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Title: Sword Blades and Poppy Seed

Author: Amy Lowell

Release date: August 1, 1997 [eBook #1020]
Most recently updated: January 25, 2013

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Alan R. Light, and David Widger



by Amy Lowell

[American (Massachusetts) poet, 1874-1925.]

[Transcriber's note: Lines longer than 78 characters have been cut and continued on the next line, which is indented 2 spaces unless in a prose poem.]


     "Face invisible! je t'ai gravée en médailles
     D'argent doux comme l'aube pâle,
     D'or ardent comme le soleil,
     D'airain sombre comme la nuit;
     Il y en a de tout métal,
     Qui tintent clair comme la joie,
     Qui sonnent lourd comme la gloire,
     Comme l'amour, comme la mort;
     Et j'ai fait les plus belles de belle argile
     Sèche et fragile.

     "Une à une, vous les comptiez en souriant,
     Et vous disiez:  Il est habile;
     Et vous passiez en souriant.

     "Aucun de vous n'a donc vu
     Que mes mains tremblaient de tendresse,
     Que tout le grand songe terrestre
     Vivait en moi pour vivre en eux
     Que je gravais aux métaux pieux,
     Mes Dieux."

               Henri de Régnier, "Les Médailles d'Argile".


No one expects a man to make a chair without first learning how, but there is a popular impression that the poet is born, not made, and that his verses burst from his overflowing heart of themselves. As a matter of fact, the poet must learn his trade in the same manner, and with the same painstaking care, as the cabinet-maker. His heart may overflow with high thoughts and sparkling fancies, but if he cannot convey them to his reader by means of the written word he has no claim to be considered a poet. A workman may be pardoned, therefore, for spending a few moments to explain and describe the technique of his trade. A work of beauty which cannot stand an intimate examination is a poor and jerry-built thing.

In the first place, I wish to state my firm belief that poetry should not try to teach, that it should exist simply because it is a created beauty, even if sometimes the beauty of a gothic grotesque. We do not ask the trees to teach us moral lessons, and only the Salvation Army feels it necessary to pin texts upon them. We know that these texts are ridiculous, but many of us do not yet see that to write an obvious moral all over a work of art, picture, statue, or poem, is not only ridiculous, but timid and vulgar. We distrust a beauty we only half understand, and rush in with our impertinent suggestions. How far we are from "admitting the Universe"! The Universe, which flings down its continents and seas, and leaves them without comment. Art is as much a function of the Universe as an Equinoctial gale, or the Law of Gravitation; and we insist upon considering it merely a little scroll-work, of no great importance unless it be studded with nails from which pretty and uplifting sentiments may be hung!

For the purely technical side I must state my immense debt to the French, and perhaps above all to the, so-called, Parnassian School, although some of the writers who have influenced me most do not belong to it. High-minded and untiring workmen, they have spared no pains to produce a poetry finer than that of any other country in our time. Poetry so full of beauty and feeling, that the study of it is at once an inspiration and a despair to the artist. The Anglo-Saxon of our day has a tendency to think that a fine idea excuses slovenly workmanship. These clear-eyed Frenchmen are a reproof to our self-satisfied laziness. Before the works of Parnassians like Leconte de Lisle, and José-Maria de Heredia, or those of Henri de Régnier, Albert Samain, Francis Jammes, Remy de Gourmont, and Paul Fort, of the more modern school, we stand rebuked. Indeed—"They order this matter better in France."

It is because in France, to-day, poetry is so living and vigorous a thing, that so many metrical experiments come from there. Only a vigorous tree has the vitality to put forth new branches. The poet with originality and power is always seeking to give his readers the same poignant feeling which he has himself. To do this he must constantly find new and striking images, delightful and unexpected forms. Take the word "daybreak", for instance. What a remarkable picture it must once have conjured up! The great, round sun, like the yolk of some mighty egg, BREAKING through cracked and splintered clouds. But we have said "daybreak" so often that we do not see the picture any more, it has become only another word for dawn. The poet must be constantly seeking new pictures to make his readers feel the vitality of his thought.

Many of the poems in this volume are written in what the French call "Vers Libre", a nomenclature more suited to French use and to French versification than to ours. I prefer to call them poems in "unrhymed cadence", for that conveys their exact meaning to an English ear. They are built upon "organic rhythm", or the rhythm of the speaking voice with its necessity for breathing, rather than upon a strict metrical system. They differ from ordinary prose rhythms by being more curved, and containing more stress. The stress, and exceedingly marked curve, of any regular metre is easily perceived. These poems, built upon cadence, are more subtle, but the laws they follow are not less fixed. Merely chopping prose lines into lengths does not produce cadence, it is constructed upon mathematical and absolute laws of balance and time. In the preface to his "Poems", Henley speaks of "those unrhyming rhythms in which I had tried to quintessentialize, as (I believe) one scarce can do in rhyme." The desire to "quintessentialize", to head-up an emotion until it burns white-hot, seems to be an integral part of the modern temper, and certainly "unrhymed cadence" is unique in its power of expressing this.

Three of these poems are written in a form which, so far as I know, has never before been attempted in English. M. Paul Fort is its inventor, and the results it has yielded to him are most beautiful and satisfactory. Perhaps it is more suited to the French language than to English. But I found it the only medium in which these particular poems could be written. It is a fluid and changing form, now prose, now verse, and permitting a great variety of treatment.

But the reader will see that I have not entirely abandoned the more classic English metres. I cannot see why, because certain manners suit certain emotions and subjects, it should be considered imperative for an author to employ no others. Schools are for those who can confine themselves within them. Perhaps it is a weakness in me that I cannot.

In conclusion, I would say that these remarks are in answer to many questions asked me by people who have happened to read some of these poems in periodicals. They are not for the purpose of forestalling criticism, nor of courting it; and they deal, as I said in the beginning, solely with the question of technique. For the more important part of the book, the poems must speak for themselves.

Amy Lowell.

May 19, 1914.




Sword Blades And Poppy Seed


The Captured Goddess

The Precinct. Rochester

The Cyclists

Sunshine through a Cobwebbed Window

A London Thoroughfare. 2 A.M.


The Coal Picker





A Petition

A Blockhead




The Last Quarter of the Moon

A Tale of Starvation

The Foreigner


A Gift

The Bungler

Fool's Money Bags

Miscast I

Miscast II



The Tree of Scarlet Berries


The Taxi

The Giver of Stars

The Temple

Epitaph of a Young Poet Who Died Before Having Achieved Success

In Answer to a Request


The Great Adventure of Max Breuck

Sancta Maria, Succurre Miseris

After Hearing a Waltz by Bartók

Clear, with Light, Variable Winds

The Basket

In a Castle

The Book of Hours of Sister Clotilde

The Exeter Road

The Shadow

The Forsaken

Late September

The Pike

The Blue Scarf

White and Green



A Lady

In a Garden

A Tulip Garden


About the author

Sword Blades And Poppy Seed

      A drifting, April, twilight sky,
      A wind which blew the puddles dry,
      And slapped the river into waves
      That ran and hid among the staves
      Of an old wharf.  A watery light
      Touched bleak the granite bridge, and white
      Without the slightest tinge of gold,
      The city shivered in the cold.
      All day my thoughts had lain as dead,
      Unborn and bursting in my head.
      From time to time I wrote a word
      Which lines and circles overscored.
      My table seemed a graveyard, full
      Of coffins waiting burial.
      I seized these vile abortions, tore
      Them into jagged bits, and swore
      To be the dupe of hope no more.
      Into the evening straight I went,
      Starved of a day's accomplishment.
      Unnoticing, I wandered where
      The city gave a space for air,
      And on the bridge's parapet
      I leant, while pallidly there set
      A dim, discouraged, worn-out sun.
      Behind me, where the tramways run,
      Blossomed bright lights, I turned to leave,
      When someone plucked me by the sleeve.
      "Your pardon, Sir, but I should be
      Most grateful could you lend to me
      A carfare, I have lost my purse."
      The voice was clear, concise, and terse.
      I turned and met the quiet gaze
      Of strange eyes flashing through the haze.

      The man was old and slightly bent,
      Under his cloak some instrument
      Disarranged its stately line,
      He rested on his cane a fine
      And nervous hand, an almandine
      Smouldered with dull-red flames, sanguine
      It burned in twisted gold, upon
      His finger.  Like some Spanish don,
      Conferring favours even when
      Asking an alms, he bowed again
      And waited.  But my pockets proved
      Empty, in vain I poked and shoved,
      No hidden penny lurking there
      Greeted my search.  "Sir, I declare
      I have no money, pray forgive,
      But let me take you where you live."
      And so we plodded through the mire
      Where street lamps cast a wavering fire.
      I took no note of where we went,
      His talk became the element
      Wherein my being swam, content.
      It flashed like rapiers in the night
      Lit by uncertain candle-light,
      When on some moon-forsaken sward
      A quarrel dies upon a sword.
      It hacked and carved like a cutlass blade,
      And the noise in the air the broad words made
      Was the cry of the wind at a window-pane
      On an Autumn night of sobbing rain.
      Then it would run like a steady stream
      Under pinnacled bridges where minarets gleam,
      Or lap the air like the lapping tide
      Where a marble staircase lifts its wide
      Green-spotted steps to a garden gate,
      And a waning moon is sinking straight
      Down to a black and ominous sea,
      While a nightingale sings in a lemon tree.

      I walked as though some opiate
      Had stung and dulled my brain, a state
      Acute and slumbrous.  It grew late.
      We stopped, a house stood silent, dark.
      The old man scratched a match, the spark
      Lit up the keyhole of a door,
      We entered straight upon a floor
      White with finest powdered sand
      Carefully sifted, one might stand
      Muddy and dripping, and yet no trace
      Would stain the boards of this kitchen-place.
      From the chimney, red eyes sparked the gloom,
      And a cricket's chirp filled all the room.
      My host threw pine-cones on the fire
      And crimson and scarlet glowed the pyre
      Wrapped in the golden flame's desire.
      The chamber opened like an eye,
      As a half-melted cloud in a Summer sky
      The soul of the house stood guessed, and shy
      It peered at the stranger warily.
      A little shop with its various ware
      Spread on shelves with nicest care.
      Pitchers, and jars, and jugs, and pots,
      Pipkins, and mugs, and many lots
      Of lacquered canisters, black and gold,
      Like those in which Chinese tea is sold.
      Chests, and puncheons, kegs, and flasks,
      Goblets, chalices, firkins, and casks.
      In a corner three ancient amphorae leaned
      Against the wall, like ships careened.
      There was dusky blue of Wedgewood ware,
      The carved, white figures fluttering there
      Like leaves adrift upon the air.
      Classic in touch, but emasculate,
      The Greek soul grown effeminate.
      The factory of Sevres had lent
      Elegant boxes with ornament
      Culled from gardens where fountains splashed
      And golden carp in the shadows flashed,
      Nuzzling for crumbs under lily-pads,
      Which ladies threw as the last of fads.
      Eggshell trays where gay beaux knelt,
      Hand on heart, and daintily spelt
      Their love in flowers, brittle and bright,
      Artificial and fragile, which told aright
      The vows of an eighteenth-century knight.
      The cruder tones of old Dutch jugs
      Glared from one shelf, where Toby mugs
      Endlessly drank the foaming ale,
      Its froth grown dusty, awaiting sale.
      The glancing light of the burning wood
      Played over a group of jars which stood
      On a distant shelf, it seemed the sky
      Had lent the half-tones of his blazonry
      To paint these porcelains with unknown hues
      Of reds dyed purple and greens turned blues,
      Of lustres with so evanescent a sheen
      Their colours are felt, but never seen.
      Strange winged dragons writhe about
      These vases, poisoned venoms spout,
      Impregnate with old Chinese charms;
      Sealed urns containing mortal harms,
      They fill the mind with thoughts impure,
      Pestilent drippings from the ure
      Of vicious thinkings.  "Ah, I see,"
      Said I, "you deal in pottery."
      The old man turned and looked at me.
      Shook his head gently.  "No," said he.

      Then from under his cloak he took the thing
      Which I had wondered to see him bring
      Guarded so carefully from sight.
      As he laid it down it flashed in the light,
      A Toledo blade, with basket hilt,
      Damascened with arabesques of gilt,
      Or rather gold, and tempered so
      It could cut a floating thread at a blow.
      The old man smiled, "It has no sheath,
      'Twas a little careless to have it beneath
      My cloak, for a jostle to my arm
      Would have resulted in serious harm.
      But it was so fine, I could not wait,
      So I brought it with me despite its state."
      "An amateur of arms," I thought,
      "Bringing home a prize which he has bought."
      "You care for this sort of thing, Dear Sir?"
      "Not in the way which you infer.
      I need them in business, that is all."
      And he pointed his finger at the wall.
      Then I saw what I had not noticed before.
      The walls were hung with at least five score
      Of swords and daggers of every size
      Which nations of militant men could devise.
      Poisoned spears from tropic seas,
      That natives, under banana trees,
      Smear with the juice of some deadly snake.
      Blood-dipped arrows, which savages make
      And tip with feathers, orange and green,
      A quivering death, in harlequin sheen.
      High up, a fan of glancing steel
      Was formed of claymores in a wheel.
      Jewelled swords worn at kings' levees
      Were suspended next midshipmen's dirks, and these
      Elbowed stilettos come from Spain,
      Chased with some splendid Hidalgo's name.
      There were Samurai swords from old Japan,
      And scimitars from Hindoostan,
      While the blade of a Turkish yataghan
      Made a waving streak of vitreous white
      Upon the wall, in the firelight.
      Foils with buttons broken or lost
      Lay heaped on a chair, among them tossed
      The boarding-pike of a privateer.
      Against the chimney leaned a queer
      Two-handed weapon, with edges dull
      As though from hacking on a skull.
      The rusted blood corroded it still.
      My host took up a paper spill
      From a heap which lay in an earthen bowl,
      And lighted it at a burning coal.
      At either end of the table, tall
      Wax candles were placed, each in a small,
      And slim, and burnished candlestick
      Of pewter.  The old man lit each wick,
      And the room leapt more obviously
      Upon my mind, and I could see
      What the flickering fire had hid from me.
      Above the chimney's yawning throat,
      Shoulder high, like the dark wainscote,
      Was a mantelshelf of polished oak
      Blackened with the pungent smoke
      Of firelit nights; a Cromwell clock
      Of tarnished brass stood like a rock
      In the midst of a heaving, turbulent sea
      Of every sort of cutlery.
      There lay knives sharpened to any use,
      The keenest lancet, and the obtuse
      And blunted pruning bill-hook; blades
      Of razors, scalpels, shears; cascades
      Of penknives, with handles of mother-of-pearl,
      And scythes, and sickles, and scissors; a whirl
      Of points and edges, and underneath
      Shot the gleam of a saw with bristling teeth.
      My head grew dizzy, I seemed to hear
      A battle-cry from somewhere near,
      The clash of arms, and the squeal of balls,
      And the echoless thud when a dead man falls.
      A smoky cloud had veiled the room,
      Shot through with lurid glares; the gloom
      Pounded with shouts and dying groans,
      With the drip of blood on cold, hard stones.
      Sabres and lances in streaks of light
      Gleamed through the smoke, and at my right
      A creese, like a licking serpent's tongue,
      Glittered an instant, while it stung.
      Streams, and points, and lines of fire!
      The livid steel, which man's desire
      Had forged and welded, burned white and cold.
      Every blade which man could mould,
      Which could cut, or slash, or cleave, or rip,
      Or pierce, or thrust, or carve, or strip,
      Or gash, or chop, or puncture, or tear,
      Or slice, or hack, they all were there.
      Nerveless and shaking, round and round,
      I stared at the walls and at the ground,
      Till the room spun like a whipping top,
      And a stern voice in my ear said, "Stop!
      I sell no tools for murderers here.
      Of what are you thinking!  Please clear
      Your mind of such imaginings.
      Sit down.  I will tell you of these things."

      He pushed me into a great chair
      Of russet leather, poked a flare
      Of tumbling flame, with the old long sword,
      Up the chimney; but said no word.
      Slowly he walked to a distant shelf,
      And brought back a crock of finest delf.
      He rested a moment a blue-veined hand
      Upon the cover, then cut a band
      Of paper, pasted neatly round,
      Opened and poured.  A sliding sound
      Came from beneath his old white hands,
      And I saw a little heap of sands,
      Black and smooth.  What could they be:
      "Pepper," I thought.  He looked at me.
      "What you see is poppy seed.
      Lethean dreams for those in need."
      He took up the grains with a gentle hand
      And sifted them slowly like hour-glass sand.
      On his old white finger the almandine
      Shot out its rays, incarnadine.
      "Visions for those too tired to sleep.
      These seeds cast a film over eyes which weep.
      No single soul in the world could dwell,
      Without these poppy-seeds I sell."
      For a moment he played with the shining stuff,
      Passing it through his fingers.  Enough
      At last, he poured it back into
      The china jar of Holland blue,
      Which he carefully carried to its place.
      Then, with a smile on his aged face,
      He drew up a chair to the open space
      'Twixt table and chimney.  "Without preface,
      Young man, I will say that what you see
      Is not the puzzle you take it to be."
      "But surely, Sir, there is something strange
      In a shop with goods at so wide a range
      Each from the other, as swords and seeds.
      Your neighbours must have greatly differing needs."
      "My neighbours," he said, and he stroked his chin,
      "Live everywhere from here to Pekin.
      But you are wrong, my sort of goods
      Is but one thing in all its moods."
      He took a shagreen letter case
      From his pocket, and with charming grace
      Offered me a printed card.
      I read the legend, "Ephraim Bard.
      Dealer in Words."  And that was all.
      I stared at the letters, whimsical
      Indeed, or was it merely a jest.
      He answered my unasked request:
      "All books are either dreams or swords,
      You can cut, or you can drug, with words.
      My firm is a very ancient house,
      The entries on my books would rouse
      Your wonder, perhaps incredulity.
      I inherited from an ancestry
      Stretching remotely back and far,
      This business, and my clients are
      As were those of my grandfather's days,
      Writers of books, and poems, and plays.
      My swords are tempered for every speech,
      For fencing wit, or to carve a breach
      Through old abuses the world condones.
      In another room are my grindstones and hones,
      For whetting razors and putting a point
      On daggers, sometimes I even anoint
      The blades with a subtle poison, so
      A twofold result may follow the blow.
      These are purchased by men who feel
      The need of stabbing society's heel,
      Which egotism has brought them to think
      Is set on their necks.  I have foils to pink
      An adversary to quaint reply,
      And I have customers who buy
      Scalpels with which to dissect the brains
      And hearts of men.  Ultramundanes
      Even demand some finer kinds
      To open their own souls and minds.
      But the other half of my business deals
      With visions and fancies.  Under seals,
      Sorted, and placed in vessels here,
      I keep the seeds of an atmosphere.
      Each jar contains a different kind
      Of poppy seed.  From farthest Ind
      Come the purple flowers, opium filled,
      From which the weirdest myths are distilled;
      My orient porcelains contain them all.
      Those Lowestoft pitchers against the wall
      Hold a lighter kind of bright conceit;
      And those old Saxe vases, out of the heat
      On that lowest shelf beside the door,
      Have a sort of Ideal, "couleur d'or".
      Every castle of the air
      Sleeps in the fine black grains, and there
      Are seeds for every romance, or light
      Whiff of a dream for a summer night.
      I supply to every want and taste."
      'Twas slowly said, in no great haste
      He seemed to push his wares, but I
      Dumfounded listened.  By and by
      A log on the fire broke in two.
      He looked up quickly, "Sir, and you?"
      I groped for something I should say;
      Amazement held me numb.  "To-day
      You sweated at a fruitless task."
      He spoke for me, "What do you ask?
      How can I serve you?"  "My kind host,
      My penniless state was not a boast;
      I have no money with me."  He smiled.
      "Not for that money I beguiled
      You here; you paid me in advance."
      Again I felt as though a trance
      Had dimmed my faculties.  Again
      He spoke, and this time to explain.
      "The money I demand is Life,
      Your nervous force, your joy, your strife!"
      What infamous proposal now
      Was made me with so calm a brow?
      Bursting through my lethargy,
      Indignantly I hurled the cry:
      "Is this a nightmare, or am I
      Drunk with some infernal wine?
      I am no Faust, and what is mine
      Is what I call my soul!  Old Man!
      Devil or Ghost!  Your hellish plan
      Revolts me.  Let me go."  "My child,"
      And the old tones were very mild,
      "I have no wish to barter souls;
      My traffic does not ask such tolls.
      I am no devil; is there one?
      Surely the age of fear is gone.
      We live within a daylight world
      Lit by the sun, where winds unfurled
      Sweep clouds to scatter pattering rain,
      And then blow back the sun again.
      I sell my fancies, or my swords,
      To those who care far more for words,
      Ideas, of which they are the sign,
      Than any other life-design.
      Who buy of me must simply pay
      Their whole existence quite away:
      Their strength, their manhood, and their prime,
      Their hours from morning till the time
      When evening comes on tiptoe feet,
      And losing life, think it complete;
      Must miss what other men count being,
      To gain the gift of deeper seeing;
      Must spurn all ease, all hindering love,
      All which could hold or bind; must prove
      The farthest boundaries of thought,
      And shun no end which these have brought;
      Then die in satisfaction, knowing
      That what was sown was worth the sowing.
      I claim for all the goods I sell
      That they will serve their purpose well,
      And though you perish, they will live.
      Full measure for your pay I give.
      To-day you worked, you thought, in vain.
      What since has happened is the train
      Your toiling brought.  I spoke to you
      For my share of the bargain, due."
      "My life!  And is that all you crave
      In pay?  What even childhood gave!
      I have been dedicate from youth.
      Before my God I speak the truth!"
      Fatigue, excitement of the past
      Few hours broke me down at last.
      All day I had forgot to eat,
      My nerves betrayed me, lacking meat.
      I bowed my head and felt the storm
      Plough shattering through my prostrate form.
      The tearless sobs tore at my heart.
      My host withdrew himself apart;
      Busied among his crockery,
      He paid no farther heed to me.
      Exhausted, spent, I huddled there,
      Within the arms of the old carved chair.

      A long half-hour dragged away,
      And then I heard a kind voice say,
      "The day will soon be dawning, when
      You must begin to work again.
      Here are the things which you require."
      By the fading light of the dying fire,
      And by the guttering candle's flare,
      I saw the old man standing there.
      He handed me a packet, tied
      With crimson tape, and sealed.  "Inside
      Are seeds of many differing flowers,
      To occupy your utmost powers
      Of storied vision, and these swords
      Are the finest which my shop affords.
      Go home and use them; do not spare
      Yourself; let that be all your care.
      Whatever you have means to buy
      Be very sure I can supply."
      He slowly walked to the window, flung
      It open, and in the grey air rung
      The sound of distant matin bells.
      I took my parcels.  Then, as tells
      An ancient mumbling monk his beads,
      I tried to thank for his courteous deeds
      My strange old friend.  "Nay, do not talk,"
      He urged me, "you have a long walk
      Before you.  Good-by and Good-day!"
      And gently sped upon my way
      I stumbled out in the morning hush,
      As down the empty street a flush
      Ran level from the rising sun.
      Another day was just begun.


The Captured Goddess

   Over the housetops,
   Above the rotating chimney-pots,
   I have seen a shiver of amethyst,
   And blue and cinnamon have flickered
   A moment,
   At the far end of a dusty street.

   Through sheeted rain
   Has come a lustre of crimson,
   And I have watched moonbeams
   Hushed by a film of palest green.

   It was her wings,
   Who stepped over the clouds,
   And laid her rainbow feathers
   Aslant on the currents of the air.

   I followed her for long,
   With gazing eyes and stumbling feet.
   I cared not where she led me,
   My eyes were full of colours:
   Saffrons, rubies, the yellows of beryls,
   And the indigo-blue of quartz;
   Flights of rose, layers of chrysoprase,
   Points of orange, spirals of vermilion,
   The spotted gold of tiger-lily petals,
   The loud pink of bursting hydrangeas.
   I followed,
   And watched for the flashing of her wings.

   In the city I found her,
   The narrow-streeted city.
   In the market-place I came upon her,
   Bound and trembling.
   Her fluted wings were fastened to her sides with cords,
   She was naked and cold,
   For that day the wind blew
   Without sunshine.

   Men chaffered for her,
   They bargained in silver and gold,
   In copper, in wheat,
   And called their bids across the market-place.

   The Goddess wept.

   Hiding my face I fled,
   And the grey wind hissed behind me,
   Along the narrow streets.

The Precinct. Rochester

   The tall yellow hollyhocks stand,
   Still and straight,
   With their round blossoms spread open,
   In the quiet sunshine.
   And still is the old Roman wall,
   Rough with jagged bits of flint,
   And jutting stones,
   Old and cragged,
   Quite still in its antiquity.
   The pear-trees press their branches against it,
   And feeling it warm and kindly,
   The little pears ripen to yellow and red.
   They hang heavy, bursting with juice,
   Against the wall.
   So old, so still!

   The sky is still.
   The clouds make no sound
   As they slide away
   Beyond the Cathedral Tower,
   To the river,
   And the sea.
   It is very quiet,
   Very sunny.
   The myrtle flowers stretch themselves in the sunshine,
   But make no sound.
   The roses push their little tendrils up,
   And climb higher and higher.
   In spots they have climbed over the wall.
   But they are very still,
   They do not seem to move.
   And the old wall carries them
   Without effort, and quietly
   Ripens and shields the vines and blossoms.

   A bird in a plane-tree
   Sings a few notes,
   Cadenced and perfect
   They weave into the silence.
   The Cathedral bell knocks,
   One, two, three, and again,
   And then again.
   It is a quiet sound,
   Calling to prayer,
   Hardly scattering the stillness,
   Only making it close in more densely.
   The gardener picks ripe gooseberries
   For the Dean's supper to-night.
   It is very quiet,
   Very regulated and mellow.
   But the wall is old,
   It has known many days.
   It is a Roman wall,
   Left-over and forgotten.

   Beyond the Cathedral Close
   Yelp and mutter the discontents of people not mellow,
   Not well-regulated.
   People who care more for bread than for beauty,
   Who would break the tombs of saints,
   And give the painted windows of churches
   To their children for toys.
   People who say:
   "They are dead, we live!
   The world is for the living."

   Fools!  It is always the dead who breed.
   Crush the ripe fruit, and cast it aside,
   Yet its seeds shall fructify,
   And trees rise where your huts were standing.
   But the little people are ignorant,
   They chaffer, and swarm.
   They gnaw like rats,
   And the foundations of the Cathedral are honeycombed.

   The Dean is in the Chapter House;
   He is reading the architect's bill
   For the completed restoration of the Cathedral.
   He will have ripe gooseberries for supper,
   And then he will walk up and down the path
   By the wall,
   And admire the snapdragons and dahlias,
   Thinking how quiet and peaceful
   The garden is.
   The old wall will watch him,
   Very quietly and patiently it will watch.
   For the wall is old,
   It is a Roman wall.

The Cyclists

   Spread on the roadway,
   With open-blown jackets,
   Like black, soaring pinions,
   They swoop down the hillside,
      The Cyclists.

   Seeming dark-plumaged
   Birds, after carrion,
   Careening and circling,
   Over the dying
      Of England.

   She lies with her bosom
   Beneath them, no longer
   The Dominant Mother,
   The Virile—but rotting
      Before time.

   The smell of her, tainted,
   Has bitten their nostrils.
   Exultant they hover,
   And shadow the sun with

Sunshine through a Cobwebbed Window

   What charm is yours, you faded old-world tapestries,
   Of outworn, childish mysteries,
    Vague pageants woven on a web of dream!
    And we, pushing and fighting in the turbid stream
   Of modern life, find solace in your tarnished broideries.

   Old lichened halls, sun-shaded by huge cedar-trees,
   The layered branches horizontal stretched, like Japanese
    Dark-banded prints.  Carven cathedrals, on a sky
    Of faintest colour, where the gothic spires fly
   And sway like masts, against a shifting breeze.

   Worm-eaten pages, clasped in old brown vellum, shrunk
   From over-handling, by some anxious monk.
    Or Virgin's Hours, bright with gold and graven
    With flowers, and rare birds, and all the Saints of Heaven,
   And Noah's ark stuck on Ararat, when all the world had sunk.

   They soothe us like a song, heard in a garden, sung
   By youthful minstrels, on the moonlight flung
    In cadences and falls, to ease a queen,
    Widowed and childless, cowering in a screen
   Of myrtles, whose life hangs with all its threads unstrung.

A London Thoroughfare. 2 A.M.

   They have watered the street,
   It shines in the glare of lamps,
   Cold, white lamps,
   And lies
   Like a slow-moving river,
   Barred with silver and black.
   Cabs go down it,
   And then another.
   Between them I hear the shuffling of feet.
   Tramps doze on the window-ledges,
   Night-walkers pass along the sidewalks.
   The city is squalid and sinister,
   With the silver-barred street in the midst,
   A river leading nowhere.

   Opposite my window,
   The moon cuts,
   Clear and round,
   Through the plum-coloured night.
   She cannot light the city;
   It is too bright.
   It has white lamps,
   And glitters coldly.

   I stand in the window and watch the moon.
   She is thin and lustreless,
   But I love her.
   I know the moon,
   And this is an alien city.


     To Ezra Pound

     With much friendship and admiration and some differences of opinion
   The Poet took his walking-stick
   Of fine and polished ebony.
   Set in the close-grained wood
   Were quaint devices;
   Patterns in ambers,
   And in the clouded green of jades.
   The top was of smooth, yellow ivory,
   And a tassel of tarnished gold
   Hung by a faded cord from a hole
   Pierced in the hard wood,
   Circled with silver.
   For years the Poet had wrought upon this cane.
   His wealth had gone to enrich it,
   His experiences to pattern it,
   His labour to fashion and burnish it.
   To him it was perfect,
   A work of art and a weapon,
   A delight and a defence.
   The Poet took his walking-stick
   And walked abroad.

   Peace be with you, Brother.
   The Poet came to a meadow.
   Sifted through the grass were daisies,
   Open-mouthed, wondering, they gazed at the sun.
   The Poet struck them with his cane.
   The little heads flew off, and they lay
   Dying, open-mouthed and wondering,
   On the hard ground.
   "They are useless.  They are not roses," said the Poet.

   Peace be with you, Brother.  Go your ways.
   The Poet came to a stream.
   Purple and blue flags waded in the water;
   In among them hopped the speckled frogs;
   The wind slid through them, rustling.
   The Poet lifted his cane,
   And the iris heads fell into the water.
   They floated away, torn and drowning.
   "Wretched flowers," said the Poet,
   "They are not roses."

   Peace be with you, Brother.  It is your affair.
   The Poet came to a garden.
   Dahlias ripened against a wall,
   Gillyflowers stood up bravely for all their short stature,
   And a trumpet-vine covered an arbour
   With the red and gold of its blossoms.
   Red and gold like the brass notes of trumpets.
   The Poet knocked off the stiff heads of the dahlias,
   And his cane lopped the gillyflowers at the ground.
   Then he severed the trumpet-blossoms from their stems.
   Red and gold they lay scattered,
   Red and gold, as on a battle field;
   Red and gold, prone and dying.
   "They were not roses," said the Poet.

   Peace be with you, Brother.
   But behind you is destruction, and waste places.
   The Poet came home at evening,
   And in the candle-light
   He wiped and polished his cane.
   The orange candle flame leaped in the yellow ambers,
   And made the jades undulate like green pools.
   It played along the bright ebony,
   And glowed in the top of cream-coloured ivory.
   But these things were dead,
   Only the candle-light made them seem to move.
   "It is a pity there were no roses," said the Poet.

   Peace be with you, Brother.  You have chosen your part.

The Coal Picker

   He perches in the slime, inert,
   Bedaubed with iridescent dirt.
   The oil upon the puddles dries
   To colours like a peacock's eyes,
   And half-submerged tomato-cans
   Shine scaly, as leviathans
   Oozily crawling through the mud.
   The ground is here and there bestud
   With lumps of only part-burned coal.
   His duty is to glean the whole,
   To pick them from the filth, each one,
   To hoard them for the hidden sun
   Which glows within each fiery core
   And waits to be made free once more.
   Their sharp and glistening edges cut
   His stiffened fingers.  Through the smut
   Gleam red the wounds which will not shut.
   Wet through and shivering he kneels
   And digs the slippery coals; like eels
   They slide about.  His force all spent,
   He counts his small accomplishment.
   A half-a-dozen clinker-coals
   Which still have fire in their souls.
   Fire!  And in his thought there burns
   The topaz fire of votive urns.
   He sees it fling from hill to hill,
   And still consumed, is burning still.
   Higher and higher leaps the flame,
   The smoke an ever-shifting frame.
   He sees a Spanish Castle old,
   With silver steps and paths of gold.
   From myrtle bowers comes the plash
   Of fountains, and the emerald flash
   Of parrots in the orange trees,
   Whose blossoms pasture humming bees.
   He knows he feeds the urns whose smoke
   Bears visions, that his master-stroke
   Is out of dirt and misery
   To light the fire of poesy.
   He sees the glory, yet he knows
   That others cannot see his shows.
   To them his smoke is sightless, black,
   His votive vessels but a pack
   Of old discarded shards, his fire
   A peddler's; still to him the pyre
   Is incensed, an enduring goal!
   He sighs and grubs another coal.


   How should I sing when buffeting salt waves
    And stung with bitter surges, in whose might
    I toss, a cockleshell?  The dreadful night
   Marshals its undefeated dark and raves
   In brutal madness, reeling over graves
    Of vanquished men, long-sunken out of sight,
    Sent wailing down to glut the ghoulish sprite
   Who haunts foul seaweed forests and their caves.
    No parting cloud reveals a watery star,
   My cries are washed away upon the wind,
    My cramped and blistering hands can find no spar,
   My eyes with hope o'erstrained, are growing blind.
    But painted on the sky great visions burn,
    My voice, oblation from a shattered urn!


   From out the dragging vastness of the sea,
    Wave-fettered, bound in sinuous, seaweed strands,
    He toils toward the rounding beach, and stands
   One moment, white and dripping, silently,
   Cut like a cameo in lazuli,
    Then falls, betrayed by shifting shells, and lands
    Prone in the jeering water, and his hands
   Clutch for support where no support can be.
    So up, and down, and forward, inch by inch,
   He gains upon the shore, where poppies glow
   And sandflies dance their little lives away.
    The sucking waves retard, and tighter clinch
   The weeds about him, but the land-winds blow,
   And in the sky there blooms the sun of May.


   Be patient with you?
    When the stooping sky
   Leans down upon the hills
   And tenderly, as one who soothing stills
    An anguish, gathers earth to lie
   Embraced and girdled.  Do the sun-filled men
    Feel patience then?

   Be patient with you?
    When the snow-girt earth
   Cracks to let through a spurt
   Of sudden green, and from the muddy dirt
    A snowdrop leaps, how mark its worth
   To eyes frost-hardened, and do weary men
    Feel patience then?

   Be patient with you?
    When pain's iron bars
   Their rivets tighten, stern
   To bend and break their victims; as they turn,
    Hopeless, there stand the purple jars
   Of night to spill oblivion.  Do these men
    Feel patience then?

   Be patient with you?
    You!  My sun and moon!
   My basketful of flowers!
   My money-bag of shining dreams!  My hours,
    Windless and still, of afternoon!
   You are my world and I your citizen.
    What meaning can have patience then?


   Be not angry with me that I bear
    Your colours everywhere,
    All through each crowded street,
     And meet
    The wonder-light in every eye,
     As I go by.

   Each plodding wayfarer looks up to gaze,
    Blinded by rainbow haze,
    The stuff of happiness,
     No less,
    Which wraps me in its glad-hued folds
     Of peacock golds.

   Before my feet the dusty, rough-paved way
    Flushes beneath its gray.
    My steps fall ringed with light,
     So bright,
    It seems a myriad suns are strown
     About the town.

   Around me is the sound of steepled bells,
    And rich perfumed smells
    Hang like a wind-forgotten cloud,
     And shroud
    Me from close contact with the world.
     I dwell impearled.

   You blazon me with jewelled insignia.
    A flaming nebula
    Rims in my life.  And yet
     You set
    The word upon me, unconfessed
     To go unguessed.

A Petition

   I pray to be the tool which to your hand
    Long use has shaped and moulded till it be
    Apt for your need, and, unconsideringly,
   You take it for its service.  I demand
   To be forgotten in the woven strand
    Which grows the multi-coloured tapestry
    Of your bright life, and through its tissues lie
   A hidden, strong, sustaining, grey-toned band.
    I wish to dwell around your daylight dreams,
   The railing to the stairway of the clouds,
    To guard your steps securely up, where streams
   A faery moonshine washing pale the crowds
    Of pointed stars.  Remember not whereby
    You mount, protected, to the far-flung sky.

A Blockhead

   Before me lies a mass of shapeless days,
    Unseparated atoms, and I must
    Sort them apart and live them.  Sifted dust
   Covers the formless heap.  Reprieves, delays,
   There are none, ever.  As a monk who prays
    The sliding beads asunder, so I thrust
    Each tasteless particle aside, and just
   Begin again the task which never stays.
    And I have known a glory of great suns,
   When days flashed by, pulsing with joy and fire!
   Drunk bubbled wine in goblets of desire,
    And felt the whipped blood laughing as it runs!
   Spilt is that liquor, my too hasty hand
   Threw down the cup, and did not understand.


   Dearest, forgive that with my clumsy touch
    I broke and bruised your rose.
    I hardly could suppose
   It were a thing so fragile that my clutch
       Could kill it, thus.

   It stood so proudly up upon its stem,
    I knew no thought of fear,
    And coming very near
   Fell, overbalanced, to your garment's hem,
       Tearing it down.

   Now, stooping, I upgather, one by one,
    The crimson petals, all
    Outspread about my fall.
   They hold their fragrance still, a blood-red cone
       Of memory.

   And with my words I carve a little jar
    To keep their scented dust,
    Which, opening, you must
   Breathe to your soul, and, breathing, know me far
       More grieved than you.


   An arid daylight shines along the beach
    Dried to a grey monotony of tone,
    And stranded jelly-fish melt soft upon
   The sun-baked pebbles, far beyond their reach
   Sparkles a wet, reviving sea.  Here bleach
    The skeletons of fishes, every bone
    Polished and stark, like traceries of stone,
   The joints and knuckles hardened each to each.
    And they are dead while waiting for the sea,
    The moon-pursuing sea, to come again.
   Their hearts are blown away on the hot breeze.
    Only the shells and stones can wait to be
    Washed bright.  For living things, who suffer pain,
   May not endure till time can bring them ease.


   Happiness, to some, elation;
   Is, to others, mere stagnation.
   Days of passive somnolence,
   At its wildest, indolence.
   Hours of empty quietness,
   No delight, and no distress.

   Happiness to me is wine,
   Effervescent, superfine.
   Full of tang and fiery pleasure,
   Far too hot to leave me leisure
   For a single thought beyond it.
   Drunk!  Forgetful!  This the bond:  it
   Means to give one's soul to gain
   Life's quintessence.  Even pain
   Pricks to livelier living, then
   Wakes the nerves to laugh again,
   Rapture's self is three parts sorrow.
   Although we must die to-morrow,
   Losing every thought but this;
   Torn, triumphant, drowned in bliss.

   Happiness:  We rarely feel it.
   I would buy it, beg it, steal it,
   Pay in coins of dripping blood
   For this one transcendent good.

The Last Quarter of the Moon

   How long shall I tarnish the mirror of life,
   A spatter of rust on its polished steel!
    The seasons reel
    Like a goaded wheel.
   Half-numb, half-maddened, my days are strife.

   The night is sliding towards the dawn,
   And upturned hills crouch at autumn's knees.
    A torn moon flees
    Through the hemlock trees,
   The hours have gnawed it to feed their spawn.

   Pursuing and jeering the misshapen thing
   A rabble of clouds flares out of the east.
    Like dogs unleashed
    After a beast,
   They stream on the sky, an outflung string.

   A desolate wind, through the unpeopled dark,
   Shakes the bushes and whistles through empty nests,
    And the fierce unrests
    I keep as guests
   Crowd my brain with corpses, pallid and stark.

   Leave me in peace, O Spectres, who haunt
   My labouring mind, I have fought and failed.
    I have not quailed,
    I was all unmailed
   And naked I strove, 'tis my only vaunt.

   The moon drops into the silver day
   As waking out of her swoon she comes.
    I hear the drums
    Of millenniums
   Beating the mornings I still must stay.

   The years I must watch go in and out,
   While I build with water, and dig in air,
    And the trumpets blare
    Hollow despair,
   The shuddering trumpets of utter rout.

   An atom tossed in a chaos made
   Of yeasting worlds, which bubble and foam.
    Whence have I come?
    What would be home?
   I hear no answer.  I am afraid!

   I crave to be lost like a wind-blown flame.
   Pushed into nothingness by a breath,
    And quench in a wreath
    Of engulfing death
   This fight for a God, or this devil's game.

A Tale of Starvation

   There once was a man whom the gods didn't love,
    And a disagreeable man was he.
   He loathed his neighbours, and his neighbours hated him,
    And he cursed eternally.

   He damned the sun, and he damned the stars,
    And he blasted the winds in the sky.
   He sent to Hell every green, growing thing,
    And he raved at the birds as they fly.

   His oaths were many, and his range was wide,
    He swore in fancy ways;
   But his meaning was plain:  that no created thing
    Was other than a hurt to his gaze.

   He dwelt all alone, underneath a leaning hill,
    And windows toward the hill there were none,
   And on the other side they were white-washed thick,
    To keep out every spark of the sun.

   When he went to market he walked all the way
    Blaspheming at the path he trod.
   He cursed at those he bought of, and swore at those he sold to,
    By all the names he knew of God.

   For his heart was soured in his weary old hide,
    And his hopes had curdled in his breast.
   His friend had been untrue, and his love had thrown him over
    For the chinking money-bags she liked best.

   The rats had devoured the contents of his grain-bin,
    The deer had trampled on his corn,
   His brook had shrivelled in a summer drought,
    And his sheep had died unshorn.

   His hens wouldn't lay, and his cow broke loose,
    And his old horse perished of a colic.
   In the loft his wheat-bags were nibbled into holes
    By little, glutton mice on a frolic.

   So he slowly lost all he ever had,
    And the blood in his body dried.
   Shrunken and mean he still lived on,
    And cursed that future which had lied.

   One day he was digging, a spade or two,
    As his aching back could lift,
   When he saw something glisten at the bottom of the trench,
    And to get it out he made great shift.

   So he dug, and he delved, with care and pain,
    And the veins in his forehead stood taut.
   At the end of an hour, when every bone cracked,
    He gathered up what he had sought.

   A dim old vase of crusted glass,
    Prismed while it lay buried deep.
   Shifting reds and greens, like a pigeon's neck,
    At the touch of the sun began to leap.

   It was dull in the tree-shade, but glowing in the light;
    Flashing like an opal-stone,
   Carved into a flagon; and the colours glanced and ran,
    Where at first there had seemed to be none.

   It had handles on each side to bear it up,
    And a belly for the gurgling wine.
   Its neck was slender, and its mouth was wide,
    And its lip was curled and fine.

   The old man saw it in the sun's bright stare
    And the colours started up through the crust,
   And he who had cursed at the yellow sun
    Held the flask to it and wiped away the dust.

   And he bore the flask to the brightest spot,
    Where the shadow of the hill fell clear;
   And he turned the flask, and he looked at the flask,
    And the sun shone without his sneer.

   Then he carried it home, and put it on a shelf,
    But it was only grey in the gloom.
   So he fetched a pail, and a bit of cloth,
    And he went outside with a broom.

   And he washed his windows just to let the sun
    Lie upon his new-found vase;
   And when evening came, he moved it down
    And put it on a table near the place

   Where a candle fluttered in a draught from the door.
    The old man forgot to swear,
   Watching its shadow grown a mammoth size,
    Dancing in the kitchen there.

   He forgot to revile the sun next morning
    When he found his vase afire in its light.
   And he carried it out of the house that day,
    And kept it close beside him until night.

   And so it happened from day to day.
    The old man fed his life
   On the beauty of his vase, on its perfect shape.
    And his soul forgot its former strife.

   And the village-folk came and begged to see
    The flagon which was dug from the ground.
   And the old man never thought of an oath, in his joy
    At showing what he had found.

   One day the master of the village school
    Passed him as he stooped at toil,
   Hoeing for a bean-row, and at his side
    Was the vase, on the turned-up soil.

   "My friend," said the schoolmaster, pompous and kind,
    "That's a valuable thing you have there,
   But it might get broken out of doors,
    It should meet with the utmost care.

   What are you doing with it out here?"
    "Why, Sir," said the poor old man,
   "I like to have it about, do you see?
    To be with it all I can."

   "You will smash it," said the schoolmaster, sternly right,
    "Mark my words and see!"
   And he walked away, while the old man looked
    At his treasure despondingly.

   Then he smiled to himself, for it was his!
    He had toiled for it, and now he cared.
   Yes! loved its shape, and its subtle, swift hues,
    Which his own hard work had bared.

   He would carry it round with him everywhere,
    As it gave him joy to do.
   A fragile vase should not stand in a bean-row!
    Who would dare to say so?  Who?

   Then his heart was rested, and his fears gave way,
    And he bent to his hoe again....
   A clod rolled down, and his foot slipped back,
    And he lurched with a cry of pain.

   For the blade of the hoe crashed into glass,
    And the vase fell to iridescent sherds.
   The old man's body heaved with slow, dry sobs.
    He did not curse, he had no words.

   He gathered the fragments, one by one,
    And his fingers were cut and torn.
   Then he made a hole in the very place
    Whence the beautiful vase had been borne.

   He covered the hole, and he patted it down,
    Then he hobbled to his house and shut the door.
   He tore up his coat and nailed it at the windows
    That no beam of light should cross the floor.

   He sat down in front of the empty hearth,
    And he neither ate nor drank.
   In three days they found him, dead and cold,
    And they said:  "What a queer old crank!"

The Foreigner

   Have at you, you Devils!
    My back's to this tree,
   For you're nothing so nice
    That the hind-side of me
   Would escape your assault.
    Come on now, all three!

   Here's a dandified gentleman,
    Rapier at point,
   And a wrist which whirls round
    Like a circular joint.
   A spatter of blood, man!
    That's just to anoint

   And make supple your limbs.
    'Tis a pity the silk
   Of your waistcoat is stained.
    Why!  Your heart's full of milk,
   And so full, it spills over!
    I'm not of your ilk.

   You said so, and laughed
    At my old-fashioned hose,
   At the cut of my hair,
    At the length of my nose.
   To carve it to pattern
    I think you propose.

   Your pardon, young Sir,
    But my nose and my sword
   Are proving themselves
    In quite perfect accord.
   I grieve to have spotted
    Your shirt.  On my word!

   And hullo!  You Bully!
    That blade's not a stick
   To slash right and left,
    And my skull is too thick
   To be cleft with such cuffs
    Of a sword.  Now a lick

   Down the side of your face.
    What a pretty, red line!
   Tell the taverns that scar
    Was an honour.  Don't whine
   That a stranger has marked you.

. . . . .

    The tree's there, You Swine!

   Did you think to get in
    At the back, while your friends
   Made a little diversion
    In front?  So it ends,
   With your sword clattering down
    On the ground.  'Tis amends

   I make for your courteous
    Reception of me,
   A foreigner, landed
    From over the sea.
   Your welcome was fervent
    I think you'll agree.

   My shoes are not buckled
    With gold, nor my hair
   Oiled and scented, my jacket's
    Not satin, I wear
   Corded breeches, wide hats,
    And I make people stare!

   So I do, but my heart
    Is the heart of a man,
   And my thoughts cannot twirl
    In the limited span
   'Twixt my head and my heels,
    As some other men's can.

   I have business more strange
    Than the shape of my boots,
   And my interests range
    From the sky, to the roots
   Of this dung-hill you live in,
    You half-rotted shoots

   Of a mouldering tree!
    Here's at you, once more.
   You Apes!  You Jack-fools!
    You can show me the door,
   And jeer at my ways,
    But you're pinked to the core.

   And before I have done,
    I will prick my name in
   With the front of my steel,
    And your lily-white skin
   Shall be printed with me.
    For I've come here to win!


   My cup is empty to-night,
   Cold and dry are its sides,
   Chilled by the wind from the open window.
   Empty and void, it sparkles white in the moonlight.
   The room is filled with the strange scent
   Of wistaria blossoms.
   They sway in the moon's radiance
   And tap against the wall.
   But the cup of my heart is still,
   And cold, and empty.

   When you come, it brims
   Red and trembling with blood,
   Heart's blood for your drinking;
   To fill your mouth with love
   And the bitter-sweet taste of a soul.

A Gift

   See!  I give myself to you, Beloved!
   My words are little jars
   For you to take and put upon a shelf.
   Their shapes are quaint and beautiful,
   And they have many pleasant colours and lustres
   To recommend them.
   Also the scent from them fills the room
   With sweetness of flowers and crushed grasses.

   When I shall have given you the last one,
   You will have the whole of me,
   But I shall be dead.

The Bungler

   You glow in my heart
   Like the flames of uncounted candles.
   But when I go to warm my hands,
   My clumsiness overturns the light,
   And then I stumble
   Against the tables and chairs.

Fool's Money Bags

   Outside the long window,
   With his head on the stone sill,
   The dog is lying,
   Gazing at his Beloved.
   His eyes are wet and urgent,
   And his body is taut and shaking.
   It is cold on the terrace;
   A pale wind licks along the stone slabs,
   But the dog gazes through the glass
   And is content.

   The Beloved is writing a letter.
   Occasionally she speaks to the dog,
   But she is thinking of her writing.
   Does she, too, give her devotion to one
   Not worthy?

Miscast I

   I have whetted my brain until it is like a Damascus blade,
   So keen that it nicks off the floating fringes of passers-by,
   So sharp that the air would turn its edge
   Were it to be twisted in flight.
   Licking passions have bitten their arabesques into it,
   And the mark of them lies, in and out,
   With the beauty of corroded copper patterning white steel.
   My brain is curved like a scimitar,
   And sighs at its cutting
   Like a sickle mowing grass.

   But of what use is all this to me!
   I, who am set to crack stones
   In a country lane!

Miscast II

   My heart is like a cleft pomegranate
   Bleeding crimson seeds
   And dripping them on the ground.
   My heart gapes because it is ripe and over-full,
   And its seeds are bursting from it.

   But how is this other than a torment to me!
   I, who am shut up, with broken crockery,
   In a dark closet!


   I have been temperate always,
   But I am like to be very drunk
   With your coming.
   There have been times
   I feared to walk down the street
   Lest I should reel with the wine of you,
   And jerk against my neighbours
   As they go by.
   I am parched now, and my tongue is horrible in my mouth,
   But my brain is noisy
   With the clash and gurgle of filling wine-cups.


   I will mix me a drink of stars,—
   Large stars with polychrome needles,
   Small stars jetting maroon and crimson,
   Cool, quiet, green stars.
   I will tear them out of the sky,
   And squeeze them over an old silver cup,
   And I will pour the cold scorn of my Beloved into it,
   So that my drink shall be bubbled with ice.

   It will lap and scratch
   As I swallow it down;
   And I shall feel it as a serpent of fire,
   Coiling and twisting in my belly.
   His snortings will rise to my head,
   And I shall be hot, and laugh,
   Forgetting that I have ever known a woman.

The Tree of Scarlet Berries

   The rain gullies the garden paths
   And tinkles on the broad sides of grass blades.
   A tree, at the end of my arm, is hazy with mist.
   Even so, I can see that it has red berries,
   A scarlet fruit,
   Filmed over with moisture.
   It seems as though the rain,
   Dripping from it,
   Should be tinged with colour.
   I desire the berries,
   But, in the mist, I only scratch my hand on the thorns.
   Probably, too, they are bitter.


   Hold your apron wide
   That I may pour my gifts into it,
   So that scarcely shall your two arms hinder them
   From falling to the ground.

   I would pour them upon you
   And cover you,
   For greatly do I feel this need
   Of giving you something,
   Even these poor things.

   Dearest of my Heart!

The Taxi

   When I go away from you
   The world beats dead
   Like a slackened drum.
   I call out for you against the jutted stars
   And shout into the ridges of the wind.
   Streets coming fast,
   One after the other,
   Wedge you away from me,
   And the lamps of the city prick my eyes
   So that I can no longer see your face.
   Why should I leave you,
   To wound myself upon the sharp edges of the night?

The Giver of Stars

   Hold your soul open for my welcoming.
   Let the quiet of your spirit bathe me
   With its clear and rippled coolness,
   That, loose-limbed and weary, I find rest,
   Outstretched upon your peace, as on a bed of ivory.

   Let the flickering flame of your soul play all about me,
   That into my limbs may come the keenness of fire,
   The life and joy of tongues of flame,
   And, going out from you, tightly strung and in tune,
   I may rouse the blear-eyed world,
   And pour into it the beauty which you have begotten.

The Temple

   Between us leapt a gold and scarlet flame.
    Into the hollow of the cupped, arched blue
    Of Heaven it rose.  Its flickering tongues up-drew
   And vanished in the sunshine.  How it came
   We guessed not, nor what thing could be its name.
    From each to each had sprung those sparks which flew
    Together into fire.  But we knew
   The winds would slap and quench it in their game.
    And so we graved and fashioned marble blocks
   To treasure it, and placed them round about.
   With pillared porticos we wreathed the whole,
    And roofed it with bright bronze.  Behind carved locks
   Flowered the tall and sheltered flame.  Without,
   The baffled winds thrust at a column's bole.

Epitaph of a Young Poet Who Died Before Having Achieved Success

   Beneath this sod lie the remains
   Of one who died of growing pains.

In Answer to a Request

   You ask me for a sonnet.  Ah, my Dear,
    Can clocks tick back to yesterday at noon?
    Can cracked and fallen leaves recall last June
   And leap up on the boughs, now stiff and sere?
   For your sake, I would go and seek the year,
    Faded beyond the purple ranks of dune,
    Blown sands of drifted hours, which the moon
   Streaks with a ghostly finger, and her sneer
    Pulls at my lengthening shadow.  Yes, 'tis that!
    My shadow stretches forward, and the ground
   Is dark in front because the light's behind.
    It is grotesque, with such a funny hat,
    In watching it and walking I have found
   More than enough to occupy my mind.

   I cannot turn, the light would make me blind.


The Great Adventure of Max Breuck


   A yellow band of light upon the street
   Pours from an open door, and makes a wide
   Pathway of bright gold across a sheet
   Of calm and liquid moonshine.  From inside
   Come shouts and streams of laughter, and a snatch
   Of song, soon drowned and lost again in mirth,
   The clip of tankards on a table top,
   And stir of booted heels.  Against the patch
   Of candle-light a shadow falls, its girth
   Proclaims the host himself, and master of his shop.

   This is the tavern of one Hilverdink,
   Jan Hilverdink, whose wines are much esteemed.
   Within his cellar men can have to drink
   The rarest cordials old monks ever schemed
   To coax from pulpy grapes, and with nice art
   Improve and spice their virgin juiciness.
   Here froths the amber beer of many a brew,
   Crowning each pewter tankard with as smart
   A cap as ever in his wantonness
   Winter set glittering on top of an old yew.

   Tall candles stand upon the table, where
   Are twisted glasses, ruby-sparked with wine,
   Clarets and ports.  Those topaz bumpers were
   Drained from slim, long-necked bottles of the Rhine.
   The centre of the board is piled with pipes,
   Slender and clean, the still unbaptized clay
   Awaits its burning fate.  Behind, the vault
   Stretches from dim to dark, a groping way
   Bordered by casks and puncheons, whose brass stripes
   And bands gleam dully still, beyond the gay tumult.

   "For good old Master Hilverdink, a toast!"
   Clamoured a youth with tassels on his boots.
   "Bring out your oldest brandy for a boast,
   From that small barrel in the very roots
   Of your deep cellar, man.  Why here is Max!
   Ho!  Welcome, Max, you're scarcely here in time.
   We want to drink to old Jan's luck, and smoke
   His best tobacco for a grand climax.
   Here, Jan, a paper, fragrant as crushed thyme,
   We'll have the best to wish you luck, or may we choke!"

   Max Breuck unclasped his broadcloth cloak, and sat.
   "Well thought of, Franz; here's luck to Mynheer Jan."
   The host set down a jar; then to a vat
   Lost in the distance of his cellar, ran.
   Max took a pipe as graceful as the stem
   Of some long tulip, crammed it full, and drew
   The pungent smoke deep to his grateful lung.
   It curled all blue throughout the cave and flew
   Into the silver night.  At once there flung
   Into the crowded shop a boy, who cried to them:

   "Oh, sirs, is there some learned lawyer here,
   Some advocate, or all-wise counsellor?
   My master sent me to inquire where
   Such men do mostly be, but every door
   Was shut and barred, for late has grown the hour.
   I pray you tell me where I may now find
   One versed in law, the matter will not wait."
   "I am a lawyer, boy," said Max, "my mind
   Is not locked to my business, though 'tis late.
   I shall be glad to serve what way is in my power.

   Then once more, cloaked and ready, he set out,
   Tripping the footsteps of the eager boy
   Along the dappled cobbles, while the rout
   Within the tavern jeered at his employ.
   Through new-burst elm leaves filtered the white moon,
   Who peered and splashed between the twinkling boughs,
   Flooded the open spaces, and took flight
   Before tall, serried houses in platoon,
   Guarded by shadows.  Past the Custom House
   They took their hurried way in the Spring-scented night.

   Before a door which fronted a canal
   The boy halted.  A dim tree-shaded spot.
   The water lapped the stones in musical
   And rhythmic tappings, and a galliot
   Slumbered at anchor with no light aboard.
   The boy knocked twice, and steps approached.  A flame
   Winked through the keyhole, then a key was turned,
   And through the open door Max went toward
   Another door, whence sound of voices came.
   He entered a large room where candelabra burned.

   An aged man in quilted dressing gown
   Rose up to greet him.  "Sir," said Max, "you sent
   Your messenger to seek throughout the town
   A lawyer.  I have small accomplishment,
   But I am at your service, and my name
   Is Max Breuck, Counsellor, at your command."
   "Mynheer," replied the aged man, "obliged
   Am I, and count myself much privileged.
   I am Cornelius Kurler, and my fame
   Is better known on distant oceans than on land.

   My ship has tasted water in strange seas,
   And bartered goods at still uncharted isles.
   She's oft coquetted with a tropic breeze,
   And sheered off hurricanes with jaunty smiles."
   "Tush, Kurler," here broke in the other man,
   "Enough of poetry, draw the deed and sign."
   The old man seemed to wizen at the voice,
   "My good friend, Grootver,—" he at once began.
   "No introductions, let us have some wine,
   And business, now that you at last have made your choice."

   A harsh and disagreeable man he proved to be,
   This Grootver, with no single kindly thought.
   Kurler explained, his old hands nervously
   Twisting his beard.  His vessel he had bought
   From Grootver.  He had thought to soon repay
   The ducats borrowed, but an adverse wind
   Had so delayed him that his cargo brought
   But half its proper price, the very day
   He came to port he stepped ashore to find
   The market glutted and his counted profits naught.

   Little by little Max made out the way
   That Grootver pressed that poor harassed old man.
   His money he must have, too long delay
   Had turned the usurer to a ruffian.
   "But let me take my ship, with many bales
   Of cotton stuffs dyed crimson, green, and blue,
   Cunningly patterned, made to suit the taste
   Of mandarin's ladies; when my battered sails
   Open for home, such stores will I bring you
   That all your former ventures will be counted waste.

   Such light and foamy silks, like crinkled cream,
   And indigo more blue than sun-whipped seas,
   Spices and fragrant trees, a massive beam
   Of sandalwood, and pungent China teas,
   Tobacco, coffee!"  Grootver only laughed.
   Max heard it all, and worse than all he heard
   The deed to which the sailor gave his word.
   He shivered, 'twas as if the villain gaffed
   The old man with a boat-hook; bleeding, spent,
   He begged for life nor knew at all the road he went.

   For Kurler had a daughter, young and gay,
   Carefully reared and shielded, rarely seen.
   But on one black and most unfriendly day
   Grootver had caught her as she passed between
   The kitchen and the garden.  She had run
   In fear of him, his evil leering eye,
   And when he came she, bolted in her room,
   Refused to show, though gave no reason why.
   The spinning of her future had begun,
   On quiet nights she heard the whirring of her doom.

   Max mended an old goosequill by the fire,
   Loathing his work, but seeing no thing to do.
   He felt his hands were building up the pyre
   To burn two souls, and seized with vertigo
   He staggered to his chair.  Before him lay
   White paper still unspotted by a crime.
   "Now, young man, write," said Grootver in his ear.
   "`If in two years my vessel should yet stay
   From Amsterdam, I give Grootver, sometime
   A friend, my daughter for his lawful wife.'  Now swear."

   And Kurler swore, a palsied, tottering sound,
   And traced his name, a shaking, wandering line.
   Then dazed he sat there, speechless from his wound.
   Grootver got up:  "Fair voyage, the brigantine!"
   He shuffled from the room, and left the house.
   His footsteps wore to silence down the street.
   At last the aged man began to rouse.
   With help he once more gained his trembling feet.
   "My daughter, Mynheer Breuck, is friendless now.
   Will you watch over her?  I ask a solemn vow."

   Max laid his hand upon the old man's arm,
   "Before God, sir, I vow, when you are gone,
   So to protect your daughter from all harm
   As one man may."  Thus sorrowful, forlorn,
   The situation to Max Breuck appeared,
   He gave his promise almost without thought,
   Nor looked to see a difficulty.  "Bred
   Gently to watch a mother left alone;
   Bound by a dying father's wish, who feared
   The world's accustomed harshness when he should be dead;

   Such was my case from youth, Mynheer Kurler.
   Last Winter she died also, and my days
   Are passed in work, lest I should grieve for her,
   And undo habits used to earn her praise.
   My leisure I will gladly give to see
   Your household and your daughter prosperous."
   The sailor said his thanks, but turned away.
   He could not brook that his humility,
   So little wonted, and so tremulous,
   Should first before a stranger make such great display.

   "Come here to-morrow as the bells ring noon,
   I sail at the full sea, my daughter then
   I will make known to you.  'Twill be a boon
   If after I have bid good-by, and when
   Her eyeballs scorch with watching me depart,
   You bring her home again.  She lives with one
   Old serving-woman, who has brought her up.
   But that is no friend for so free a heart.
   No head to match her questions.  It is done.
   And I must sail away to come and brim her cup.

   My ship's the fastest that owns Amsterdam
   As home, so not a letter can you send.
   I shall be back, before to where I am
   Another ship could reach.  Now your stipend—"
   Quickly Breuck interposed.  "When you once more
   Tread on the stones which pave our streets.—Good night!
   To-morrow I will be, at stroke of noon,
   At the great wharf."  Then hurrying, in spite
   Of cake and wine the old man pressed upon
   Him ere he went, he took his leave and shut the door.

   'Twas noon in Amsterdam, the day was clear,
   And sunshine tipped the pointed roofs with gold.
   The brown canals ran liquid bronze, for here
   The sun sank deep into the waters cold.
   And every clock and belfry in the town
   Hammered, and struck, and rang.  Such peals of bells,
   To shake the sunny morning into life,
   And to proclaim the middle, and the crown,
   Of this most sparkling daytime!  The crowd swells,
   Laughing and pushing toward the quays in friendly strife.

   The "Horn of Fortune" sails away to-day.
   At highest tide she lets her anchor go,
   And starts for China.  Saucy popinjay!
   Giddy in freshest paint she curtseys low,
   And beckons to her boats to let her start.
   Blue is the ocean, with a flashing breeze.
   The shining waves are quick to take her part.
   They push and spatter her.  Her sails are loose,
   Her tackles hanging, waiting men to seize
   And haul them taut, with chanty-singing, as they choose.

   At the great wharf's edge Mynheer Kurler stands,
   And by his side, his daughter, young Christine.
   Max Breuck is there, his hat held in his hands,
   Bowing before them both.  The brigantine
   Bounces impatient at the long delay,
   Curvets and jumps, a cable's length from shore.
   A heavy galliot unloads on the walls
   Round, yellow cheeses, like gold cannon balls
   Stacked on the stones in pyramids.  Once more
   Kurler has kissed Christine, and now he is away.

   Christine stood rigid like a frozen stone,
   Her hands wrung pale in effort at control.
   Max moved aside and let her be alone,
   For grief exacts each penny of its toll.
   The dancing boat tossed on the glinting sea.
   A sun-path swallowed it in flaming light,
   Then, shrunk a cockleshell, it came again
   Upon the other side.  Now on the lee
   It took the "Horn of Fortune".  Straining sight
   Could see it hauled aboard, men pulling on the crane.

   Then up above the eager brigantine,
   Along her slender masts, the sails took flight,
   Were sheeted home, and ropes were coiled.  The shine
   Of the wet anchor, when its heavy weight
   Rose splashing to the deck.  These things they saw,
   Christine and Max, upon the crowded quay.
   They saw the sails grow white, then blue in shade,
   The ship had turned, caught in a windy flaw
   She glided imperceptibly away,
   Drew farther off and in the bright sky seemed to fade.

   Home, through the emptying streets, Max took Christine,
   Who would have hid her sorrow from his gaze.
   Before the iron gateway, clasped between
   Each garden wall, he stopped.  She, in amaze,
   Asked, "Do you enter not then, Mynheer Breuck?
   My father told me of your courtesy.
   Since I am now your charge, 'tis meet for me
   To show such hospitality as maiden may,
   Without disdaining rules must not be broke.
   Katrina will have coffee, and she bakes today."

   She straight unhasped the tall, beflowered gate.
   Curled into tendrils, twisted into cones
   Of leaves and roses, iron infoliate,
   It guards the pleasance, and its stiffened bones
   Are budded with much peering at the rows,
   And beds, and arbours, which it keeps inside.
   Max started at the beauty, at the glare
   Of tints.  At either end was set a wide
   Path strewn with fine, red gravel, and such shows
   Of tulips in their splendour flaunted everywhere!

   From side to side, midway each path, there ran
   A longer one which cut the space in two.
   And, like a tunnel some magician
   Has wrought in twinkling green, an alley grew,
   Pleached thick and walled with apple trees; their flowers
   Incensed the garden, and when Autumn came
   The plump and heavy apples crowding stood
   And tapped against the arbour.  Then the dame
   Katrina shook them down, in pelting showers
   They plunged to earth, and died transformed to sugared food.

   Against the high, encircling walls were grapes,
   Nailed close to feel the baking of the sun
   From glowing bricks.  Their microscopic shapes
   Half hidden by serrated leaves.  And one
   Old cherry tossed its branches near the door.
   Bordered along the wall, in beds between,
   Flickering, streaming, nodding in the air,
   The pride of all the garden, there were more
   Tulips than Max had ever dreamed or seen.
   They jostled, mobbed, and danced.  Max stood at helpless stare.

   "Within the arbour, Mynheer Breuck, I'll bring
   Coffee and cakes, a pipe, and Father's best
   Tobacco, brought from countries harbouring
   Dawn's earliest footstep.  Wait."  With girlish zest
   To please her guest she flew.  A moment more
   She came again, with her old nurse behind.
   Then, sitting on the bench and knitting fast,
   She talked as someone with a noble store
   Of hidden fancies, blown upon the wind,
   Eager to flutter forth and leave their silent past.

   The little apple leaves above their heads
   Let fall a quivering sunshine.  Quiet, cool,
   In blossomed boughs they sat.  Beyond, the beds
   Of tulips blazed, a proper vestibule
   And antechamber to the rainbow.  Dyes
   Of prismed richness:  Carmine.  Madder.  Blues
   Tinging dark browns to purple.  Silvers flushed
   To amethyst and tinct with gold.  Round eyes
   Of scarlet, spotting tender saffron hues.
   Violets sunk to blacks, and reds in orange crushed.

   Of every pattern and in every shade.
   Nacreous, iridescent, mottled, checked.
   Some purest sulphur-yellow, others made
   An ivory-white with disks of copper flecked.
   Sprinkled and striped, tasselled, or keenest edged.
   Striated, powdered, freckled, long or short.
   They bloomed, and seemed strange wonder-moths new-fledged,
   Born of the spectrum wedded to a flame.
   The shade within the arbour made a port
   To o'ertaxed eyes, its still, green twilight rest became.

   Her knitting-needles clicked and Christine talked,
   This child matured to woman unaware,
   The first time left alone.  Now dreams once balked
   Found utterance.  Max thought her very fair.
   Beneath her cap her ornaments shone gold,
   And purest gold they were.  Kurler was rich
   And heedful.  Her old maiden aunt had died
   Whose darling care she was.  Now, growing bold,
   She asked, had Max a sister?  Dropped a stitch
   At her own candour.  Then she paused and softly sighed.

   Two years was long!  She loved her father well,
   But fears she had not.  He had always been
   Just sailed or sailing.  And she must not dwell
   On sad thoughts, he had told her so, and seen
   Her smile at parting.  But she sighed once more.
   Two years was long; 'twas not one hour yet!
   Mynheer Grootver she would not see at all.
   Yes, yes, she knew, but ere the date so set,
   The "Horn of Fortune" would be at the wall.
   When Max had bid farewell, she watched him from the door.

   The next day, and the next, Max went to ask
   The health of Jufvrouw Kurler, and the news:
   Another tulip blown, or the great task
   Of gathering petals which the high wind strews;
   The polishing of floors, the pictured tiles
   Well scrubbed, and oaken chairs most deftly oiled.
   Such things were Christine's world, and his was she
   Winter drew near, his sun was in her smiles.
   Another Spring, and at his law he toiled,
   Unspoken hope counselled a wise efficiency.

   Max Breuck was honour's soul, he knew himself
   The guardian of this girl; no more, no less.
   As one in charge of guineas on a shelf
   Loose in a china teapot, may confess
   His need, but may not borrow till his friend
   Comes back to give.  So Max, in honour, said
   No word of love or marriage; but the days
   He clipped off on his almanac.  The end
   Must come!  The second year, with feet of lead,
   Lagged slowly by till Spring had plumped the willow sprays.

   Two years had made Christine a woman grown,
   With dignity and gently certain pride.
   But all her childhood fancies had not flown,
   Her thoughts in lovely dreamings seemed to glide.
   Max was her trusted friend, did she confess
   A closer happiness?  Max could not tell.
   Two years were over and his life he found
   Sphered and complete.  In restless eagerness
   He waited for the "Horn of Fortune".  Well
   Had he his promise kept, abating not one pound.

   Spring slipped away to Summer.  Still no glass
   Sighted the brigantine.  Then Grootver came
   Demanding Jufvrouw Kurler.  His trespass
   Was justified, for he had won the game.
   Christine begged time, more time!  Midsummer went,
   And Grootver waxed impatient.  Still the ship
   Tarried.  Christine, betrayed and weary, sank
   To dreadful terrors.  One day, crazed, she sent
   For Max.  "Come quickly," said her note, "I skip
   The worst distress until we meet.  The world is blank."

   Through the long sunshine of late afternoon
   Max went to her.  In the pleached alley, lost
   In bitter reverie, he found her soon.
   And sitting down beside her, at the cost
   Of all his secret, "Dear," said he, "what thing
   So suddenly has happened?"  Then, in tears,
   She told that Grootver, on the following morn,
   Would come to marry her, and shuddering:
   "I will die rather, death has lesser fears."
   Max felt the shackles drop from the oath which he had sworn.

   "My Dearest One, the hid joy of my heart!
   I love you, oh! you must indeed have known.
   In strictest honour I have played my part;
   But all this misery has overthrown
   My scruples.  If you love me, marry me
   Before the sun has dipped behind those trees.
   You cannot be wed twice, and Grootver, foiled,
   Can eat his anger.  My care it shall be
   To pay your father's debt, by such degrees
   As I can compass, and for years I've greatly toiled.

   This is not haste, Christine, for long I've known
   My love, and silence forced upon my lips.
   I worship you with all the strength I've shown
   In keeping faith."  With pleading finger tips
   He touched her arm.  "Christine!  Beloved!  Think.
   Let us not tempt the future.  Dearest, speak,
   I love you.  Do my words fall too swift now?
   They've been in leash so long upon the brink."
   She sat quite still, her body loose and weak.
   Then into him she melted, all her soul at flow.

   And they were married ere the westering sun
   Had disappeared behind the garden trees.
   The evening poured on them its benison,
   And flower-scents, that only night-time frees,
   Rose up around them from the beamy ground,
   Silvered and shadowed by a tranquil moon.
   Within the arbour, long they lay embraced,
   In such enraptured sweetness as they found
   Close-partnered each to each, and thinking soon
   To be enwoven, long ere night to morning faced.

   At last Max spoke, "Dear Heart, this night is ours,
   To watch it pale, together, into dawn,
   Pressing our souls apart like opening flowers
   Until our lives, through quivering bodies drawn,
   Are mingled and confounded.  Then, far spent,
   Our eyes will close to undisturbed rest.
   For that desired thing I leave you now.
   To pinnacle this day's accomplishment,
   By telling Grootver that a bootless quest
   Is his, and that his schemes have met a knock-down blow."

   But Christine clung to him with sobbing cries,
   Pleading for love's sake that he leave her not.
   And wound her arms about his knees and thighs
   As he stood over her.  With dread, begot
   Of Grootver's name, and silence, and the night,
   She shook and trembled.  Words in moaning plaint
   Wooed him to stay.  She feared, she knew not why,
   Yet greatly feared.  She seemed some anguished saint
   Martyred by visions.  Max Breuck soothed her fright
   With wisdom, then stepped out under the cooling sky.

   But at the gate once more she held him close
   And quenched her heart again upon his lips.
   "My Sweetheart, why this terror?  I propose
   But to be gone one hour!  Evening slips
   Away, this errand must be done."  "Max!  Max!
   First goes my father, if I lose you now!"
   She grasped him as in panic lest she drown.
   Softly he laughed, "One hour through the town
   By moonlight!  That's no place for foul attacks.
   Dearest, be comforted, and clear that troubled brow.

   One hour, Dear, and then, no more alone.
   We front another day as man and wife.
   I shall be back almost before I'm gone,
   And midnight shall anoint and crown our life."
   Then through the gate he passed.  Along the street
   She watched his buttons gleaming in the moon.
   He stopped to wave and turned the garden wall.
   Straight she sank down upon a mossy seat.
   Her senses, mist-encircled by a swoon,
   Swayed to unconsciousness beneath its wreathing pall.

   Briskly Max walked beside the still canal.
   His step was firm with purpose.  Not a jot
   He feared this meeting, nor the rancorous gall
   Grootver would spit on him who marred his plot.
   He dreaded no man, since he could protect
   Christine.  His wife!  He stopped and laughed aloud.
   His starved life had not fitted him for joy.
   It strained him to the utmost to reject
   Even this hour with her.  His heart beat loud.
   "Damn Grootver, who can force my time to this employ!"

   He laughed again.  What boyish uncontrol
   To be so racked.  Then felt his ticking watch.
   In half an hour Grootver would know the whole.
   And he would be returned, lifting the latch
   Of his own gate, eager to take Christine
   And crush her to his lips.  How bear delay?
   He broke into a run.  In front, a line
   Of candle-light banded the cobbled street.
   Hilverdink's tavern!  Not for many a day
   Had he been there to take his old, accustomed seat.

   "Why, Max!  Stop, Max!"  And out they came pell-mell,
   His old companions.  "Max, where have you been?
   Not drink with us?  Indeed you serve us well!
   How many months is it since we have seen
   You here?  Jan, Jan, you slow, old doddering goat!
   Here's Mynheer Breuck come back again at last,
   Stir your old bones to welcome him.  Fie, Max.
   Business!  And after hours!  Fill your throat;
   Here's beer or brandy.  Now, boys, hold him fast.
   Put down your cane, dear man.  What really vicious whacks!"

   They forced him to a seat, and held him there,
   Despite his anger, while the hideous joke
   Was tossed from hand to hand.  Franz poured with care
   A brimming glass of whiskey.  "Here, we've broke
   Into a virgin barrel for you, drink!
   Tut!  Tut!  Just hear him!  Married!  Who, and when?
   Married, and out on business.  Clever Spark!
   Which lie's the likeliest?  Come, Max, do think."
   Swollen with fury, struggling with these men,
   Max cursed hilarity which must needs have a mark.

   Forcing himself to steadiness, he tried
   To quell the uproar, told them what he dared
   Of his own life and circumstance.  Implied
   Most urgent matters, time could ill be spared.
   In jesting mood his comrades heard his tale,
   And scoffed at it.  He felt his anger more
   Goaded and bursting;—"Cowards!  Is no one loth
   To mock at duty—"  Here they called for ale,
   And forced a pipe upon him.  With an oath
   He shivered it to fragments on the earthen floor.

   Sobered a little by his violence,
   And by the host who begged them to be still,
   Nor injure his good name, "Max, no offence,"
   They blurted, "you may leave now if you will."
   "One moment, Max," said Franz.  "We've gone too far.
   I ask your pardon for our foolish joke.
   It started in a wager ere you came.
   The talk somehow had fall'n on drugs, a jar
   I brought from China, herbs the natives smoke,
   Was with me, and I thought merely to play a game.

   Its properties are to induce a sleep
   Fraught with adventure, and the flight of time
   Is inconceivable in swiftness.  Deep
   Sunken in slumber, imageries sublime
   Flatter the senses, or some fearful dream
   Holds them enmeshed.  Years pass which on the clock
   Are but so many seconds.  We agreed
   That the next man who came should prove the scheme;
   And you were he.  Jan handed you the crock.
   Two whiffs!  And then the pipe was broke, and you were freed."

   "It is a lie, a damned, infernal lie!"
   Max Breuck was maddened now.  "Another jest
   Of your befuddled wits.  I know not why
   I am to be your butt.  At my request
   You'll choose among you one who'll answer for
   Your most unseasonable mirth.  Good-night
   And good-by,—gentlemen.  You'll hear from me."
   But Franz had caught him at the very door,
   "It is no lie, Max Breuck, and for your plight
   I am to blame.  Come back, and we'll talk quietly.

   You have no business, that is why we laughed,
   Since you had none a few minutes ago.
   As to your wedding, naturally we chaffed,
   Knowing the length of time it takes to do
   A simple thing like that in this slow world.
   Indeed, Max, 'twas a dream.  Forgive me then.
   I'll burn the drug if you prefer."  But Breuck
   Muttered and stared,—"A lie."  And then he hurled,
   Distraught, this word at Franz:  "Prove it.  And when
   It's proven, I'll believe.  That thing shall be your work.

   I'll give you just one week to make your case.
   On August thirty-first, eighteen-fourteen,
   I shall require your proof."  With wondering face
   Franz cried, "A week to August, and fourteen
   The year!  You're mad, 'tis April now.
   April, and eighteen-twelve."  Max staggered, caught
   A chair,—"April two years ago!  Indeed,
   Or you, or I, are mad.  I know not how
   Either could blunder so."  Hilverdink brought
   "The Amsterdam Gazette", and Max was forced to read.

   "Eighteen hundred and twelve," in largest print;
   And next to it, "April the twenty-first."
   The letters smeared and jumbled, but by dint
   Of straining every nerve to meet the worst,
   He read it, and into his pounding brain
   Tumbled a horror.  Like a roaring sea
   Foreboding shipwreck, came the message plain:
   "This is two years ago!  What of Christine?"
   He fled the cellar, in his agony
   Running to outstrip Fate, and save his holy shrine.

   The darkened buildings echoed to his feet
   Clap-clapping on the pavement as he ran.
   Across moon-misted squares clamoured his fleet
   And terror-winged steps.  His heart began
   To labour at the speed.  And still no sign,
   No flutter of a leaf against the sky.
   And this should be the garden wall, and round
   The corner, the old gate.  No even line
   Was this!  No wall!  And then a fearful cry
   Shattered the stillness.  Two stiff houses filled the ground.

   Shoulder to shoulder, like dragoons in line,
   They stood, and Max knew them to be the ones
   To right and left of Kurler's garden.  Spine
   Rigid next frozen spine.  No mellow tones
   Of ancient gilded iron, undulate,
   Expanding in wide circles and broad curves,
   The twisted iron of the garden gate,
   Was there.  The houses touched and left no space
   Between.  With glassy eyes and shaking nerves
   Max gazed.  Then mad with fear, fled still, and left that place.

   Stumbling and panting, on he ran, and on.
   His slobbering lips could only cry, "Christine!
   My Dearest Love!  My Wife!  Where are you gone?
   What future is our past?  What saturnine,
   Sardonic devil's jest has bid us live
   Two years together in a puff of smoke?
   It was no dream, I swear it!  In some star,
   Or still imprisoned in Time's egg, you give
   Me love.  I feel it.  Dearest Dear, this stroke
   Shall never part us, I will reach to where you are."

   His burning eyeballs stared into the dark.
   The moon had long been set.  And still he cried:
   "Christine!  My Love!  Christine!"  A sudden spark
   Pricked through the gloom, and shortly Max espied
   With his uncertain vision, so within
   Distracted he could scarcely trust its truth,
   A latticed window where a crimson gleam
   Spangled the blackness, and hung from a pin,
   An iron crane, were three gilt balls.  His youth
   Had taught their meaning, now they closed upon his dream.

   Softly he knocked against the casement, wide
   It flew, and a cracked voice his business there
   Demanded.  The door opened, and inside
   Max stepped.  He saw a candle held in air
   Above the head of a gray-bearded Jew.
   "Simeon Isaacs, Mynheer, can I serve
   You?"  "Yes, I think you can.  Do you keep arms?
   I want a pistol."  Quick the old man grew
   Livid.  "Mynheer, a pistol!  Let me swerve
   You from your purpose.  Life brings often false alarms—"

   "Peace, good old Isaacs, why should you suppose
   My purpose deadly.  In good truth I've been
   Blest above others.  You have many rows
   Of pistols it would seem.  Here, this shagreen
   Case holds one that I fancy.  Silvered mounts
   Are to my taste.  These letters `C. D. L.'
   Its former owner?  Dead, you say.  Poor Ghost!
   'Twill serve my turn though—"  Hastily he counts
   The florins down upon the table.  "Well,
   Good-night, and wish me luck for your to-morrow's toast."

   Into the night again he hurried, now
   Pale and in haste; and far beyond the town
   He set his goal.  And then he wondered how
   Poor C. D. L. had come to die.  "It's grown
   Handy in killing, maybe, this I've bought,
   And will work punctually."  His sorrow fell
   Upon his senses, shutting out all else.
   Again he wept, and called, and blindly fought
   The heavy miles away.  "Christine.  I'm well.
   I'm coming.  My Own Wife!"  He lurched with failing pulse.

   Along the dyke the keen air blew in gusts,
   And grasses bent and wailed before the wind.
   The Zuider Zee, which croons all night and thrusts
   Long stealthy fingers up some way to find
   And crumble down the stones, moaned baffled.  Here
   The wide-armed windmills looked like gallows-trees.
   No lights were burning in the distant thorps.
   Max laid aside his coat.  His mind, half-clear,
   Babbled "Christine!"  A shot split through the breeze.
   The cold stars winked and glittered at his chilling corpse.

Sancta Maria, Succurre Miseris

   Dear Virgin Mary, far away,
   Look down from Heaven while I pray.
   Open your golden casement high,
   And lean way out beyond the sky.
   I am so little, it may be
   A task for you to harken me.

   O Lady Mary, I have bought
   A candle, as the good priest taught.
   I only had one penny, so
   Old Goody Jenkins let it go.
   It is a little bent, you see.
   But Oh, be merciful to me!

   I have not anything to give,
   Yet I so long for him to live.
   A year ago he sailed away
   And not a word unto today.
   I've strained my eyes from the sea-wall
   But never does he come at all.

   Other ships have entered port
   Their voyages finished, long or short,
   And other sailors have received
   Their welcomes, while I sat and grieved.
   My heart is bursting for his hail,
   O Virgin, let me spy his sail.

       Hull down on the edge of a sun-soaked sea
       Sparkle the bellying sails for me.
       Taut to the push of a rousing wind
       Shaking the sea till it foams behind,
       The tightened rigging is shrill with the song:
       "We are back again who were gone so long."

   One afternoon I bumped my head.
   I sat on a post and wished I were dead
   Like father and mother, for no one cared
   Whither I went or how I fared.
   A man's voice said, "My little lad,
   Here's a bit of a toy to make you glad."

   Then I opened my eyes and saw him plain,
   With his sleeves rolled up, and the dark blue stain
   Of tattooed skin, where a flock of quail
   Flew up to his shoulder and met the tail
   Of a dragon curled, all pink and green,
   Which sprawled on his back, when it was seen.

   He held out his hand and gave to me
   The most marvellous top which could ever be.
   It had ivory eyes, and jet-black rings,
   And a red stone carved into little wings,
   All joined by a twisted golden line,
   And set in the brown wood, even and fine.

   Forgive me, Lady, I have not brought
   My treasure to you as I ought,
   But he said to keep it for his sake
   And comfort myself with it, and take
   Joy in its spinning, and so I do.
   It couldn't mean quite the same to you.

   Every day I met him there,
   Where the fisher-nets dry in the sunny air.
   He told me stories of courts and kings,
   Of storms at sea, of lots of things.
   The top he said was a sort of sign
   That something in the big world was mine.

       Blue and white on a sun-shot ocean.
       Against the horizon a glint in motion.
       Full in the grasp of a shoving wind,
       Trailing her bubbles of foam behind,
       Singing and shouting to port she races,
       A flying harp, with her sheets and braces.

   O Queen of Heaven, give me heed,
   I am in very utmost need.
   He loved me, he was all I had,
   And when he came it made the sad
   Thoughts disappear.  This very day
   Send his ship home to me I pray.

   I'll be a priest, if you want it so,
   I'll work till I have enough to go
   And study Latin to say the prayers
   On the rosary our old priest wears.
   I wished to be a sailor too,
   But I will give myself to you.

   I'll never even spin my top,
   But put it away in a box.  I'll stop
   Whistling the sailor-songs he taught.
   I'll save my pennies till I have bought
   A silver heart in the market square,
   I've seen some beautiful, white ones there.

   I'll give up all I want to do
   And do whatever you tell me to.
   Heavenly Lady, take away
   All the games I like to play,
   Take my life to fill the score,
   Only bring him back once more!

       The poplars shiver and turn their leaves,
       And the wind through the belfry moans and grieves.
       The gray dust whirls in the market square,
       And the silver hearts are covered with care
       By thick tarpaulins.  Once again
       The bay is black under heavy rain.

   The Queen of Heaven has shut her door.
   A little boy weeps and prays no more.

After Hearing a Waltz by Bartók

   But why did I kill him?  Why?  Why?
    In the small, gilded room, near the stair?
   My ears rack and throb with his cry,
    And his eyes goggle under his hair,
    As my fingers sink into the fair
   White skin of his throat.  It was I!

   I killed him!  My God!  Don't you hear?
    I shook him until his red tongue
   Hung flapping out through the black, queer,
    Swollen lines of his lips.  And I clung
    With my nails drawing blood, while I flung
   The loose, heavy body in fear.

   Fear lest he should still not be dead.
    I was drunk with the lust of his life.
   The blood-drops oozed slow from his head
    And dabbled a chair.  And our strife
    Lasted one reeling second, his knife
   Lay and winked in the lights overhead.

   And the waltz from the ballroom I heard,
    When I called him a low, sneaking cur.
   And the wail of the violins stirred
    My brute anger with visions of her.
    As I throttled his windpipe, the purr
   Of his breath with the waltz became blurred.

   I have ridden ten miles through the dark,
    With that music, an infernal din,
   Pounding rhythmic inside me.  Just Hark!
    One!  Two!  Three!  And my fingers sink in
    To his flesh when the violins, thin
   And straining with passion, grow stark.

   One!  Two!  Three!  Oh, the horror of sound!
    While she danced I was crushing his throat.
   He had tasted the joy of her, wound
    Round her body, and I heard him gloat
    On the favour.  That instant I smote.
   One!  Two!  Three!  How the dancers swirl round!

   He is here in the room, in my arm,
    His limp body hangs on the spin
   Of the waltz we are dancing, a swarm
    Of blood-drops is hemming us in!
    Round and round!  One!  Two!  Three!  And his sin
   Is red like his tongue lolling warm.

   One!  Two!  Three!  And the drums are his knell.
    He is heavy, his feet beat the floor
   As I drag him about in the swell
    Of the waltz.  With a menacing roar,
    The trumpets crash in through the door.
   One!  Two!  Three! clangs his funeral bell.

   One!  Two!  Three!  In the chaos of space
    Rolls the earth to the hideous glee
   Of death!  And so cramped is this place,
    I stifle and pant.  One!  Two!  Three!
    Round and round!  God!  'Tis he throttles me!
   He has covered my mouth with his face!

   And his blood has dripped into my heart!
    And my heart beats and labours.  One!  Two!
   Three!  His dead limbs have coiled every part
    Of my body in tentacles.  Through
    My ears the waltz jangles.  Like glue
   His dead body holds me athwart.

   One!  Two!  Three!  Give me air!  Oh!  My God!
    One!  Two!  Three!  I am drowning in slime!
   One!  Two!  Three!  And his corpse, like a clod,
    Beats me into a jelly!  The chime,
    One!  Two!  Three!  And his dead legs keep time.
   Air!  Give me air!  Air!  My God!

Clear, with Light, Variable Winds

   The fountain bent and straightened itself
   In the night wind,
   Blowing like a flower.
   It gleamed and glittered,
   A tall white lily,
   Under the eye of the golden moon.
   From a stone seat,
   Beneath a blossoming lime,
   The man watched it.
   And the spray pattered
   On the dim grass at his feet.

   The fountain tossed its water,
   Up and up, like silver marbles.
   Is that an arm he sees?
   And for one moment
   Does he catch the moving curve
   Of a thigh?
   The fountain gurgled and splashed,
   And the man's face was wet.

   Is it singing that he hears?
   A song of playing at ball?
   The moonlight shines on the straight column of water,
   And through it he sees a woman,
   Tossing the water-balls.
   Her breasts point outwards,
   And the nipples are like buds of peonies.
   Her flanks ripple as she plays,
   And the water is not more undulating
   Than the lines of her body.

   "Come," she sings, "Poet!
   Am I not more worth than your day ladies,
   Covered with awkward stuffs,
   Unreal, unbeautiful?
   What do you fear in taking me?
   Is not the night for poets?
   I am your dream,
   Recurrent as water,
   Gemmed with the moon!"

   She steps to the edge of the pool
   And the water runs, rustling, down her sides.
   She stretches out her arms,
   And the fountain streams behind her
   Like an opened veil.

   In the morning the gardeners came to their work.
   "There is something in the fountain," said one.
   They shuddered as they laid their dead master
   On the grass.
   "I will close his eyes," said the head gardener,
   "It is uncanny to see a dead man staring at the sun."

The Basket


   The inkstand is full of ink, and the paper lies white and unspotted,
   in the round of light thrown by a candle.  Puffs of darkness sweep into
   the corners, and keep rolling through the room behind his chair.  The air
   is silver and pearl, for the night is liquid with moonlight.

   See how the roof glitters, like ice!

   Over there, a slice of yellow cuts into the silver-blue, and beside it stand
   two geraniums, purple because the light is silver-blue, to-night.
   See!  She is coming, the young woman with the bright hair.
   She swings a basket as she walks, which she places on the sill,
   between the geranium stalks.  He laughs, and crumples his paper
   as he leans forward to look.  "The Basket Filled with Moonlight",
   what a title for a book!

   The bellying clouds swing over the housetops.
   He has forgotten the woman in the room with the geraniums.  He is beating
   his brain, and in his eardrums hammers his heavy pulse.  She sits
   on the window-sill, with the basket in her lap.  And tap!  She cracks a nut.
   And tap!  Another.  Tap!  Tap!  Tap!  The shells ricochet upon the roof,
   and get into the gutters, and bounce over the edge and disappear.

   "It is very queer," thinks Peter, "the basket was empty, I'm sure.
   How could nuts appear from the atmosphere?"

   The silver-blue moonlight makes the geraniums purple, and the roof glitters
   like ice.

   Five o'clock.  The geraniums are very gay in their crimson array.
   The bellying clouds swing over the housetops, and over the roofs goes Peter
   to pay his morning's work with a holiday.

   "Annette, it is I.  Have you finished?  Can I come?"

   Peter jumps through the window.

   "Dear, are you alone?"

   "Look, Peter, the dome of the tabernacle is done.  This gold thread
   is so very high, I am glad it is morning, a starry sky would have
   seen me bankrupt.  Sit down, now tell me, is your story going well?"

   The golden dome glittered in the orange of the setting sun.  On the walls,
   at intervals, hung altar-cloths and chasubles, and copes, and stoles,
   and coffin palls.  All stiff with rich embroidery, and stitched with
   so much artistry, they seemed like spun and woven gems, or flower-buds
   new-opened on their stems.
   Annette looked at the geraniums, very red against the blue sky.

   "No matter how I try, I cannot find any thread of such a red.
   My bleeding hearts drip stuff muddy in comparison.  Heigh-ho!  See my little
   pecking dove?  I'm in love with my own temple.  Only that halo's wrong.
   The colour's too strong, or not strong enough.  I don't know.  My eyes
   are tired.  Oh, Peter, don't be so rough; it is valuable.  I won't do
   any more.  I promise.  You tyrannise, Dear, that's enough.  Now sit down
   and amuse me while I rest."

   The shadows of the geraniums creep over the floor, and begin to climb
   the opposite wall.
   Peter watches her, fluid with fatigue, floating, and drifting,
   and undulant in the orange glow.  His senses flow towards her,
   where she lies supine and dreaming.  Seeming drowned in a golden halo.

   The pungent smell of the geraniums is hard to bear.
   He pushes against her knees, and brushes his lips across her languid hands.
   His lips are hot and speechless.  He woos her, quivering, and the room
   is filled with shadows, for the sun has set.  But she only understands
   the ways of a needle through delicate stuffs, and the shock of one colour
   on another.  She does not see that this is the same, and querulously murmurs
   his name.

   "Peter, I don't want it.  I am tired."

   And he, the undesired, burns and is consumed.

   There is a crescent moon on the rim of the sky.

   "Go home, now, Peter.  To-night is full moon.  I must be alone."

   "How soon the moon is full again!  Annette, let me stay.  Indeed, Dear Love,
   I shall not go away.  My God, but you keep me starved!  You write
   `No Entrance Here', over all the doors.  Is it not strange, my Dear,
   that loving, yet you deny me entrance everywhere.  Would marriage
   strike you blind, or, hating bonds as you do, why should I be denied
   the rights of loving if I leave you free?  You want the whole of me,
   you pick my brains to rest you, but you give me not one heart-beat.
   Oh, forgive me, Sweet!  I suffer in my loving, and you know it.  I cannot
   feed my life on being a poet.  Let me stay."

   "As you please, poor Peter, but it will hurt me if you do.  It will
   crush your heart and squeeze the love out."

   He answered gruffly, "I know what I'm about."

   "Only remember one thing from to-night.  My work is taxing and I must
   have sight!  I must!"

   The clear moon looks in between the geraniums.  On the wall,
   the shadow of the man is divided from the shadow of the woman
   by a silver thread.
   They are eyes, hundreds of eyes, round like marbles!  Unwinking, for there
   are no lids.  Blue, black, gray, and hazel, and the irises are cased
   in the whites, and they glitter and spark under the moon.  The basket
   is heaped with human eyes.  She cracks off the whites and throws them away.
   They ricochet upon the roof, and get into the gutters, and bounce
   over the edge and disappear.  But she is here, quietly sitting
   on the window-sill, eating human eyes.

   The silver-blue moonlight makes the geraniums purple, and the roof shines
   like ice.

   How hot the sheets are!  His skin is tormented with pricks,
   and over him sticks, and never moves, an eye.  It lights the sky with blood,
   and drips blood.  And the drops sizzle on his bare skin, and he smells them
   burning in, and branding his body with the name "Annette".

   The blood-red sky is outside his window now.  Is it blood or fire?
   Merciful God!  Fire!  And his heart wrenches and pounds "Annette!"

   The lead of the roof is scorching, he ricochets, gets to the edge,
   bounces over and disappears.

   The bellying clouds are red as they swing over the housetops.

   The air is of silver and pearl, for the night is liquid with moonlight.
   How the ruin glistens, like a palace of ice!  Only two black holes swallow
   the brilliance of the moon.  Deflowered windows, sockets without sight.

   A man stands before the house.  He sees the silver-blue moonlight,
   and set in it, over his head, staring and flickering, eyes of geranium red.

In a Castle


   Over the yawning chimney hangs the fog.  Drip—hiss—drip—hiss—
   fall the raindrops on the oaken log which burns, and steams,
   and smokes the ceiling beams.  Drip—hiss—the rain never stops.
   The wide, state bed shivers beneath its velvet coverlet.  Above, dim,
   in the smoke, a tarnished coronet gleams dully.  Overhead hammers and chinks
   the rain.  Fearfully wails the wind down distant corridors, and there comes
   the swish and sigh of rushes lifted off the floors.  The arras blows sidewise
   out from the wall, and then falls back again.
   It is my lady's key, confided with much nice cunning, whisperingly.
   He enters on a sob of wind, which gutters the candles almost to swaling.
   The fire flutters and drops.  Drip—hiss—the rain never stops.
   He shuts the door.  The rushes fall again to stillness along the floor.
   Outside, the wind goes wailing.
   The velvet coverlet of the wide bed is smooth and cold.  Above,
   in the firelight, winks the coronet of tarnished gold.  The knight shivers
   in his coat of fur, and holds out his hands to the withering flame.
   She is always the same, a sweet coquette.  He will wait for her.

   How the log hisses and drips!  How warm and satisfying will be her lips!
   It is wide and cold, the state bed; but when her head lies under the coronet,
   and her eyes are full and wet with love, and when she holds out her arms,
   and the velvet counterpane half slips from her, and alarms
   her trembling modesty, how eagerly he will leap to cover her, and blot himself
   beneath the quilt, making her laugh and tremble.

   Is it guilt to free a lady from her palsied lord, absent and fighting,
   terribly abhorred?
   He stirs a booted heel and kicks a rolling coal.  His spur clinks
   on the hearth.  Overhead, the rain hammers and chinks.  She is so pure
   and whole.  Only because he has her soul will she resign herself to him,
   for where the soul has gone, the body must be given as a sign.  He takes her
   by the divine right of the only lover.  He has sworn to fight her lord,
   and wed her after.  Should he be overborne, she will die adoring him, forlorn,
   shriven by her great love.

   Above, the coronet winks in the darkness.  Drip—hiss—fall the raindrops.
   The arras blows out from the wall, and a door bangs in a far-off hall.
   The candles swale.  In the gale the moat below plunges and spatters.
   Will the lady lose courage and not come?

   The rain claps on a loosened rafter.

   Is that laughter?
   The room is filled with lisps and whispers.  Something mutters.
   One candle drowns and the other gutters.  Is that the rain
   which pads and patters, is it the wind through the winding entries
   which chatters?

   The state bed is very cold and he is alone.  How far from the wall
   the arras is blown!
   Christ's Death!  It is no storm which makes these little chuckling sounds.
   By the Great Wounds of Holy Jesus, it is his dear lady, kissing and
   clasping someone!  Through the sobbing storm he hears her love take form
   and flutter out in words.  They prick into his ears and stun his desire,
   which lies within him, hard and dead, like frozen fire.  And the little noise
   never stops.

   Drip—hiss—the rain drops.
   He tears down the arras from before an inner chamber's bolted door.

   The state bed shivers in the watery dawn.  Drip—hiss—fall the raindrops.
   For the storm never stops.

   On the velvet coverlet lie two bodies, stripped and fair in the cold,
   grey air.  Drip—hiss—fall the blood-drops, for the bleeding never stops.
   The bodies lie quietly.  At each side of the bed, on the floor, is a head.
   A man's on this side, a woman's on that, and the red blood oozes along
   the rush mat.

   A wisp of paper is twisted carefully into the strands of the dead man's hair.
   It says, "My Lord:  Your wife's paramour has paid with his life
   for the high favour."

   Through the lady's silver fillet is wound another paper.  It reads,
   "Most noble Lord:  Your wife's misdeeds are as a double-stranded
   necklace of beads.  But I have engaged that, on your return,
   she shall welcome you here.  She will not spurn your love as before,
   you have still the best part of her.  Her blood was red, her body white,
   they will both be here for your delight.  The soul inside was a lump of dirt,
   I have rid you of that with a spurt of my sword point.  Good luck
   to your pleasure.  She will be quite complaisant, my friend, I wager."
   The end was a splashed flourish of ink.

   Hark!  In the passage is heard the clink of armour, the tread of a heavy man.
   The door bursts open and standing there, his thin hair wavering
   in the glare of steely daylight, is my Lord of Clair.
   Over the yawning chimney hangs the fog.  Drip—hiss—drip—hiss—
   fall the raindrops.  Overhead hammers and chinks the rain which never stops.

   The velvet coverlet is sodden and wet, yet the roof beams are tight.
   Overhead, the coronet gleams with its blackened gold, winking and blinking.
   Among the rushes three corpses are growing cold.

   In the castle church you may see them stand,
   Two sumptuous tombs on either hand
   Of the choir, my Lord's and my Lady's, grand
   In sculptured filigrees.  And where the transepts of the church expand,
   A crusader, come from the Holy Land,
   Lies with crossed legs and embroidered band.
   The page's name became a brand
   For shame.  He was buried in crawling sand,
   After having been burnt by royal command.

The Book of Hours of Sister Clotilde

   The Bell in the convent tower swung.
   High overhead the great sun hung,
   A navel for the curving sky.
   The air was a blue clarity.
       Swallows flew,
       And a cock crew.

   The iron clanging sank through the light air,
   Rustled over with blowing branches.  A flare
   Of spotted green, and a snake had gone
   Into the bed where the snowdrops shone
       In green new-started,
       Their white bells parted.

   Two by two, in a long brown line,
   The nuns were walking to breathe the fine
   Bright April air.  They must go in soon
   And work at their tasks all the afternoon.
       But this time is theirs!
       They walk in pairs.

   First comes the Abbess, preoccupied
   And slow, as a woman often tried,
   With her temper in bond.  Then the oldest nun.
   Then younger and younger, until the last one
       Has a laugh on her lips,
       And fairly skips.

   They wind about the gravel walks
   And all the long line buzzes and talks.
   They step in time to the ringing bell,
   With scarcely a shadow.  The sun is well
       In the core of a sky
       Domed silverly.

   Sister Marguerite said:  "The pears will soon bud."
   Sister Angelique said she must get her spud
   And free the earth round the jasmine roots.
   Sister Veronique said:  "Oh, look at those shoots!
       There's a crocus up,
       With a purple cup."

   But Sister Clotilde said nothing at all,
   She looked up and down the old grey wall
   To see if a lizard were basking there.
   She looked across the garden to where
       A sycamore
       Flanked the garden door.

   She was restless, although her little feet danced,
   And quite unsatisfied, for it chanced
   Her morning's work had hung in her mind
   And would not take form.  She could not find
       The beautifulness
       For the Virgin's dress.

   Should it be of pink, or damasked blue?
   Or perhaps lilac with gold shotted through?
   Should it be banded with yellow and white
   Roses, or sparked like a frosty night?
       Or a crimson sheen
       Over some sort of green?

   But Clotilde's eyes saw nothing new
   In all the garden, no single hue
   So lovely or so marvellous
   That its use would not seem impious.
       So on she walked,
       And the others talked.

   Sister Elisabeth edged away
   From what her companion had to say,
   For Sister Marthe saw the world in little,
   She weighed every grain and recorded each tittle.
       She did plain stitching
       And worked in the kitchen.

   "Sister Radegonde knows the apples won't last,
   I told her so this Friday past.
   I must speak to her before Compline."
   Her words were like dust motes in slanting sunshine.
       The other nun sighed,
       With her pleasure quite dried.

   Suddenly Sister Berthe cried out:
   "The snowdrops are blooming!"  They turned about.
   The little white cups bent over the ground,
   And in among the light stems wound
       A crested snake,
       With his eyes awake.

   His body was green with a metal brightness
   Like an emerald set in a kind of whiteness,
   And all down his curling length were disks,
   Evil vermilion asterisks,
       They paled and flooded
       As wounds fresh-blooded.

   His crest was amber glittered with blue,
   And opaque so the sun came shining through.
   It seemed a crown with fiery points.
   When he quivered all down his scaly joints,
       From every slot
       The sparkles shot.

   The nuns huddled tightly together, fear
   Catching their senses.  But Clotilde must peer
   More closely at the beautiful snake,
   She seemed entranced and eased.  Could she make
       Colours so rare,
       The dress were there.

   The Abbess shook off her lethargy.
   "Sisters, we will walk on," said she.
   Sidling away from the snowdrop bed,
   The line curved forwards, the Abbess ahead.
       Only Clotilde
       Was the last to yield.

   When the recreation hour was done
   Each went in to her task.  Alone
   In the library, with its great north light,
   Clotilde wrought at an exquisite
       Wreath of flowers
       For her Book of Hours.

   She twined the little crocus blooms
   With snowdrops and daffodils, the glooms
   Of laurel leaves were interwoven
   With Stars-of-Bethlehem, and cloven
       Whose colour varies.

   They framed the picture she had made,
   Half-delighted and half-afraid.
   In a courtyard with a lozenged floor
   The Virgin watched, and through the arched door
       The angel came
       Like a springing flame.

   His wings were dipped in violet fire,
   His limbs were strung to holy desire.
   He lowered his head and passed under the arch,
   And the air seemed beating a solemn march.
       The Virgin waited
       With eyes dilated.

   Her face was quiet and innocent,
   And beautiful with her strange assent.
   A silver thread about her head
   Her halo was poised.  But in the stead
       Of her gown, there remained
       The vellum, unstained.

   Clotilde painted the flowers patiently,
   Lingering over each tint and dye.
   She could spend great pains, now she had seen
   That curious, unimagined green.
       A colour so strange
       It had seemed to change.

   She thought it had altered while she gazed.
   At first it had been simple green; then glazed
   All over with twisting flames, each spot
   A molten colour, trembling and hot,
       And every eye
       Seemed to liquefy.

   She had made a plan, and her spirits danced.
   After all, she had only glanced
   At that wonderful snake, and she must know
   Just what hues made the creature throw
       Those splashes and sprays
       Of prismed rays.

   When evening prayers were sung and said,
   The nuns lit their tapers and went to bed.
   And soon in the convent there was no light,
   For the moon did not rise until late that night,
       Only the shine
       Of the lamp at the shrine.

   Clotilde lay still in her trembling sheets.
   Her heart shook her body with its beats.
   She could not see till the moon should rise,
   So she whispered prayers and kept her eyes
       On the window-square
       Till light should be there.

   The faintest shadow of a branch
   Fell on the floor.  Clotilde, grown staunch
   With solemn purpose, softly rose
   And fluttered down between the rows
       Of sleeping nuns.
       She almost runs.

   She must go out through the little side door
   Lest the nuns who were always praying before
   The Virgin's altar should hear her pass.
   She pushed the bolts, and over the grass
       The red moon's brim
       Mounted its rim.

   Her shadow crept up the convent wall
   As she swiftly left it, over all
   The garden lay the level glow
   Of a moon coming up, very big and slow.
       The gravel glistened.
       She stopped and listened.

   It was still, and the moonlight was getting clearer.
   She laughed a little, but she felt queerer
   Than ever before.  The snowdrop bed
   Was reached and she bent down her head.
       On the striped ground
       The snake was wound.

   For a moment Clotilde paused in alarm,
   Then she rolled up her sleeve and stretched out her arm.
   She thought she heard steps, she must be quick.
   She darted her hand out, and seized the thick
       Wriggling slime,
       Only just in time.

   The old gardener came muttering down the path,
   And his shadow fell like a broad, black swath,
   And covered Clotilde and the angry snake.
   He bit her, but what difference did that make!
       The Virgin should dress
       In his loveliness.

   The gardener was covering his new-set plants
   For the night was chilly, and nothing daunts
   Your lover of growing things.  He spied
   Something to do and turned aside,
       And the moonlight streamed
       On Clotilde, and gleamed.

   His business finished the gardener rose.
   He shook and swore, for the moonlight shows
   A girl with a fire-tongued serpent, she
   Grasping him, laughing, while quietly
       Her eyes are weeping.
       Is he sleeping?

   He thinks it is some holy vision,
   Brushes that aside and with decision
   Jumps—and hits the snake with his stick,
   Crushes his spine, and then with quick,
       Urgent command
       Takes her hand.

   The gardener sucks the poison and spits,
   Cursing and praying as befits
   A poor old man half out of his wits.
   "Whatever possessed you, Sister, it's
       Hatched of a devil
       And very evil.

   It's one of them horrid basilisks
   You read about.  They say a man risks
   His life to touch it, but I guess I've sucked it
   Out by now.  Lucky I chucked it
       Away from you.
       I guess you'll do."

   "Oh, no, Francois, this beautiful beast
   Was sent to me, to me the least
   Worthy in all our convent, so I
   Could finish my picture of the Most High
       And Holy Queen,
       In her dress of green.

   He is dead now, but his colours won't fade
   At once, and by noon I shall have made
   The Virgin's robe.  Oh, Francois, see
   How kindly the moon shines down on me!
       I can't die yet,
       For the task was set."

   "You won't die now, for I've sucked it away,"
   Grumbled old Francois, "so have your play.
   If the Virgin is set on snake's colours so strong,—"
   "Francois, don't say things like that, it is wrong."
       So Clotilde vented
       Her creed.  He repented.

   "He can't do no more harm, Sister," said he.
   "Paint as much as you like."  And gingerly
   He picked up the snake with his stick.  Clotilde
   Thanked him, and begged that he would shield
       Her secret, though itching
       To talk in the kitchen.

   The gardener promised, not very pleased,
   And Clotilde, with the strain of adventure eased,
   Walked quickly home, while the half-high moon
   Made her beautiful snake-skin sparkle, and soon
       In her bed she lay
       And waited for day.

   At dawn's first saffron-spired warning
   Clotilde was up.  And all that morning,
   Except when she went to the chapel to pray,
   She painted, and when the April day
       Was hot with sun,
       Clotilde had done.

   Done!  She drooped, though her heart beat loud
   At the beauty before her, and her spirit bowed
   To the Virgin her finely-touched thought had made.
   A lady, in excellence arrayed,
       And wonder-souled.
       Christ's Blessed Mould!

   From long fasting Clotilde felt weary and faint,
   But her eyes were starred like those of a saint
   Enmeshed in Heaven's beatitude.
   A sudden clamour hurled its rude
       Force to break
       Her vision awake.

   The door nearly leapt from its hinges, pushed
   By the multitude of nuns.  They hushed
   When they saw Clotilde, in perfect quiet,
   Smiling, a little perplexed at the riot.
       And all the hive
       Buzzed "She's alive!"

   Old Francois had told.  He had found the strain
   Of silence too great, and preferred the pain
   Of a conscience outraged.  The news had spread,
   And all were convinced Clotilde must be dead.
       For Francois, to spite them,
       Had not seen fit to right them.

   The Abbess, unwontedly trembling and mild,
   Put her arms round Clotilde and wept, "My child,
   Has the Holy Mother showed you this grace,
   To spare you while you imaged her face?
       How could we have guessed
       Our convent so blessed!

   A miracle!  But Oh!  My Lamb!
   To have you die!  And I, who am
   A hollow, living shell, the grave
   Is empty of me.  Holy Mary, I crave
       To be taken, Dear Mother,
       Instead of this other."

   She dropped on her knees and silently prayed,
   With anguished hands and tears delayed
   To a painful slowness.  The minutes drew
   To fractions.  Then the west wind blew
       The sound of a bell,
       On a gusty swell.

   It came skipping over the slates of the roof,
   And the bright bell-notes seemed a reproof
   To grief, in the eye of so fair a day.
   The Abbess, comforted, ceased to pray.
       And the sun lit the flowers
       In Clotilde's Book of Hours.

   It glistened the green of the Virgin's dress
   And made the red spots, in a flushed excess,
   Pulse and start; and the violet wings
   Of the angel were colour which shines and sings.
       The book seemed a choir
       Of rainbow fire.

   The Abbess crossed herself, and each nun
   Did the same, then one by one,
   They filed to the chapel, that incensed prayers
   Might plead for the life of this sister of theirs.
       Clotilde, the Inspired!

       She only felt tired.

   The old chronicles say she did not die
   Until heavy with years.  And that is why
   There hangs in the convent church a basket
   Of osiered silver, a holy casket,
       And treasured therein
       A dried snake-skin.

The Exeter Road

   Panels of claret and blue which shine
   Under the moon like lees of wine.
   A coronet done in a golden scroll,
   And wheels which blunder and creak as they roll
   Through the muddy ruts of a moorland track.
       They daren't look back!

   They are whipping and cursing the horses.  Lord!
   What brutes men are when they think they're scored.
   Behind, my bay gelding gallops with me,
   In a steaming sweat, it is fine to see
   That coach, all claret, and gold, and blue,
       Hop about and slue.

   They are scared half out of their wits, poor souls.
   For my lord has a casket full of rolls
   Of minted sovereigns, and silver bars.
   I laugh to think how he'll show his scars
   In London to-morrow.  He whines with rage
       In his varnished cage.

   My lady has shoved her rings over her toes.
   'Tis an ancient trick every night-rider knows.
   But I shall relieve her of them yet,
   When I see she limps in the minuet
   I must beg to celebrate this night,
       And the green moonlight.

   There's nothing to hurry about, the plain
   Is hours long, and the mud's a strain.
   My gelding's uncommonly strong in the loins,
   In half an hour I'll bag the coins.
   'Tis a clear, sweet night on the turn of Spring.
       The chase is the thing!

   How the coach flashes and wobbles, the moon
   Dripping down so quietly on it.  A tune
   Is beating out of the curses and screams,
   And the cracking all through the painted seams.
   Steady, old horse, we'll keep it in sight.
       'Tis a rare fine night!

   There's a clump of trees on the dip of the down,
   And the sky shimmers where it hangs over the town.
   It seems a shame to break the air
   In two with this pistol, but I've my share
   Of drudgery like other men.
       His hat?  Amen!

   Hold up, you beast, now what the devil!
   Confound this moor for a pockholed, evil,
   Rotten marsh.  My right leg's snapped.
   'Tis a mercy he's rolled, but I'm nicely capped.
   A broken-legged man and a broken-legged horse!
       They'll get me, of course.

   The cursed coach will reach the town
   And they'll all come out, every loafer grown
   A lion to handcuff a man that's down.
   What's that?  Oh, the coachman's bulleted hat!
   I'll give it a head to fit it pat.
       Thank you!  No cravat.
   They handcuffed the body just for style,
   And they hung him in chains for the volatile
   Wind to scour him flesh from bones.
   Way out on the moor you can hear the groans
   His gibbet makes when it blows a gale.
       'Tis a common tale.

The Shadow

   Paul Jannes was working very late,
   For this watch must be done by eight
   To-morrow or the Cardinal
   Would certainly be vexed.  Of all
   His customers the old prelate
   Was the most important, for his state
   Descended to his watches and rings,
   And he gave his mistresses many things
   To make them forget his age and smile
   When he paid visits, and they could while
   The time away with a diamond locket
   Exceedingly well.  So they picked his pocket,
   And he paid in jewels for his slobbering kisses.
   This watch was made to buy him blisses
   From an Austrian countess on her way
   Home, and she meant to start next day.
   Paul worked by the pointed, tulip-flame
   Of a tallow candle, and became
   So absorbed, that his old clock made him wince
   Striking the hour a moment since.
   Its echo, only half apprehended,
   Lingered about the room.  He ended
   Screwing the little rubies in,
   Setting the wheels to lock and spin,
   Curling the infinitesimal springs,
   Fixing the filigree hands.  Chippings
   Of precious stones lay strewn about.
   The table before him was a rout
   Of splashes and sparks of coloured light.
   There was yellow gold in sheets, and quite
   A heap of emeralds, and steel.
   Here was a gem, there was a wheel.
   And glasses lay like limpid lakes
   Shining and still, and there were flakes
   Of silver, and shavings of pearl,
   And little wires all awhirl
   With the light of the candle.  He took the watch
   And wound its hands about to match
   The time, then glanced up to take the hour
   From the hanging clock.
                            Good, Merciful Power!
   How came that shadow on the wall,
   No woman was in the room!  His tall
   Chiffonier stood gaunt behind
   His chair.  His old cloak, rabbit-lined,
   Hung from a peg.  The door was closed.
   Just for a moment he must have dozed.
   He looked again, and saw it plain.
   The silhouette made a blue-black stain
   On the opposite wall, and it never wavered
   Even when the candle quavered
   Under his panting breath.  What made
   That beautiful, dreadful thing, that shade
   Of something so lovely, so exquisite,
   Cast from a substance which the sight
   Had not been tutored to perceive?
   Paul brushed his eyes across his sleeve.

   Clear-cut, the Shadow on the wall
   Gleamed black, and never moved at all.
   Paul's watches were like amulets,
   Wrought into patterns and rosettes;
   The cases were all set with stones,
   And wreathing lines, and shining zones.
   He knew the beauty in a curve,
   And the Shadow tortured every nerve
   With its perfect rhythm of outline
   Cutting the whitewashed wall.  So fine
   Was the neck he knew he could have spanned
   It about with the fingers of one hand.
   The chin rose to a mouth he guessed,
   But could not see, the lips were pressed
   Loosely together, the edges close,
   And the proud and delicate line of the nose
   Melted into a brow, and there
   Broke into undulant waves of hair.
   The lady was edged with the stamp of race.
   A singular vision in such a place.
   He moved the candle to the tall
   Chiffonier; the Shadow stayed on the wall.
   He threw his cloak upon a chair,
   And still the lady's face was there.
   From every corner of the room
   He saw, in the patch of light, the gloom
   That was the lady.  Her violet bloom
   Was almost brighter than that which came
   From his candle's tulip-flame.
   He set the filigree hands; he laid
   The watch in the case which he had made;
   He put on his rabbit cloak, and snuffed
   His candle out.  The room seemed stuffed
   With darkness.  Softly he crossed the floor,
   And let himself out through the door.
   The sun was flashing from every pin
   And wheel, when Paul let himself in.
   The whitewashed walls were hot with light.
   The room was the core of a chrysolite,
   Burning and shimmering with fiery might.
   The sun was so bright that no shadow could fall
   From the furniture upon the wall.
   Paul sighed as he looked at the empty space
   Where a glare usurped the lady's place.
   He settled himself to his work, but his mind
   Wandered, and he would wake to find
   His hand suspended, his eyes grown dim,
   And nothing advanced beyond the rim
   Of his dreaming.  The Cardinal sent to pay
   For his watch, which had purchased so fine a day.
   But Paul could hardly touch the gold,
   It seemed the price of his Shadow, sold.
   With the first twilight he struck a match
   And watched the little blue stars hatch
   Into an egg of perfect flame.
   He lit his candle, and almost in shame
   At his eagerness, lifted his eyes.
   The Shadow was there, and its precise
   Outline etched the cold, white wall.
   The young man swore, "By God!  You, Paul,
   There's something the matter with your brain.
   Go home now and sleep off the strain."
   The next day was a storm, the rain
   Whispered and scratched at the window-pane.
   A grey and shadowless morning filled
   The little shop.  The watches, chilled,
   Were dead and sparkless as burnt-out coals.
   The gems lay on the table like shoals
   Of stranded shells, their colours faded,
   Mere heaps of stone, dull and degraded.
   Paul's head was heavy, his hands obeyed
   No orders, for his fancy strayed.
   His work became a simple round
   Of watches repaired and watches wound.
   The slanting ribbons of the rain
   Broke themselves on the window-pane,
   But Paul saw the silver lines in vain.
   Only when the candle was lit
   And on the wall just opposite
   He watched again the coming of it,
   Could he trace a line for the joy of his soul
   And over his hands regain control.
   Paul lingered late in his shop that night
   And the designs which his delight
   Sketched on paper seemed to be
   A tribute offered wistfully
   To the beautiful shadow of her who came
   And hovered over his candle flame.
   In the morning he selected all
   His perfect jacinths.  One large opal
   Hung like a milky, rainbow moon
   In the centre, and blown in loose festoon
   The red stones quivered on silver threads
   To the outer edge, where a single, fine
   Band of mother-of-pearl the line
   Completed.  On the other side,
   The creamy porcelain of the face
   Bore diamond hours, and no lace
   Of cotton or silk could ever be
   Tossed into being more airily
   Than the filmy golden hands; the time
   Seemed to tick away in rhyme.
   When, at dusk, the Shadow grew
   Upon the wall, Paul's work was through.
   Holding the watch, he spoke to her:
   "Lady, Beautiful Shadow, stir
   Into one brief sign of being.
   Turn your eyes this way, and seeing
   This watch, made from those sweet curves
   Where your hair from your forehead swerves,
   Accept the gift which I have wrought
   With your fairness in my thought.
   Grant me this, and I shall be
   Honoured overwhelmingly."

   The Shadow rested black and still,
   And the wind sighed over the window-sill.
   Paul put the despised watch away
   And laid out before him his array
   Of stones and metals, and when the morning
   Struck the stones to their best adorning,
   He chose the brightest, and this new watch
   Was so light and thin it seemed to catch
   The sunlight's nothingness, and its gleam.
   Topazes ran in a foamy stream
   Over the cover, the hands were studded
   With garnets, and seemed red roses, budded.
   The face was of crystal, and engraved
   Upon it the figures flashed and waved
   With zircons, and beryls, and amethysts.
   It took a week to make, and his trysts
   At night with the Shadow were his alone.
   Paul swore not to speak till his task was done.
   The night that the jewel was worthy to give.
   Paul watched the long hours of daylight live
   To the faintest streak; then lit his light,
   And sharp against the wall's pure white
   The outline of the Shadow started
   Into form.  His burning-hearted
   Words so long imprisoned swelled
   To tumbling speech.  Like one compelled,
   He told the lady all his love,
   And holding out the watch above
   His head, he knelt, imploring some
   Littlest sign.
                   The Shadow was dumb.
   Weeks passed, Paul worked in fevered haste,
   And everything he made he placed
   Before his lady.  The Shadow kept
   Its perfect passiveness.  Paul wept.
   He wooed her with the work of his hands,
   He waited for those dear commands
   She never gave.  No word, no motion,
   Eased the ache of his devotion.
   His days passed in a strain of toil,
   His nights burnt up in a seething coil.
   Seasons shot by, uncognisant
   He worked.  The Shadow came to haunt
   Even his days.  Sometimes quite plain
   He saw on the wall the blackberry stain
   Of his lady's picture.  No sun was bright
   Enough to dazzle that from his sight.
   There were moments when he groaned to see
   His life spilled out so uselessly,
   Begging for boons the Shade refused,
   His finest workmanship abused,
   The iridescent bubbles he blew
   Into lovely existence, poor and few
   In the shadowed eyes.  Then he would curse
   Himself and her!  The Universe!
   And more, the beauty he could not make,
   And give her, for her comfort's sake!
   He would beat his weary, empty hands
   Upon the table, would hold up strands
   Of silver and gold, and ask her why
   She scorned the best which he could buy.
   He would pray as to some high-niched saint,
   That she would cure him of the taint
   Of failure.  He would clutch the wall
   With his bleeding fingers, if she should fall
   He could catch, and hold her, and make her live!
   With sobs he would ask her to forgive
   All he had done.  And broken, spent,
   He would call himself impertinent;
   Presumptuous; a tradesman; a nothing; driven
   To madness by the sight of Heaven.
   At other times he would take the things
   He had made, and winding them on strings,
   Hang garlands before her, and burn perfumes,
   Chanting strangely, while the fumes
   Wreathed and blotted the shadow face,
   As with a cloudy, nacreous lace.
   There were days when he wooed as a lover, sighed
   In tenderness, spoke to his bride,
   Urged her to patience, said his skill
   Should break the spell.  A man's sworn will
   Could compass life, even that, he knew.
   By Christ's Blood!  He would prove it true!

   The edge of the Shadow never blurred.
   The lips of the Shadow never stirred.
   He would climb on chairs to reach her lips,
   And pat her hair with his finger-tips.
   But instead of young, warm flesh returning
   His warmth, the wall was cold and burning
   Like stinging ice, and his passion, chilled,
   Lay in his heart like some dead thing killed
   At the moment of birth.  Then, deadly sick,
   He would lie in a swoon for hours, while thick
   Phantasmagoria crowded his brain,
   And his body shrieked in the clutch of pain.
   The crisis passed, he would wake and smile
   With a vacant joy, half-imbecile
   And quite confused, not being certain
   Why he was suffering; a curtain
   Fallen over the tortured mind beguiled
   His sorrow.  Like a little child
   He would play with his watches and gems, with glee
   Calling the Shadow to look and see
   How the spots on the ceiling danced prettily
   When he flashed his stones.  "Mother, the green
   Has slid so cunningly in between
   The blue and the yellow.  Oh, please look down!"
   Then, with a pitiful, puzzled frown,
   He would get up slowly from his play
   And walk round the room, feeling his way
   From table to chair, from chair to door,
   Stepping over the cracks in the floor,
   Till reaching the table again, her face
   Would bring recollection, and no solace
   Could balm his hurt till unconsciousness
   Stifled him and his great distress.
   One morning he threw the street door wide
   On coming in, and his vigorous stride
   Made the tools on his table rattle and jump.
   In his hands he carried a new-burst clump
   Of laurel blossoms, whose smooth-barked stalks
   Were pliant with sap.  As a husband talks
   To the wife he left an hour ago,
   Paul spoke to the Shadow.  "Dear, you know
   To-day the calendar calls it Spring,
   And I woke this morning gathering
   Asphodels, in my dreams, for you.
   So I rushed out to see what flowers blew
   Their pink-and-purple-scented souls
   Across the town-wind's dusty scrolls,
   And made the approach to the Market Square
   A garden with smells and sunny air.
   I feel so well and happy to-day,
   I think I shall take a Holiday.
   And to-night we will have a little treat.
   I am going to bring you something to eat!"
   He looked at the Shadow anxiously.
   It was quite grave and silent.  He
   Shut the outer door and came
   And leant against the window-frame.
   "Dearest," he said, "we live apart
   Although I bear you in my heart.
   We look out each from a different world.
   At any moment we may be hurled
   Asunder.  They follow their orbits, we
   Obey their laws entirely.
   Now you must come, or I go there,
   Unless we are willing to live the flare
   Of a lighted instant and have it gone."

   A bee in the laurels began to drone.
   A loosened petal fluttered prone.

   "Man grows by eating, if you eat
   You will be filled with our life, sweet
   Will be our planet in your mouth.
   If not, I must parch in death's wide drouth
   Until I gain to where you are,
   And give you myself in whatever star
   May happen.  O You Beloved of Me!
   Is it not ordered cleverly?"

   The Shadow, bloomed like a plum, and clear,
   Hung in the sunlight.  It did not hear.
   Paul slipped away as the dusk began
   To dim the little shop.  He ran
   To the nearest inn, and chose with care
   As much as his thin purse could bear.
   As rapt-souled monks watch over the baking
   Of the sacred wafer, and through the making
   Of the holy wine whisper secret prayers
   That God will bless this labour of theirs;
   So Paul, in a sober ecstasy,
   Purchased the best which he could buy.
   Returning, he brushed his tools aside,
   And laid across the table a wide
   Napkin.  He put a glass and plate
   On either side, in duplicate.
   Over the lady's, excellent
   With loveliness, the laurels bent.
   In the centre the white-flaked pastry stood,
   And beside it the wine flask.  Red as blood
   Was the wine which should bring the lustihood
   Of human life to his lady's veins.
   When all was ready, all which pertains
   To a simple meal was there, with eyes
   Lit by the joy of his great emprise,
   He reverently bade her come,
   And forsake for him her distant home.
   He put meat on her plate and filled her glass,
   And waited what should come to pass.

   The Shadow lay quietly on the wall.
   From the street outside came a watchman's call
   "A cloudy night.  Rain beginning to fall."

   And still he waited.  The clock's slow tick
   Knocked on the silence.  Paul turned sick.

   He filled his own glass full of wine;
   From his pocket he took a paper.  The twine
   Was knotted, and he searched a knife
   From his jumbled tools.  The cord of life
   Snapped as he cut the little string.
   He knew that he must do the thing
   He feared.  He shook powder into the wine,
   And holding it up so the candle's shine
   Sparked a ruby through its heart,
   He drank it.  "Dear, never apart
   Again!  You have said it was mine to do.
   It is done, and I am come to you!"
   Paul Jannes let the empty wine-glass fall,
   And held out his arms.  The insentient wall
   Stared down at him with its cold, white glare
   Unstained!  The Shadow was not there!
   Paul clutched and tore at his tightening throat.
   He felt the veins in his body bloat,
   And the hot blood run like fire and stones
   Along the sides of his cracking bones.
   But he laughed as he staggered towards the door,
   And he laughed aloud as he sank on the floor.
   The Coroner took the body away,
   And the watches were sold that Saturday.
   The Auctioneer said one could seldom buy
   Such watches, and the prices were high.

The Forsaken

   Holy Mother of God, Merciful Mary.  Hear me!  I am very weary.  I have come
   from a village miles away, all day I have been coming, and I ache for such
   far roaming.  I cannot walk as light as I used, and my thoughts grow confused.
   I am heavier than I was.  Mary Mother, you know the cause!
   Beautiful Holy Lady, take my shame away from me!  Let this fear
   be only seeming, let it be that I am dreaming.  For months I have hoped
   it was so, now I am afraid I know.  Lady, why should this be shame,
   just because I haven't got his name.  He loved me, yes, Lady, he did,
   and he couldn't keep it hid.  We meant to marry.  Why did he die?
   That day when they told me he had gone down in the avalanche, and could not
   be found until the snow melted in Spring, I did nothing.  I could not cry.
   Why should he die?  Why should he die and his child live?  His little child
   alive in me, for my comfort.  No, Good God, for my misery!  I cannot face
   the shame, to be a mother, and not married, and the poor child to be reviled
   for having no father.  Merciful Mother, Holy Virgin, take away this sin I did.
   Let the baby not be.  Only take the stigma off of me!
   I have told no one but you, Holy Mary.  My mother would call me "whore",
   and spit upon me; the priest would have me repent, and have
   the rest of my life spent in a convent.  I am no whore, no bad woman,
   he loved me, and we were to be married.  I carried him always in my heart,
   what did it matter if I gave him the least part of me too?  You were a virgin,
   Holy Mother, but you had a son, you know there are times when a woman
   must give all.  There is some call to give and hold back nothing.
   I swear I obeyed God then, and this child who lives in me is the sign.
   What am I saying?  He is dead, my beautiful, strong man!  I shall never
   feel him caress me again.  This is the only baby I shall have.
   Oh, Holy Virgin, protect my baby!  My little, helpless baby!
   He will look like his father, and he will be as fast a runner and as good
   a shot.  Not that he shall be no scholar neither.  He shall go to school
   in winter, and learn to read and write, and my father will teach him to carve,
   so that he can make the little horses, and cows, and chamois,
   out of white wood.  Oh, No!  No!  No!  How can I think such things,
   I am not good.  My father will have nothing to do with my boy,
   I shall be an outcast thing.  Oh, Mother of our Lord God, be merciful,
   take away my shame!  Let my body be as it was before he came.
   No little baby for me to keep underneath my heart for those long months.
   To live for and to get comfort from.  I cannot go home and tell my mother.
   She is so hard and righteous.  She never loved my father, and we were born
   for duty, not for love.  I cannot face it.  Holy Mother, take my baby away!
   Take away my little baby!  I don't want it, I can't bear it!
   And I shall have nothing, nothing!  Just be known as a good girl.
   Have other men want to marry me, whom I could not touch, after having known
   my man.  Known the length and breadth of his beautiful white body,
   and the depth of his love, on the high Summer Alp, with the moon above,
   and the pine-needles all shiny in the light of it.  He is gone, my man,
   I shall never hear him or feel him again, but I could not touch another.
   I would rather lie under the snow with my own man in my arms!
   So I shall live on and on.  Just a good woman.  With nothing to warm my heart
   where he lay, and where he left his baby for me to care for.  I shall not be
   quite human, I think.  Merely a stone-dead creature.  They will respect me.
   What do I care for respect!  You didn't care for people's tongues
   when you were carrying our Lord Jesus.  God had my man give me my baby,
   when He knew that He was going to take him away.  His lips will comfort me,
   his hands will soothe me.  All day I will work at my lace-making,
   and all night I will keep him warm by my side and pray the blessed Angels
   to cover him with their wings.  Dear Mother, what is it that sings?
   I hear voices singing, and lovely silver trumpets through it all.  They seem
   just on the other side of the wall.  Let me keep my baby, Holy Mother.
   He is only a poor lace-maker's baby, with a stain upon him,
   but give me strength to bring him up to be a man.

Late September

   Tang of fruitage in the air;
   Red boughs bursting everywhere;
   Shimmering of seeded grass;
   Hooded gentians all a'mass.

   Warmth of earth, and cloudless wind
   Tearing off the husky rind,
   Blowing feathered seeds to fall
   By the sun-baked, sheltering wall.

   Beech trees in a golden haze;
   Hardy sumachs all ablaze,
   Glowing through the silver birches.
   How that pine tree shouts and lurches!

   From the sunny door-jamb high,
   Swings the shell of a butterfly.
   Scrape of insect violins
   Through the stubble shrilly dins.

   Every blade's a minaret
   Where a small muezzin's set,
   Loudly calling us to pray
   At the miracle of day.

   Then the purple-lidded night
   Westering comes, her footsteps light
   Guided by the radiant boon
   Of a sickle-shaped new moon.

The Pike

   In the brown water,
   Thick and silver-sheened in the sunshine,
   Liquid and cool in the shade of the reeds,
   A pike dozed.
   Lost among the shadows of stems
   He lay unnoticed.
   Suddenly he flicked his tail,
   And a green-and-copper brightness
   Ran under the water.

   Out from under the reeds
   Came the olive-green light,
   And orange flashed up
   Through the sun-thickened water.
   So the fish passed across the pool,
   Green and copper,
   A darkness and a gleam,
   And the blurred reflections of the willows on the opposite bank
   Received it.

The Blue Scarf

   Pale, with the blue of high zeniths, shimmered over with silver, brocaded
   In smooth, running patterns, a soft stuff, with dark knotted fringes,
     it lies there,
   Warm from a woman's soft shoulders, and my fingers close on it, caressing.
   Where is she, the woman who wore it?  The scent of her lingers and drugs me!
   A languor, fire-shotted, runs through me, and I crush the scarf down
     on my face,
   And gulp in the warmth and the blueness, and my eyes swim
     in cool-tinted heavens.
   Around me are columns of marble, and a diapered, sun-flickered pavement.
   Rose-leaves blow and patter against it.  Below the stone steps a lute tinkles.
   A jar of green jade throws its shadow half over the floor.  A big-bellied
   Frog hops through the sunlight and plops in the gold-bubbled water of a basin,
   Sunk in the black and white marble.  The west wind has lifted a scarf
   On the seat close beside me, the blue of it is a violent outrage of colour.
   She draws it more closely about her, and it ripples beneath
     her slight stirring.
   Her kisses are sharp buds of fire; and I burn back against her, a jewel
   Hard and white; a stalked, flaming flower; till I break to
     a handful of cinders,
   And open my eyes to the scarf, shining blue in the afternoon sunshine.

   How loud clocks can tick when a room is empty, and one is alone!

White and Green

   Hey!  My daffodil-crowned,
   Slim and without sandals!
   As the sudden spurt of flame upon darkness
   So my eyeballs are startled with you,
   Supple-limbed youth among the fruit-trees,
   Light runner through tasselled orchards.
   You are an almond flower unsheathed
   Leaping and flickering between the budded branches.


   As I would free the white almond from the green husk
   So would I strip your trappings off,
   And fingering the smooth and polished kernel
   I should see that in my hands glittered a gem beyond counting.


   The neighbour sits in his window and plays the flute.
   From my bed I can hear him,
   And the round notes flutter and tap about the room,
   And hit against each other,
   Blurring to unexpected chords.
   It is very beautiful,
   With the little flute-notes all about me,
   In the darkness.

   In the daytime,
   The neighbour eats bread and onions with one hand
   And copies music with the other.
   He is fat and has a bald head,
   So I do not look at him,
   But run quickly past his window.
   There is always the sky to look at,
   Or the water in the well!

   But when night comes and he plays his flute,
   I think of him as a young man,
   With gold seals hanging from his watch,
   And a blue coat with silver buttons.
   As I lie in my bed
   The flute-notes push against my ears and lips,
   And I go to sleep, dreaming.

A Lady

   You are beautiful and faded
   Like an old opera tune
   Played upon a harpsichord;
   Or like the sun-flooded silks
   Of an eighteenth-century boudoir.
   In your eyes
   Smoulder the fallen roses of out-lived minutes,
   And the perfume of your soul
   Is vague and suffusing,
   With the pungence of sealed spice-jars.
   Your half-tones delight me,
   And I grow mad with gazing
   At your blent colours.

   My vigour is a new-minted penny,
   Which I cast at your feet.
   Gather it up from the dust,
   That its sparkle may amuse you.

In a Garden

   Gushing from the mouths of stone men
   To spread at ease under the sky
   In granite-lipped basins,
   Where iris dabble their feet
   And rustle to a passing wind,
   The water fills the garden with its rushing,
   In the midst of the quiet of close-clipped lawns.

   Damp smell the ferns in tunnels of stone,
   Where trickle and plash the fountains,
   Marble fountains, yellowed with much water.

   Splashing down moss-tarnished steps
   It falls, the water;
   And the air is throbbing with it.
   With its gurgling and running.
   With its leaping, and deep, cool murmur.

   And I wished for night and you.
   I wanted to see you in the swimming-pool,
   White and shining in the silver-flecked water.
   While the moon rode over the garden,
   High in the arch of night,
   And the scent of the lilacs was heavy with stillness.

   Night, and the water, and you in your whiteness, bathing!

A Tulip Garden

   Guarded within the old red wall's embrace,
    Marshalled like soldiers in gay company,
    The tulips stand arrayed.  Here infantry
   Wheels out into the sunlight.  What bold grace
   Sets off their tunics, white with crimson lace!
    Here are platoons of gold-frocked cavalry,
    With scarlet sabres tossing in the eye
   Of purple batteries, every gun in place.
    Forward they come, with flaunting colours spread,
   With torches burning, stepping out in time
    To some quick, unheard march.  Our ears are dead,
   We cannot catch the tune.  In pantomime
    Parades that army.  With our utmost powers
    We hear the wind stream through a bed of flowers.

[End of original text.]


  After Hearing a Waltz by Bartok:
    Originally:  After Hearing a Waltz by Bartók:

  A Blockhead:
    "There are non, ever.  As a monk who prays"
      changed to:
    "There are none, ever.  As a monk who prays"

  A Tale of Starvation:
    "And he neither eat nor drank."
      changed to:
    "And he neither ate nor drank."

  The Great Adventure of Max Breuck:
    Stanza headings were originally Roman Numerals.

  The Book of Hours of Sister Clotilde:
    The following names are presented in this etext sans accents:
    Marguérite, Angélique, Véronique, Franc,ois.

The following unconnected lines in the etext are presented sans accents:

  The factory of Sèvres had lent
  Strange wingéd dragons writhe about
   And rich perfuméd smells
  A faëry moonshine washing pale the crowds
  Our eyes will close to undisturbéd rest.
  And terror-wingéd steps.  His heart began
      On the stripéd ground

Some books by Amy Lowell:

    A Critical Fable
  * A Dome of Many-Coloured Glass (1912)
  * Sword Blades and Poppy Seed (1914)
  * Men, Women and Ghosts (1916)
    Can Grande's Castle (1918)
    Pictures of the Floating World (1919)
    Legends (1921)
    What's O'Clock (1925)
    East Wind
    Ballads For Sale

  (In collaboration with Florence Ayscough)
    Fir-Flower Tablets:  Poems Translated from the Chinese (1921)
    John Keats
    Six French Poets:  Studies in Contemporary Literature (1915)
    Tendencies in Modern American Poetry (1917)

* Now available online from Project Gutenberg.

About the author:

From the notes to "The Second Book of Modern Verse" (1919, 1920), edited by Jessie B. Rittenhouse.

Lowell, Amy. Born in Brookline, Mass., Feb. 9, 1874. Educated at private schools. Author of "A Dome of Many-Coloured Glass", 1912; "Sword Blades and Poppy Seed", 1914; "Men, Women and Ghosts", 1916; "Can Grande's Castle", 1918; "Pictures of the Floating World", 1919. Editor of the three successive collections of "Some Imagist Poets", 1915, '16, and '17, containing the early work of the "Imagist School" of which Miss Lowell became the leader. This movement,... originated in England, the idea have been first conceived by a young poet named T. E. Hulme, but developed and put forth by Ezra Pound in an article called "Don'ts by an Imagist", which appeared in `Poetry; A Magazine of Verse'. ... A small group of poets gathered about Mr. Pound, experimenting along the technical lines suggested, and a cult of "Imagism" was formed, whose first group-expression was in the little volume, "Des Imagistes", published in New York in April, 1914. Miss Lowell did not come actively into the movement until after that time, but once she had entered it, she became its leader, and it was chiefly through her effort in America that the movement attained so much prominence and so influenced the trend of poetry for the years immediately succeeding. Miss Lowell many times, in admirable articles, stated the principles upon which Imagism is based, notably in the Preface to "Some Imagist Poets" and in the Preface to the second series, in 1916. She also elaborated it much more fully in her volume, "Tendencies in Modern American Poetry", 1917, in the articles pertaining to the work of "H.D." and John Gould Fletcher. In her own creative work, however, Miss Lowell did most to establish the possibilities of the Imagistic idea and of its modes of presentation, and opened up many interesting avenues of poetic form. Her volume, "Can Grande's Castle", is devoted to work in the medium which she styled "Polyphonic Prose" and contains some of her finest work, particularly "The Bronze Horses".