-calls from star to star,
     The harmonies that float and melt afar,
The belts of light by which all heaven is rimmed.

40


No more I hear the beat of heavenly wings,
     The seraph chanting in my rest-tuned ear;
     I only know a cry, a prayer, a tear,
     That rises from the depths up to me here;
A soul that to me suppliant leans and clings.

45


O Father Abram, thou must bid me go
     Into the spaces of the deep abyss;
     Where far from us and our God-given bliss,
     Do dwell those souls that have done Christ amiss;
For through my rest I hear that upward woe.

50


I hear it crying through the heavenly night,
     When curvèd, hung in space, the million moons
     Lean planet-ward, and infinite space attunes
     Itself to silence, as from drear grey dunes
A cry is heard along the shuddering light,  [Page 239]

55


Of wild dusk-bird, a sad, heart-curdling cry,
     So comes to me that call from out hell’s coasts;
     I see an infinite shore with gaping ghosts;
     This is no heaven, with all its shining hosts;
This is no heaven until that hell doth die.

60


So spake the soul of Lazarus, and from thence,
     Like new-fledged bird from its sun-jeweled nest,
     Drunk with the music of the young year’s quest,
     He sank out into heaven’s gloried breast,
Spaceward turned, toward darkness dim, immense.

65


Hellward he moved like a radiant star shot out
     From heaven’s blue with rain of gold at even,
     When Orion’s train and that mysterious seven
     Move on in mystic range from heaven to heaven.
Hellward he sank, followed by radiant rout.

70


The liquid floor of heaven bore him up
     With unseen arms, as in his feathery flight
     He floated down toward the infinite night;
     But each way downward, on the left and right,
He saw each moon of heaven like a cup

75


Of liquid, misty fire that shone afar
     From sentinel towers of heaven’s battlements;
     But onward, winged by love’s desire intense,
     And sank, space-swallowed, into the immense,
While with him ever widened heaven’s bar.

80


’Tis ages now long-gone since he went out,
     Christ-urged, love-driven, across the jasper walls.
     But hellward still he ever floats and falls,
     And ever nearer come those anguished calls;
And far behind he hears a glorious shout.  [Page 240]

85

 



Ahmet


     This poem is founded on an old legend of North Africa, related by the late R. G. Haliburton, the noted ethnologist.  According to tradition the ancient races of North Africa believed the constellation of the Pleiades to be the souls of a chieftain and six warriors, slain in battle, who are shut out from heaven and doomed to wander forever through space in search of the soul of the eighth warrior, which is identified with the lost Pleiad.


AND still the mighty river drifted on,
Under the shadowed night and moving mists,
And towered the iron mountains, dark and stern,
Under the arctic whiteness of the north.
And out of the far horizon’s sullen edge

5

The night-winds stirred amid the lonely dead,
Stark, moveless, gazing upward at the skies,
Where silent and cold the unanswering stars looked down.

And Ahmet raised him from the battle-field,
Where stunned he lay, beneath a Tartar horse

10

Huge, stiff and dead, transfixèd by a spear;
And left the awful plateau of the dead,
And stood upon the high-raised river bank,
Beneath the white stars of the wintry heaven,
And moved himself, and beat the life-blood back

15

Into the death-like torpor of his veins,
And looked abroad, where all the night lay still
And dim with murk far over that lone waste.
Leagues to the north, under the mighty Bear,
Folded in fog, a fleeting silver dream,

20

The river moved and sang into the dark,
Under the frosty splendor of the stars.

And Ahmet stood and gazed into the night,
And lifted his face up to those watchful lights  [Page 241]
That looked from out their lonely homes on him;

25

And saw the Pleiades, a tangled mist
Of moveless jewels in the sky’s blue deep,
Or pale grape-cluster in some great god’s hand.

And felt the old religion of his race,—
A nomad people on the northern steppes,

30

Who wandered from place to place tracking their gods—
The stern, white wanderers of the trackless heaven—
Beat in the stirring pulses of his blood.
And Ahmet prayed in his heart’s agony,
Unto the fathers of his race, the gods,

35

For his own people in their distant home,
And for himself on this lone, desolate waste,
And the great dead, who battling through that day,
Went to the gods from off their foemen’s spears.
Then rang his song of triumph to the night,

40

Of those his blade loosed to the land of death,
Treading the carnage on that awful field;
Then ceased, nor ever echo answered there,
Save the far moaning of some mountain beast
Haunting the jungle by some night-ward shore.

45

And never a sound came over that lone waste,
Where the far mountains raised their iron heads,
And the great river sang its sleep below.
Then strode he past the pallor of the night,
Like some huge shadow ’mid the shadows there,

50

Unto the unwaked slumber of that plain;
And moved amid the hushed and sombre dead,
Awful and stern in their last, silent sleep,
With clotted blood congealed on shield and helm,
And stony faces staring at the stars,  [Page 242]

55

Great blade or spear still clasped in each dead hand;
And came to where the young boy-chieftain lay,
The last grim prince of his rude southern race,
With whom he rode to battle yester morn,
Now stark and motionless beneath the stars,

60

With his life’s foeman, silent, face to face!

And Ahmet lifted up his sombre face
To the white heaven and the stars, his gods,
And moaned, “O awful rulers of my race,
Looking from out the mighty deeps on me,

65

Ye who on radiant thrones of splendid light,
From out your far halls gaze upon this earth;
And know, perchance, her motions through the deep,
Her changes and her seasons, and perchance
The strange, weird agony and joy of man,

70

Who rises from her breast, as some dim mist,
Then sinks forever on her meres again:
Know ye that unto me this night is given
The woeful part to answer for the dead
Unto you gods, who rule the afterworld.

75

My part it is to bury this great King,
The mighty son of a once mighty race.
Now ’tis for me to hollow his last bed,
And lay the holy earth upon his face,
His breast and limbs, and shut him from the light,

80

So that ye gods, in looking from your thrones,
May see no part of what is shape of him,
And curse him, banished from your halls forever.

“Yea, more; in keeping with that ancient law,
Stern and relentless, given to my race,

85

And handed down the generations long,  [Page 243]
And kept by us with solemn reverence,
I must this night find seven of our kin,
Who went out here upon this battle-field,
And lay their shapes of them with decent care,

90

Stark, side by side, in this young prince’s grave,
Ere the white god of dawning pales yon east;
Or else this prince, beloved, noble, brave,
Who hath gone out in his old foe’s embrace,
Must ever, doomèd, wander the trackless way,

95

Shut out from all the homes of your white splendor
And searching forever,—like some lonesome wind
Beating about the hollow halls of night.”

Then wresting a blade from some grim foeman’s hand,
Strode once more outward to the river’s bank,

100

Where the great waters moved beneath the mist;
And never a night-bird called from bank to bank,
But the cold river mists encircled him.
And there he toiled with quick, despairing will,
And made an opening in the wind-swept sands,

105

Red, desert-blown, adown the centuries.
The solemn night-winds crept about his toil,
Loosening the mists along the lonesome shores.
And now a slinking jackal wandered past,
Then stole to some far shadow of the field

110

To his weird feast upon the unburied dead.

Then with stern face, across the lonely field,
Like some great hero of the olden days
Working by night some splendid titan deed,
Or, as the shadow of some olden god,

115

Paying by night the last, sad, hallowed rites,
Over the form of some great chieftain slain;  [Page 244]
With reverent duty to the spirit fled,
Bare he the dead young king with awful toil
Unto the grave that he had hollowed there,

120

With six men more, and laid them in that grave,
With faces fixed, limbs rigidly composed,
And mute, dull eyes, dumb, staring at the stars.
Then went again with agonizing tread,
As a young lioness might hunt her cub

125

In some great slaughter of huge jungle beasts,
And circle dumb, yet never find him there;
So he in vain, amid the silent dead,
Searching the heaps, went through the haunted dark,
Praying the gods in his great, dread despair.

130

Then, sorrowing back, came to the high-raised bank,
And saw the lonely river and the night,
The iron mountains, and those dead men there!

And now it seemed to Ahmet, standing by,
That out of the sombre shadow of that pit

135

Those silent faces pleaded with him there.
And well he knew that somewhere off afar
In outer space, this side Valhalla’s gates,
These seven souls awaited heaven’s doom.
With that a bitter sorrow filled his soul

140

For those, his warrior-comrades lying dead,
And that young prince whom he had loved so well:
That they should never see Valhalla’s doors
Wide-open to the welcome din within,
Of mighty warriors at eternal feasts,

145

And glorious songs of titan battle-joy,
Of lofty heroes, told unto the gods.
“Nor could I enter there myself,” he dreamed,  [Page 245]
“And know their joy, if that I die not here.
And did I now wend backward to my home,

150

And live mine after days in earthly peace,
And turn mine aged face upward by my hearth,
Surrounded by my loved, in days to come:
Could I a warrior, to the Warrior-gods
Go in, nor answer for those dead ones there,

155

And meet their hero faces without shame,
And know these poor ones wandering in the dark,
Despairing ever through the endless years.”

Whereat he rose and looked up to the stars,
And spake: “O Mighty Ones, it is well seen

160

That I must know mine olden home no more,
But I must end me here on this dread plain,
Loosening my soul, even that these poor men
May know the golden glory of the gods;
Returning never to the ones I love.”

165

Whereat a great sob rent his anguished frame,
And all his face, across the shadowed light,
Showed with a bitter woe, for he was young,
Scarce yet a man, and this his first of battles,
Where he had come in his fierce warrior-joy,

170

For that glad love wherewith he loved the king.
And far at home his agèd father sat,
And his old mother, mourning for their son;
And in the dark he saw his betrothèd’s eyes
Soften to tears at memory of his name.

175

Whereat deep anguish smote his strong young breast,
And looking to the sky, cried out: “O Gods!
Is there no way?  A sign! great Gods, a sign!”
Whereat a splendid meteor blazed and fell
Across the silent wonder of the night,

180

Girding the horizon to the iron hills.  [Page 246]

And then a thrill of greatness shook him there,
For now he knew for certain he must die.
And looking on the dead face of the prince,
He spake: “O noble soul and brave and true!

185

Great heart that never fled from human face,
Nor yet would go back from some wondrous doom,
Such as is laid on thy loved comrade here!
That such dread woes are fallen from the gods,
’Tis not for souls like mine to question why.

190

But I will follow whithersoe’er thou goest,
Thunder thy shadow-steed o’er trackless heaven,
Or to the brink of floorless night and hell.
Yet comrade, friend, forgive thine Ahmet here,
If he finds woman’s grief for what he leaves.

195

Like thee, I never more will see my home,
My boyhood’s country in its golden prime:—
The happy hearths and plains we loved of yore.
No more must see the parents of my youth,
Nor guard their age, nor close their sightless eyes,

200

Nor know the joys of husband or of sire,
Of children’s prattle, glad about the knees,
The loved home comforts, and the wintry fire,
And all the glories of this splendid world.
All these must I forego, nor know old age,

205

And the last peace at golden life’s decline,
Because of some weird doom that hath been mine,
Given of old, from out the mighty gods.”
Then ceased, and, with soft hands of loving care,
Took earth and laid it on the dead young king:—

210

Upon his face and his still, rigid limbs;
And said: “I now commend thee to the gods.”
Likewise, in turn, he did unto the others,
As was the ancient custom of his race.  [Page 247]
Then Ahmet rose and stood in his own grave,

215

And bearing in his hand the naked blade,
Spake: “Now am I resolved with conquering hand
To cleave this murky curtain of my flesh,
And hew a doorway past these walls of life
Unto the outer splendor of the gods.

220

And ye, white watchers of the wheeling world,
O ancient makers of my doom, Behold!
O lonesome desert, wintry to the south,
O luminous stream and desolate iron hills;
Your glory will fall on Ahmet’s eye no more!

225

And thou, my love, whose holy love was mine,
Snatched by the fates from my too passionate grasp,
Thou wilt know sorrow when thine Ahmet’s gone.
Yea, thou wilt sit across the wintry years,
Turning thy wheel by morn or sunset door,

230

Brooding upon a face that comes no more!
And ye my parents!  One will hobbling go
Past the familiar haunts and quarrel with death
Who claimed the wrong one first.  The other, she,
Will croon, with grief-filled face, the fire beside,

235

Peopling in vain the home with olden dreams,
And all the joyous sounds that should have been.
Farewell, O glorious stars, and sun and moon,
Now I go out upon this journey dread,
I hear my charger, slain this early morn,

240

Neighing beyond the gates of outer dark,
Watching for the master who should come.”
Then lifting up his strong face to the skies,
Took one last look on all the wheeling worlds,
And with glad challenge to the foeman dark,

245

Struck home the thirsting blade to his proud heart,
And with one mighty shout there backward fell!  [Page 248]

Then there was heard a thunder of shadowy hoofs
That out of the deep wells of the night swept past;
And as they went a riderless steed there neighed

250

Joyously, to him who leaped to saddle,
With splendid mien of conqueror just returned
From some far titan battle of the gods;
Then all swept up the steep, sheer depths of heaven,
Thundering up the glorious slopes of blue,

255

Striking fire-hoofs upon the flinty air,
Onward to the ramparts of the skies,
Where some day through long ages they will scale,
And clang the golden gates and enter in.

But still the mighty river drifted on

260

Beyond the night to meet the coming day;
Beyond the iron mountains and the dark.
And out of the wintry radiance of the stars
There grew a beauty of the lonely night,
That clothed those mighty dead, and came and fell,

265

Like on some peak that fronts the far-off dawn,
On Ahmet’s face, a silent majesty.

 



The Elf-Lover


IT was a haunted youth; he spake
     Beneath the beechen shade:
“An’ hast thou seen my love go past,
     A sunny, winsome maid?  [Page 249]

“An’ hast thou seen my love fare past,

5

     Her face with life aflame?
The leaves astir her footsteps tell,
     The soft winds blow her name.

“’Twas when the autumn days were still,—
     It seemeth but an hour,—

10

I met her on the gold hillside
     When elfin loves had power.

“Her voice was like the sound of brooks,
     Her face like some wild bloom;
And in the beauty of her look

15

     I read mine ancient doom.

“And when the world in mist died out
     Down toward some evening land,
Betwixt the glinting golden-rod
     We two went hand in hand.

20


“And when the moon a golden disk
     Above the night hills came,
Down in a world of midnight haze
     I kissed her lips aflame.

“But when the moon was hidden low

25

     Behind each spectre tree;
She loosed from my sad arms and bent
      A startled look on me.

“(While wound from out some haunted dusk
     A far-off elfin horn,)

30

Like one on sudden woke from sleep,
     And fled into the morn.

“I follow her, I follow her,
     But never more may see.  [Page 250]
The crimson dawn, the stars of night

35

     Know what she is to me.

“I ne’er can rest, I ne’er can stay,
     But speed from place to place;
For all my heart is flamed with that
     Wild glamor of her face.

40


“I know her soft arms in my dreams,
     All wound about my sleep;
I seem to hear her silvern voice
     In all the winds that creep.

“O saw you not her come this way,

45

     By boughs in waters glassed?
So slight her form, so soft her step
     You’d think a moon ray passed.

“O tell me did you see her wend?
     And whence to hill or sea?

50

The ruddy dawn, the stars of night,
     Know what she is to me.”

 



The Were-Wolves


THEY hasten, still they hasten,
     From the even to the dawn;
And their tired eyes gleam and glisten
     Under north skies white and wan.
Each panter in the darkness

5

     Is a demon-haunted soul,
The shadowy, phantom were-wolves,
     Who circle round the Pole.  [Page 251]

Their tongues are crimson flaming,
     Their haunted blue eyes gleam,

10

And they strain them to the utmost
     O’er frozen lake and stream;
Their cry one note of agony,
     That is neither yelp nor bark,
These panters of the northern waste,

15

     Who hound them to the dark.

You may hear their hurried breathing,
     You may see their fleeting forms,
At the pallid polar midnight,
     When the north is gathering storms;

20

When the arctic frosts are flaming,
     And the ice-field thunders roll;
These demon-haunted were-wolves,
     Who circle round the Pole.

They hasten, still they hasten,

25

     Across the northern night,
Filled with a frighted madness,
     A horror of the light;
Forever and forever,
     Like leaves before the wind,

30

They leave the wan, white gleaming
     Of the dawning far behind.

Their only peace is darkness,
     Their rest to hasten on
Into the heart of midnight,

35

     Forever from the dawn.
Across far phantom ice-floes
     The eye of night may mark
These horror-haunted were-wolves
     Who hound them to the dark.  [Page 252]

40


All through this hideous journey
     They are the souls of men
Who in the far dark-ages
     Made Europe one black fen.
They fled from courts and convents,

45

     And bound their mortal dust
With demon, wolfish girdles
     Of human hate and lust.

These, who could have been godlike,
     Chose, each a loathsome beast,

50

Amid the heart’s foul graveyards,
     On putrid thoughts to feast;
But the great God who made them
     Gave each a human soul,
And so ’mid night forever

55

     They circle round the Pole.

A-praying for the blackness,
     A-longing for the night,
For each is doomed forever
     By a horror of the light;

60

And far in the heart of midnight,
     Where their shadowy flight is hurled,
They feel with pain the dawning
     That creeps in round the world.

Under the northern midnight,

65

     The white, glint ice upon,
They hasten, still they hasten,
     With their horror of the dawn;
Forever and forever,
     Into the night away

75

They hasten, still they hasten
     Unto the judgment day.  [Page 253]

 



The Vengeance of Saki


WHEN the moon is red in the heaven, and under the night
Is heard on the winds the thunder of shadowy horses,
Then out of the night I arise, and again am a woman;
And leap to the back of an ebon steed that knows me,
And hound him on in the wake of hoofs that thunder,

5

Of smoking nostrils, and gleaming eyes, and foam-flecked
Flanks that glow and flash in the flow of the moon-light;
While under the mirk and the moon, out into the blackness,
Round the world’s edge with an eerie, mad, echoing laughter,
Leaps the long cry of the hate of the wild snake-woman.

10

Ha! Ha! it is joy for the hearts that we crush as we thunder!
Ho! Ho! for the hate of the winds that laugh to my laughter!
Ha! Ha! it is well for the shriekings that pass into silence!
As under the night, out into the blackness forever,
Rides the wild hate of Saki, the mad snake-woman!

15


I was a girl of the South, with eyes as tender
And dreamy and soft and true as the skies of my people,
But I was a slave and an alien captured in battle,
And brought to the North by a people ruder and stronger,
Who held me as naught but a toy, to be played with and broken,

20

Then thrown aside like a bow that is snapped asunder.[Page 254]
Lithe and supple my limbs as the sinuous serpent,
And quick as the eye and the tongue of the serpent mine anger
That flashed out the fire of my hate on the scorn of my scorners.
But hate soon softened to love, as fire into sunlight,

25

When my eyes met the eyes of the chieftain, my lord, and my         master.
Sweet as the flowers that bloom on the blossoming prairie,
Gladder than voices of fountains that dance in the sunlight,
Were the new and tremulous fancies that dwelt in my bosom;
For he was my king and my sun, and the power of his glance

30

To me as at springtime the returning sun to the landscape,
And his touch and the sound of his voice that set my heart         throbbing.

Sweet were the days of the summer I dwelt in his tent,
And glad and loving the nights that I lay on his bosom.
But woe, woe, woe, to the summer that fades into autumn,

35

And woe upon woe is the love that dwindles and dies,
And ere my hot heart was abrim with its summer of loving
I knew that its autumn had come, that his love was another’s—
A blue-eyed haughty captive they brought from the East,
Her hair like moving sunlight that rippled and ran

40

With the golden flow of a brook from her brow to her girdle.          [Page 255]
He saw her, he looked on her face, and I was forgotten—
Yea, I and the love that fed on my soul in its anguish.

Ha! Ha! it is joy for the hearts that we crush as we thunder!
Ho! Ho! for the hate of the winds that laugh to my laughter!

45

Ha! Ha! it is well for the shriekings that pass into silence!
As under the night, out into the darkness forever,
Rides the wild hate of Saki, the mad snake-woman!

I bowed my head with its woe to him in my anguish;
I veiled my face in my hair like the night of my sorrow;

50

And I pled with him there by the love that was true and forgiving:
Oh! my lord and my love, by the days that are past of our loving,
Oh! slay thy poor Saki, but send her not forth in her anguish!
And I fell to the earth with my face, like the moon hid in heaven,
In the folds of my hair.  But he sate there and uttered no answer;

55

And the white woman sate there, and scorned at the woe of my         sorrow.
Then I bit my tongue through that pled for the pity ungiven,
And I rose with my hate in my eyes, like the lightning in heaven
That leaps red to kill, with a hiss like the snake that they called         me;
And I looked on them there, and I cursed them, the man and the

60
        woman—  [Page 256]

The man whose lips had kissed my love into being,
And the woman whose beauty had withered that love into         ashes—
With curses so dread and so deep that he rose up and smote         me,
And hounded me forth like a dog to die in the desert.

Ha! Ha! it is joy for the hearts that we crush as we thunder!

65

Ho! Ho! for the hate of the winds that laugh to my laughter!
Ha! Ha! it is well for the shriekings that pass into silence!
As under the night, out into the blackness forever,
Rides the wild hate of Saki, the mad snake-woman!

Then wandered I forth an outcast hounded and beaten;

70

Careless whither I went or living or dying,
With that load of despair at my heartstrings wearing to madness.
Long and loud I laughed at the heaven that mocked me
With its beautiful sounds and its sights and the joy of its being,
For I longed but to die and to go to that region of darkness

75

Where I might shroud me and curse in my madness forever.
Far, oh, far I fled till my feet were wounded
And bruised and cut by the ways unkindly and cruel.
Then all the world grew red and the sun as a furnace,
And I raved till I knew no more for a horrible season.

80

Then I arose, and stood like one in a dream
Who, after long years of forgetting, sudden remembers
The dread wild cry of a wrong that clamors for righting. 
         [Page 257]
Then sending a curse to the heart of the night sky, I turned me
And fled like the wind of the winter, the sound of whose footstep is

85
        vengeance.

Late, when the moon had lowered, I entered his village,
And threading the silent streets came to the well-known tent-door.
And dragging aside the skins with serpentine motion
Entered now as a thief where once I had entered as mistress.
And there in the gleam of the moon, with the flame of her hair on

90
        his bosom,

Lay the woman I hated as hell hates, the man I loved clasped to         her heart.

Ha! Ha! it is joy for the hearts that we crush as we thunder!
Ho! Ho! for the hate of the winds that laugh to my laughter!
Ha! Ha! it is well for the shriekings that pass into silence!
As under the night, out into the blackness forever,

95

Rides the wild hate of Saki, the mad snake-woman!

If hate could have slain they’d have shriveled up there in the         moonlight;
But theirs was a sin too deep for the kiss of a knife-blade.
Long did I stand like a poisoned wind in a desert,
Grey and sad and despairing, and nursing my hate;

100

When out of the night, like one voice that calls to another,
Came the far-off neigh of a horse, and a mad joy leaped to my         veins,
And a thought curled into my heart as a serpent coils into a         flower;  [Page 258]
And I turned me, and left them there in their foolish love and their         slumber
That my hot heart hissed was their last.

105

Then hurrying out of the door that flapped in the night-wind I fled,
With a pent-up hunger of hate that maddened to burst from its         sluices,
And came to a place on the plain far up and out from the village,
Where tethered in rows of hurdles, champing and restless and         neighing,
Half a thousand horses were herded under the night.

110


Ha! Ha! I live it anew, I dream it again in my madness.
I see that moving ocean of shimmering flanks in the moonlight.
I snatch a brand from a watchfire that smoulders and dwindles;
I creep around to the side of the herd remote from the village,
I cry a low call, that is answered by a neigh and a whinny.

115

Then I leap to the back of an ebon stallion that knows me.
’Tis but the cut of a thong, a cry in the night,
A fiery waving brand like lightning to thunder,
A terrified moaning and neighing, a heaving of necks and of         haunches;
A bound, a rush, a crack of a thong, then a whirlwind of hoofs!

120

Like a sweep of a wave on a beach we are thundering onwards,
Neck and neck in the wake of my hate, that ever before us
Clamors from heaven to hell in its terrible vengeance! [Page 259]
With neck outstretched and mad eyes agleam in the gloaming,
I see on ahead the sleeping huts in the moonlight.

125


Ha! Ha! they will rest well under the sleep that we bring them!
See, see, we are nearing them now; the first wild thundering hoof-         beats
Have ridden them down, ’mid the shriekings and groanings of         anguish,
Blotting them out with their loves and their hates into blackness.
Ha! Ha! ride, ride, my beauties, my terrible tramplers!

130

Pound, pound into dust the mother, the child, and the husband!
Pound, pound to the pulse of my hate that exults in your thunders!
Ha! over the little ones nestled to suckle the bosom,
Over the man that I loved, we thunder, we thunder!
Over the woman I hate with the flame of her hair on his bosom;

135

Trampling, treading them down out into silence and blackness.
Like the swirl of a merciless storm we sweep on to darkness         forever!

And now, when the moon is in heaven, and under the night
Is heard on the winds the thunder of shadowy horses,
Then out of the dark I arise, and again am a woman;

140

And leap to the back of an ebon steed that knows me,
And hound him on in the wake of hoofs that thunder;
While under the mirk and the moon, out into the blackness,
Round the world’s edge with an eerie, mad, echoing laughter,
Leaps the long cry of the hate of the wild snake-woman. 

145
[Page 260]


Ha! Ha! it is joy for the hearts that we crush as we thunder!
Ho! Ho! for the hate of the winds that laugh to my laughter!
Ha! Ha! it is well for the shriekings that pass into silence!
As under the night, out into the blackness forever,
Rides the wild hate of Saki, the mad snake-woman!

150

 



The Last Ride


It seems his
          I KNEW of it ages before,
soul had lived        Yea, it seemed that the years knew it too;
that moment          That I should come to that shore,
before, when          Where the foam and the wild waters flew—
he should come     Where the winds and the bleak night blew;—

5

to the dread           And the name of that place, No More.
place.

That he and           I knew of it ages ago,
she and death       That I should thunder that ride,
should ride            With her and the night for my woe—
together.               With her and death by my side—

10

                            Her and her pitiful pride;—
                            And the long hours whose shudd’ring flow

Where the             Grew, while the black grew thick
black was as         As the close, hot air of a cave
Eblis, and the        In Eblis, where death-watches tick,

15

sounds as             Like the moving of worms in a grave;—
worms moving       Grew, till the dawn outdrave
in a grave.             The black night, shudd’ring and sick.  [Page 261]

The mimes            Who were the mimes in the air
chant their             That wept for the woe of our flight,

20

despair to the        That chanted a bitter despair,
night.                    To the dark, haunted heart of the night—
                            That knew not of wrong or of right,
                            Save but of the moments that were?

He sees the          The ruins of sunsets that hung

25

past, as ruined      On the far, reeling edge of the world;—
sunsets, and         The long-uttered thoughts that upsprung
the early morn-      Like the ghosts of a past that was furled,
ing of life.              Where the dreams of a life were impearled,
                            In a morning for evermore young!

30


She also knew       And she; she knew even as I,
the demons           Of the phantoms that haunted us there;
that haunted.         Of the demons that never could die,
                            While the world’s heart pulsed our despair;
                            And out where the mad waters fare,

35

                            The ghostly, wan shorelands should lie.

They ride by          O, that night, and that terrible ride—
the hoarse sea,     With the bitter, sharp wind in the face,
and the bitter         And the hoarse, great tongues of the tide,
winds and hell       As it beat on the black of that place;

40

with them.             Till all hell joined in the race,
                            With death and despair for a guide!

He slays the          Many the foes that I slew,
foes of his             With the sword of my guilt, red as blood—
guilty thoughts,      Many the demons that blew

45

while the               Their mad flame-horns through my mood,
demons trouble      As I thundered that horrible wood,
him.                      To the place where a world went through. 
                            [Page 262]

Now he hates        White, meagre, the days yet to come
the morrows          Seemed wintry and hateful to me:

50

to come                Would mornings wake, pitiless, dumb,
                            With horror and dread agony—
                            And the moan of that terrible sea
                            Beat the dead-march of life like a drum

with the                In the hands of some hideous mime—

55

remorse for            Some strange, inextinguishable flame
his wrecked           That would burn at my heart for all time—
days.                    Some horror too dread to have name,
                            As of one who had played for a game,
                            Then slipped and was lost in the slime?

60


He knows the        (I am but the poor wreck of a man,)
end cometh.          When I came to that horrible place,
                            (Love was never a part of God’s plan,)
                            And looked her and death in the face,
                            And knew me unworthy and base,

65

                            And the shores where the black waters ran;—

They come to        When we came to that lone outer shore,
the outer shore      Where the world sundered, parting us two;
and look each        (God and the dread nevermore!)
on each through     When we came where the thick mists blew,

70

the mists, and       So face could scarce on face, through,
read the ancient     Read the woe-rune of earth’s ancient lore;—
curse there,

and feel the           When hand stretched longing for hand,
dread agony of       And that strange, wild cry of the soul;
parting. Their         As the feeble sea feels for the land,

75

souls feel for          Or a racer far, far from the goal;—
one another as       So we, ere we drank of death’s dole,
the seas for           Knew the black night that hope never spanned.  the land.               [Page 263]

But he knows        Then I knew as I looked on her face,
the hour has          (Black, black is the night and the rain,)

80

come,                   Sweet as a flower in that place,
                            And heard the hoarse roar of the main;
                            That this was the hour for us twain,
                            The last, bitter end of the race.

and the anguish     And I gripped her as man only grips

85

at the gate of         The last gift that God has for him,
the nevermore.       And lived with my lips on her lips
                            An age that was anguished and dim;
                            And time was as bubbles that swim,
                            Or the hailing of out-faring ships.

90


They plead in         We pleaded and haggled with time,
vain with time        With time who was haggard and hoar;
while their             And met the dread hell of our crime,
doom waits.           While fate stood there at the door;—
                            With our doom in his hand he upbore,

95

                            Till I heard each second’s beat chime.

He feels that          And I know now we died in that hour:—
they died there.     I am all but the ghost of a man,
He is but a lost      A mariner stranded ashore
wreck on the         On some continent out of God’s plan,

100

coast of the           Made before misery began,
ages ere the          Or evil got men in its power.
evil had power.

And dreams a        In dreams my imaginings trace,
dead life with          I feel I lived somewhere before,
but one thing         Ere life was, in some phantom place,

105

real for him            Some land of the haunted No More;—
which he liveth       But, O God, that night and that shore,
over and over         And that ride, and the woe of her face!
forever, that
night and the
woe that her
face held.
[Page 264]

 



The Violin


YEA, take all else, my life, or what you will,
But leave me this. What is it unto you?
A few thin shriveled bits of carven wood,
Time-stained and polished, curved to curious form,
With strings to scrape on that a man might buy

5

For a few farthings. You say ’tis a Cremona?
’Tis naught to you or others, but to me
My joy, my life! Once more my hand grows strong
To clasp its curves and feel its soul vibrate
Throughout my being; for, believe me true,

10

It is mine other self. Yea, sit and hearken,
And I will make it speak, yea, sing and sob,
And weep and laugh and throb its strings along
The gamut of the passions of this life.
For here dwell melodies that Mozart played,

15

When he would call the angels of heaven down
Along the golden ladders of his dreams.
Here sleep those notes vibrate wherewith Beethoven
Did open up those tragic wells of music,
And loose the prisoned ministers of sound;

20

Wedding them to harmonies such as never
Before or after, save God or angel, heard.
Here pulse those magic dances that throb through
The sensate universe, keeping it in tune,
Warming the sunlight, bluing the azure of heaven,

25

Swaying the tides to harmonies of the moon:—
That stir those demon revellers of the deep,
And charm the rages of those ruined souls
’Mid horrored wakings of their eternal sleep.
Hark now the tender melodies of this song.

30

It is a charm-song stolen from faeryland,
Filled brim with spicèd melodies of sleep.  [Page 265]
Now ’tis the rest of night, the breathing woods,
The dewy hush of dawn, the peace of even,
Or slumber of noon-day, ’tis an infant’s breath.

35

Till higher, shriller, it strikes the notes of woe,
The harsh, discordant clangor of human strife:—
Then, louder, stronger, to the strident note,
The echoing, vibratant clarion horn,
Or brazen trumpets, with their blatant throats,

40

Bugling along the battlements of the world.—
Ah, God! it breaks in discord,—I have done.

I am degraded, old, I go in rags;—
The children cry at me along the streets;
Your lords and ladies shudder and scorn me by;

45

Your glittering palaces are barred against me;
Your power and splendor alien to my life:—
But what is wealth to him who holds my riches,
What splendor to the splendors that I draw
From out this shriveled universe of sound?

50


’Tis nothing but a bit of withered wood,
Cunningly built, and welded into shape,
With some few strings a groat or so might buy.—
But when I die I will beg them place it near me,
Within my coffin, close here to my heart;

55

That through the long, lone autumn night of death,
My spirit may vibrate to its living strings,
Immortal with the chords that Mozart struck,
That Paganini played, Beethoven rang.

And when I wake, if ever there be waking,

60

Beyond that awful sleep that follows life,—
My soul will wing to heaven on its strings,
For did I know, how could I plead with God
Without its melodies to voice my love,
And heaven no heaven without my violin.  [Page 266]

65

 



Songs from “Mordred”


“AND WHO’D BE WISE?”


Dagonet

     And who’d be wise
     And full of sighs,
     And care and evil borrow;
     When to be a fool
     Is to go to school

5

     To Happy-go-luck-to-morrow?

     Who’d tread the road,
     And feel the goad,
     And bear the sweatsome burden;
     When loves are light,

10

     And paths are bright
     Of folly’s pleasant guerdon?

     Sigh while we may,
     We cannot stay
     The sun, nor hold its shining.

15

     So joy the nonce,
     We live but once,
     And die for all our pining.

     Who’d be a king
     And wear a ring

20

     And age his youth with sorrow;
     When to be a fool
     Is to go to school
     To Happy-go-lucky-to-morrow?  [Page 267]


“BLUE IS THE SUMMER MORNING’S SKY.”


Blue is the summer morning’s sky,
And birds are glad and merry.
And Anna’s eyes are sweet and sly,
Her cheeks like any cherry;—
Her lips like dewy rosebuds are

5

Upon the gladsome morning.
She is my love, my heart’s glad star,
In spite of all her scorning.

So fill the cup of gladness up
And drink to youth and morning.

10

Let sadness go with evening sup,
I’m hers for all her scorning.


“MORNING HER FACE IS”


Morning her face is,
Blue seas her eyes,
All of earth’s sweetness
In their light lies.

Coral her lips are,

5

Red reefs of doom,
There do Love’s ships drive
Down to their doom.

There would I shipwreck,
Swooning to death,

10

Passing to darkness,
On the winds of her breath.  [Page 268]


“LOVE.”


     O Love, that lights this world,
     Yet leaves us i’ the dark;—
     I led thee to my couch,
     A grave-cloth was thy sark!
     O Love, we would be clothed,

5

     And thou hast left us stark.

Lancelot (crazed) sings

     Once there was a castle hall,
     Fair, fair to see,
     Armored dight, and splendored all,
     Filled with shout o’ revelry.

10

     Came the hosts o’ fate and rage
     Thundered on its walls amain.
     Sunken now like ruined age,
     Never laughs its light again.

     I loved a Queen and she loved me.

15

     Aye, that were long ago!
     Come now wrack, come now woe,
     Strike now lightning, beat now snow!
     Memory, I’ll ha’ none o’ thee!

Dagonet sings

     There may be poison in the cup

20

     But still the foam must cling.
     To keep the strong world’s courage up
     Poor fools must laugh and sing;
     With sobs below and smiles above,
     A-masking day by day,

25

     On trampled, bleeding hopes of love.
     So whirls the world away!  [Page 269]

     There may be breaking of the heart,
     Though merry laughs the eye.
     Still we poor fools must act our part,

30

     And laugh, and weep, and die.
     Still must we sportive battles wage,
     With foam of lightsome breath,
     While underneath the currents rage
     And wrecks are churned to death.

35


Dagonet sings

     It rose upon the month o’ May,
     When woods were filled with laughter;
     Came Margery tripping up the way,
     And Jock a-stealing after.

     It rose in Autumn’s afternoon,

40

     When love was dead and laughter;
     That Jock went striding ’neath the moon,
     And Margery pining after.  [Page 270]

 

 

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