The Project Gutenberg EBook of Second April, by Edna St. Vincent Millay

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Title: Second April

Author: Edna St. Vincent Millay

Release Date: August 13, 2008 [EBook #1247]
Last Updated: February 6, 2013

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII


Produced by Judy Boss, and David Widger


By Edna St. Vincent Millay












































     To what purpose, April, do you return again?
     Beauty is not enough.
     You can no longer quiet me with the redness
     Of little leaves opening stickily.
     I know what I know.
     The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
     The spikes of the crocus.
     The smell of the earth is good.
     It is apparent that there is no death.
     But what does that signify?
     Not only under ground are the brains of men
     Eaten by maggots,
     Life in itself
     Is nothing,
     An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
     It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
     Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.


     The trees along this city street,
       Save for the traffic and the trains,
     Would make a sound as thin and sweet
       As trees in country lanes.

     And people standing in their shade
       Out of a shower, undoubtedly
     Would hear such music as is made
       Upon a country tree.

     Oh, little leaves that are so dumb
       Against the shrieking city air,
     I watch you when the wind has come,—
       I know what sound is there.


     God had called us, and we came;
       Our loved Earth to ashes left;
     Heaven was a neighbor's house,
       Open to us, bereft.

     Gay the lights of Heaven showed,
       And 'twas God who walked ahead;
     Yet I wept along the road,
       Wanting my own house instead.

     Wept unseen, unheeded cried,
       "All you things my eyes have kissed,
     Fare you well!  We meet no more,
       Lovely, lovely tattered mist!

     Weary wings that rise and fall
       All day long above the fire!"—
     Red with heat was every wall,
       Rough with heat was every wire—

     "Fare you well, you little winds
       That the flying embers chase!
     Fare you well, you shuddering day,
       With your hands before your face!

     And, ah, blackened by strange blight,
       Or to a false sun unfurled,
     Now forevermore goodbye,
       All the gardens in the world!

     On the windless hills of Heaven,
       That I have no wish to see,
     White, eternal lilies stand,
       By a lake of ebony.

     But the Earth forevermore
       Is a place where nothing grows,—
     Dawn will come, and no bud break;
       Evening, and no blossom close.

     Spring will come, and wander slow
       Over an indifferent land,
     Stand beside an empty creek,
       Hold a dead seed in her hand."

     God had called us, and we came,
       But the blessed road I trod
     Was a bitter road to me,
       And at heart I questioned God.

     "Though in Heaven," I said, "be all
       That the heart would most desire,
     Held Earth naught save souls of sinners
       Worth the saving from a fire?

     Withered grass,—the wasted growing!
       Aimless ache of laden boughs!"
     Little things God had forgotten
       Called me, from my burning house.

     "Though in Heaven," I said, "be all
       That the eye could ask to see,
     All the things I ever knew
       Are this blaze in back of me."

     "Though in Heaven," I said, "be all
       That the ear could think to lack,
     All the things I ever knew
       Are this roaring at my back."

     It was God who walked ahead,
       Like a shepherd to the fold;
     In his footsteps fared the weak,
       And the weary and the old,

     Glad enough of gladness over,
       Ready for the peace to be,—
     But a thing God had forgotten
       Was the growing bones of me.

     And I drew a bit apart,
       And I lagged a bit behind,
     And I thought on Peace Eternal,
       Lest He look into my mind:

     And I gazed upon the sky,
       And I thought of Heavenly Rest,—
     And I slipped away like water
       Through the fingers of the blest!

     All their eyes were fixed on Glory,
       Not a glance brushed over me;
     "Alleluia!  Alleluia!"
       Up the road,—and I was free.

     And my heart rose like a freshet,
       And it swept me on before,
     Giddy as a whirling stick,
       Till I felt the earth once more.

     All the earth was charred and black,
       Fire had swept from pole to pole;
     And the bottom of the sea
       Was as brittle as a bowl;

     And the timbered mountain-top
       Was as naked as a skull,—
     Nothing left, nothing left,
       Of the Earth so beautiful!

     "Earth," I said, "how can I leave you?"
       "You are all I have," I said;
     "What is left to take my mind up,
       Living always, and you dead?"

     "Speak!" I said, "Oh, tell me something!
       Make a sign that I can see!
     For a keepsake!  To keep always!
       Quick!—before God misses me!"

     And I listened for a voice;—
       But my heart was all I heard;
     Not a screech-owl, not a loon,
       Not a tree-toad said a word.

     And I waited for a sign;—
       Coals and cinders, nothing more;
     And a little cloud of smoke
       Floating on a valley floor.

     And I peered into the smoke
       Till it rotted, like a fog:—
     There, encompassed round by fire,
       Stood a blue-flag in a bog!

     Little flames came wading out,
       Straining, straining towards its stem,
     But it was so blue and tall
       That it scorned to think of them!

     Red and thirsty were their tongues,
       As the tongues of wolves must be,
     But it was so blue and tall—
       Oh, I laughed, I cried, to see!

     All my heart became a tear,
       All my soul became a tower,
     Never loved I anything
       As I loved that tall blue flower!

     It was all the little boats
       That had ever sailed the sea,
     It was all the little books
       That had gone to school with me;

     On its roots like iron claws
       Rearing up so blue and tall,—
     It was all the gallant Earth
       With its back against a wall!

     In a breath, ere I had breathed,—
       Oh, I laughed, I cried, to see!—
     I was kneeling at its side,
       And it leaned its head on me!

     Crumbling stones and sliding sand
       Is the road to Heaven now;
     Icy at my straining knees
       Drags the awful under-tow;

     Soon but stepping-stones of dust
       Will the road to Heaven be,—
     Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
       Reach a hand and rescue me!

     "There—there, my blue-flag flower;
       Hush—hush—go to sleep;
     That is only God you hear,
       Counting up His folded sheep!

       That is only God that calls,
     Missing me, seeking me,
       Ere the road to nothing falls!

     He will set His mighty feet
       Firmly on the sliding sand;
     Like a little frightened bird
       I will creep into His hand;

     I will tell Him all my grief,
       I will tell Him all my sin;
     He will give me half His robe
       For a cloak to wrap you in.

       Rocks the burnt-out planet free!—
     Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
       Reach a hand and rescue me!

     Ah, the voice of love at last!
       Lo, at last the face of light!
     And the whole of His white robe
       For a cloak against the night!

     And upon my heart asleep
       All the things I ever knew!—
     "Holds Heaven not some cranny, Lord,
       For a flower so tall and blue?"

     All's well and all's well!
       Gay the lights of Heaven show!
     In some moist and Heavenly place
       We will set it out to grow.


     Ah, could I lay me down in this long grass
     And close my eyes, and let the quiet wind
     Blow over me—I am so tired, so tired
     Of passing pleasant places!  All my life,
     Following Care along the dusty road,
     Have I looked back at loveliness and sighed;
     Yet at my hand an unrelenting hand
     Tugged ever, and I passed.  All my life long
     Over my shoulder have I looked at peace;
     And now I fain would lie in this long grass
     And close my eyes.
                        Yet onward!
                                    Cat birds call
     Through the long afternoon, and creeks at dusk
     Are guttural.  Whip-poor-wills wake and cry,
     Drawing the twilight close about their throats.
     Only my heart makes answer.  Eager vines
     Go up the rocks and wait; flushed apple-trees
     Pause in their dance and break the ring for me;
     Dim, shady wood-roads, redolent of fern
     And bayberry, that through sweet bevies thread
     Of round-faced roses, pink and petulant,
     Look back and beckon ere they disappear.
     Only my heart, only my heart responds.
     Yet, ah, my path is sweet on either side
     All through the dragging day,—sharp underfoot
     And hot, and like dead mist the dry dust hangs—
     But far, oh, far as passionate eye can reach,
     And long, ah, long as rapturous eye can cling,
     The world is mine: blue hill, still silver lake,
     Broad field, bright flower, and the long white road
     A gateless garden, and an open path:
     My feet to follow, and my heart to hold.


     No matter what I say,
       All that I really love
     Is the rain that flattens on the bay,
       And the eel-grass in the cove;
     The jingle-shells that lie and bleach
       At the tide-line, and the trace
     Of higher tides along the beach:
       Nothing in this place.


     There will be rose and rhododendron
       When you are dead and under ground;
     Still will be heard from white syringas
       Heavy with bees, a sunny sound;

     Still will the tamaracks be raining
       After the rain has ceased, and still
     Will there be robins in the stubble,
       Brown sheep upon the warm green hill.

     Spring will not ail nor autumn falter;
       Nothing will know that you are gone,
     Saving alone some sullen plough-land
       None but yourself sets foot upon;

     Saving the may-weed and the pig-weed
       Nothing will know that you are dead,—
     These, and perhaps a useless wagon
       Standing beside some tumbled shed.

     Oh, there will pass with your great passing
       Little of beauty not your own,—
     Only the light from common water,
       Only the grace from simple stone!


     Ho, Giant!  This is I!
     I have built me a bean-stalk into your sky!
     La,—but it's lovely, up so high!

     This is how I came,—I put
     Here my knee, there my foot,
     Up and up, from shoot to shoot—
     And the blessed bean-stalk thinning
     Like the mischief all the time,
     Till it took me rocking, spinning,
     In a dizzy, sunny circle,
     Making angles with the root,
     Far and out above the cackle
     Of the city I was born in,
     Till the little dirty city
     In the light so sheer and sunny
     Shone as dazzling bright and pretty
     As the money that you find
     In a dream of finding money—
     What a wind!  What a morning!—

     Till the tiny, shiny city,
     When I shot a glance below,
     Shaken with a giddy laughter,
     Sick and blissfully afraid,
     Was a dew-drop on a blade,
     And a pair of moments after
     Was the whirling guess I made,—
     And the wind was like a whip

     Cracking past my icy ears,
     And my hair stood out behind,
     And my eyes were full of tears,
     Wide-open and cold,
     More tears than they could hold,
     The wind was blowing so,
     And my teeth were in a row,
     Dry and grinning,
     And I felt my foot slip,
     And I scratched the wind and whined,
     And I clutched the stalk and jabbered,
     With my eyes shut blind,—
     What a wind!  What a wind!

     Your broad sky, Giant,
     Is the shelf of a cupboard;
     I make bean-stalks, I'm
     A builder, like yourself,
     But bean-stalks is my trade,
     I couldn't make a shelf,
     Don't know how they're made,
     Now, a bean-stalk is more pliant—
     La, what a climb!


     White with daisies and red with sorrel
       And empty, empty under the sky!—
     Life is a quest and love a quarrel—
       Here is a place for me to lie.

     Daisies spring from damned seeds,
       And this red fire that here I see
     Is a worthless crop of crimson weeds,
       Cursed by farmers thriftily.

     But here, unhated for an hour,
       The sorrel runs in ragged flame,
     The daisy stands, a bastard flower,
       Like flowers that bear an honest name.

     And here a while, where no wind brings
       The baying of a pack athirst,
     May sleep the sleep of blessed things,
       The blood too bright, the brow accurst.


     Death devours all lovely things;
       Lesbia with her sparrow
     Shares the darkness,—presently
       Every bed is narrow.

     Unremembered as old rain
       Dries the sheer libation,
     And the little petulant hand
       Is an annotation.

     After all, my erstwhile dear,
       My no longer cherished,
     Need we say it was not love,
       Now that love is perished?


     If it were only still!—
     With far away the shrill
     Crying of a cock;
     Or the shaken bell
     From a cow's throat
     Moving through the bushes;
     Or the soft shock
     Of wizened apples falling
     From an old tree
     In a forgotten orchard
     Upon the hilly rock!

     Oh, grey hill,
     Where the grazing herd
     Licks the purple blossom,
     Crops the spiky weed!
     Oh, stony pasture,
     Where the tall mullein
     Stands up so sturdy
     On its little seed!



     I had forgotten how the frogs must sound
     After a year of silence, else I think
     I should not so have ventured forth alone
     At dusk upon this unfrequented road.

     I am waylaid by Beauty.  Who will walk
     Between me and the crying of the frogs?
     Oh, savage Beauty, suffer me to pass,
     That am a timid woman, on her way
     From one house to another!


     The railroad track is miles away,
       And the day is loud with voices speaking,
     Yet there isn't a train goes by all day
       But I hear its whistle shrieking.

     All night there isn't a train goes by,
       Though the night is still for sleep and dreaming
     But I see its cinders red on the sky,
       And hear its engine steaming.

     My heart is warm with the friends I make,
       And better friends I'll not be knowing,
     Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take,
       No matter where it's going.


     These wet rocks where the tide has been,
       Barnacled white and weeded brown
     And slimed beneath to a beautiful green,
       These wet rocks where the tide went down
     Will show again when the tide is high
       Faint and perilous, far from shore,
     No place to dream, but a place to die,—
       The bottom of the sea once more.
     There was a child that wandered through
       A giant's empty house all day,—
     House full of wonderful things and new,
       But no fit place for a child to play.


     April this year, not otherwise
       Than April of a year ago,
     Is full of whispers, full of sighs,
       Of dazzling mud and dingy snow;
       Hepaticas that pleased you so
     Are here again, and butterflies.

     There rings a hammering all day,
       And shingles lie about the doors;
     In orchards near and far away
       The grey wood-pecker taps and bores;
       The men are merry at their chores,
     And children earnest at their play.

     The larger streams run still and deep,
       Noisy and swift the small brooks run
     Among the mullein stalks the sheep
       Go up the hillside in the sun,
       Pensively,—only you are gone,
     You that alone I cared to keep.


     For the sake of some things
       That be now no more
     I will strew rushes
       On my chamber-floor,
     I will plant bergamot
       At my kitchen-door.

     For the sake of dim things
       That were once so plain
     I will set a barrel
       Out to catch the rain,
     I will hang an iron pot
       On an iron crane.

     Many things be dead and gone
       That were brave and gay;
     For the sake of these things
       I will learn to say,
     "An it please you, gentle sirs,"
       "Alack!" and "Well-a-day!"


     Down, you mongrel, Death!
       Back into your kennel!
     I have stolen breath
       In a stalk of fennel!
     You shall scratch and you shall whine
       Many a night, and you shall worry
       Many a bone, before you bury
     One sweet bone of mine!

     When shall I be dead?
       When my flesh is withered,
     And above my head
       Yellow pollen gathered
     All the empty afternoon?
       When sweet lovers pause and wonder
       Who am I that lie thereunder,
     Hidden from the moon?

     This my personal death?—
       That lungs be failing
     To inhale the breath
       Others are exhaling?
     This my subtle spirit's end?—
       Ah, when the thawed winter splashes
       Over these chance dust and ashes,
     Weep not me, my friend!

     Me, by no means dead
       In that hour, but surely
     When this book, unread,
       Rots to earth obscurely,
     And no more to any breast,
       Close against the clamorous swelling
       Of the thing there is no telling,
     Are these pages pressed!

     When this book is mould,
       And a book of many
     Waiting to be sold
       For a casual penny,
     In a little open case,
       In a street unclean and cluttered,
       Where a heavy mud is spattered
     From the passing drays,

     Stranger, pause and look;
       From the dust of ages
     Lift this little book,
       Turn the tattered pages,
     Read me, do not let me die!
       Search the fading letters, finding
       Steadfast in the broken binding
     All that once was I!

     When these veins are weeds,
       When these hollowed sockets
     Watch the rooty seeds
       Bursting down like rockets,
     And surmise the spring again,
       Or, remote in that black cupboard,
       Watch the pink worms writhing upward
     At the smell of rain,

     Boys and girls that lie
       Whispering in the hedges,
     Do not let me die,
       Mix me with your pledges;
     Boys and girls that slowly walk
       In the woods, and weep, and quarrel,
       Staring past the pink wild laurel,
     Mix me with your talk,

     Do not let me die!
       Farmers at your raking,
     When the sun is high,
       While the hay is making,
     When, along the stubble strewn,
       Withering on their stalks uneaten,
       Strawberries turn dark and sweeten
     In the lapse of noon;

     Shepherds on the hills,
       In the pastures, drowsing
     To the tinkling bells
       Of the brown sheep browsing;
     Sailors crying through the storm;
       Scholars at your study; hunters
       Lost amid the whirling winter's
     Whiteness uniform;

     Men that long for sleep;
       Men that wake and revel;—
     If an old song leap
       To your senses' level
     At such moments, may it be
       Sometimes, though a moment only,
       Some forgotten, quaint and homely
     Vehicle of me!

     Women at your toil,
       Women at your leisure
     Till the kettle boil,
       Snatch of me your pleasure,
     Where the broom-straw marks the leaf;
       Women quiet with your weeping
       Lest you wake a workman sleeping,
     Mix me with your grief!

     Boys and girls that steal
       From the shocking laughter
     Of the old, to kneel
       By a dripping rafter
     Under the discolored eaves,
       Out of trunks with hingeless covers
       Lifting tales of saints and lovers,
     Travelers, goblins, thieves,

     Suns that shine by night,
       Mountains made from valleys,—
     Bear me to the light,
       Flat upon your bellies
     By the webby window lie,
       Where the little flies are crawling,—
       Read me, margin me with scrawling,
     Do not let me die!

     Sexton, ply your trade!
       In a shower of gravel
     Stamp upon your spade!
       Many a rose shall ravel,
     Many a metal wreath shall rust
       In the rain, and I go singing
       Through the lots where you are flinging
     Yellow clay on dust!


     My heart is what it was before,
       A house where people come and go;
     But it is winter with your love,
       The sashes are beset with snow.

     I light the lamp and lay the cloth,
       I blow the coals to blaze again;
     But it is winter with your love,
       The frost is thick upon the pane.

     I know a winter when it comes:
       The leaves are listless on the boughs;
     I watched your love a little while,
       And brought my plants into the house.

     I water them and turn them south,
       I snap the dead brown from the stem;
     But it is winter with your love,—
       I only tend and water them.

     There was a time I stood and watched
       The small, ill-natured sparrows' fray;
     I loved the beggar that I fed,
       I cared for what he had to say,

     I stood and watched him out of sight;
       Today I reach around the door
     And set a bowl upon the step;
       My heart is what it was before,

     But it is winter with your love;
       I scatter crumbs upon the sill,
     And close the window,—and the birds
       May take or leave them, as they will.


     People that build their houses inland,
       People that buy a plot of ground
     Shaped like a house, and build a house there,
       Far from the sea-board, far from the sound

     Of water sucking the hollow ledges,
       Tons of water striking the shore,—
     What do they long for, as I long for
       One salt smell of the sea once more?

     People the waves have not awakened,
       Spanking the boats at the harbor's head,
     What do they long for, as I long for,—
       Starting up in my inland bed,

     Beating the narrow walls, and finding
       Neither a window nor a door,
     Screaming to God for death by drowning,—
       One salt taste of the sea once more?


     Minstrel, what have you to do
     With this man that, after you,
     Sharing not your happy fate,
     Sat as England's Laureate?
     Vainly, in these iron days,
     Strives the poet in your praise,
     Minstrel, by whose singing side
     Beauty walked, until you died.

     Still, though none should hark again,
     Drones the blue-fly in the pane,
     Thickly crusts the blackest moss,
     Blows the rose its musk across,
     Floats the boat that is forgot
     None the less to Camelot.

     Many a bard's untimely death
     Lends unto his verses breath;
     Here's a song was never sung:
     Growing old is dying young.
     Minstrel, what is this to you:
     That a man you never knew,
     When your grave was far and green,
     Sat and gossipped with a queen?

     Thalia knows how rare a thing
     Is it, to grow old and sing;
     When a brown and tepid tide
     Closes in on every side.
     Who shall say if Shelley's gold
     Had withstood it to grow old?


     "Thin Rain, whom are you haunting,
       That you haunt my door?"
     —Surely it is not I she's wanting;
       Someone living here before—
     "Nobody's in the house but me:
     You may come in if you like and see."

     Thin as thread, with exquisite fingers,—
       Have you seen her, any of you?—
     Grey shawl, and leaning on the wind,
       And the garden showing through?

     Glimmering eyes,—and silent, mostly,
       Sort of a whisper, sort of a purr,
     Asking something, asking it over,
       If you get a sound from her.—

     Ever see her, any of you?—
       Strangest thing I've ever known,—
     Every night since I moved in,
       And I came to be alone.

     "Thin Rain, hush with your knocking!
       You may not come in!
     This is I that you hear rocking;
       Nobody's with me, nor has been!"

     Curious, how she tried the window,—
       Odd, the way she tries the door,—
     Wonder just what sort of people
       Could have had this house before . . .


     I know what my heart is like
       Since your love died:
     It is like a hollow ledge
     Holding a little pool
       Left there by the tide,
       A little tepid pool,
     Drying inward from the edge.


     OH, come again to Astolat!
       I will not ask you to be kind.
     And you may go when you will go,
       And I will stay behind.

     I will not say how dear you are,
       Or ask you if you hold me dear,
     Or trouble you with things for you
       The way I did last year.

     So still the orchard, Lancelot,
       So very still the lake shall be,
     You could not guess—though you should guess—
       What is become of me.

     So wide shall be the garden-walk,
       The garden-seat so very wide,
     You needs must think—if you should think—
       The lily maid had died.

     Save that, a little way away,
       I'd watch you for a little while,
     To see you speak, the way you speak,
       And smile,—if you should smile.


     Mine is a body that should die at sea!
       And have for a grave, instead of a grave
     Six feet deep and the length of me,
       All the water that is under the wave!

     And terrible fishes to seize my flesh,
       Such as a living man might fear,
     And eat me while I am firm and fresh,—
       Not wait till I've been dead for a year!


     Butterflies are white and blue
     In this field we wander through.
     Suffer me to take your hand.
     Death comes in a day or two.

     All the things we ever knew
     Will be ashes in that hour,
     Mark the transient butterfly,
     How he hangs upon the flower.

     Suffer me to take your hand.
     Suffer me to cherish you
     Till the dawn is in the sky.
     Whether I be false or true,
     Death comes in a day or two.


     OH, here the air is sweet and still,
       And soft's the grass to lie on;
     And far away's the little hill
       They took for Christ to die on.

     And there's a hill across the brook,
       And down the brook's another;
     But, oh, the little hill they took,—
       I think I am its mother!

     The moon that saw Gethsemane,
       I watch it rise and set:
     It has so many things to see,
       They help it to forget.

     But little hills that sit at home
       So many hundred years,
     Remember Greece, remember Rome,
       Remember Mary's tears.

     And far away in Palestine,
       Sadder than any other,
     Grieves still the hill that I call mine,—
       I think I am its mother!


     Doubt no more that Oberon—
     Never doubt that Pan
     Lived, and played a reed, and ran
     After nymphs in a dark forest,
     In the merry, credulous days,—
     Lived, and led a fairy band
     Over the indulgent land!
     Ah, for in this dourest, sorest
     Age man's eye has looked upon,
     Death to fauns and death to fays,
     Still the dog-wood dares to raise—
     Healthy tree, with trunk and root—
     Ivory bowls that bear no fruit,
     And the starlings and the jays—
     Birds that cannot even sing—
     Dare to come again in spring!


     Listen, children:
     Your father is dead.
     From his old coats
     I'll make you little jackets;
     I'll make you little trousers
     From his old pants.
     There'll be in his pockets
     Things he used to put there,
     Keys and pennies
     Covered with tobacco;
     Dan shall have the pennies
     To save in his bank;
     Anne shall have the keys
     To make a pretty noise with.
     Life must go on,
     And the dead be forgotten;
     Life must go on,
     Though good men die;
     Anne, eat your breakfast;
     Dan, take your medicine;
     Life must go on;
     I forget just why.


     Searching my heart for its true sorrow,
       This is the thing I find to be:
     That I am weary of words and people,
       Sick of the city, wanting the sea;

     Wanting the sticky, salty sweetness
       Of the strong wind and shattered spray;
     Wanting the loud sound and the soft sound
       Of the big surf that breaks all day.

     Always before about my dooryard,
       Marking the reach of the winter sea,
     Rooted in sand and dragging drift-wood,
       Straggled the purple wild sweet-pea;

     Always I climbed the wave at morning,
       Shook the sand from my shoes at night,
     That now am caught beneath great buildings,
       Stricken with noise, confused with light.

     If I could hear the green piles groaning
       Under the windy wooden piers,
     See once again the bobbing barrels,
       And the black sticks that fence the weirs,

     If I could see the weedy mussels
       Crusting the wrecked and rotting hulls,
     Hear once again the hungry crying
       Overhead, of the wheeling gulls,

     Feel once again the shanty straining
       Under the turning of the tide,
     Fear once again the rising freshet,
       Dread the bell in the fog outside,—

     I should be happy,—that was happy
       All day long on the coast of Maine!
     I have a need to hold and handle
       Shells and anchors and ships again!

     I should be happy, that am happy
       Never at all since I came here.
     I am too long away from water.
       I have a need of water near.


     When reeds are dead and a straw to thatch the marshes,
     And feathered pampas-grass rides into the wind
     Like aged warriors westward, tragic, thinned
     Of half their tribe, and over the flattened rushes,
     Stripped of its secret, open, stark and bleak,
     Blackens afar the half-forgotten creek,—
     Then leans on me the weight of the year, and crushes
     My heart.  I know that Beauty must ail and die,
     And will be born again,—but ah, to see
     Beauty stiffened, staring up at the sky!
     Oh, Autumn!  Autumn!—What is the Spring to me?


       Aye, but she?
       Your other sister and my other soul
       Grave Silence, lovelier
       Than the three loveliest maidens, what of her?
       Clio, not you,
       Not you, Calliope,
       Nor all your wanton line,
       Not Beauty's perfect self shall comfort me
       For Silence once departed,
       For her the cool-tongued, her the tranquil-hearted,
       Whom evermore I follow wistfully,
     Wandering Heaven and Earth and Hell and the four seasons through;
     Thalia, not you,
     Not you, Melpomene,
     Not your incomparable feet, O thin Terpsichore,
     I seek in this great hall,
     But one more pale, more pensive, most beloved of you all.
     I seek her from afar,
     I come from temples where her altars are,
     From groves that bear her name,
     Noisy with stricken victims now and sacrificial flame,
     And cymbals struck on high and strident faces
     Obstreperous in her praise
     They neither love nor know,
     A goddess of gone days,
     Departed long ago,
     Abandoning the invaded shrines and fanes
     Of her old sanctuary,
     A deity obscure and legendary,
     Of whom there now remains,
     For sages to decipher and priests to garble,
     Only and for a little while her letters wedged in marble,
     Which even now, behold, the friendly mumbling rain erases,
     And the inarticulate snow,
     Leaving at last of her least signs and traces
     None whatsoever, nor whither she is vanished from these places.
     "She will love well," I said,
     "If love be of that heart inhabiter,
     The flowers of the dead;
     The red anemone that with no sound
     Moves in the wind, and from another wound
     That sprang, the heavily-sweet blue hyacinth,
     That blossoms underground,
     And sallow poppies, will be dear to her.
     And will not Silence know
     In the black shade of what obsidian steep
     Stiffens the white narcissus numb with sleep?
     (Seed which Demeter's daughter bore from home,
     Uptorn by desperate fingers long ago,
     Reluctant even as she,
     Undone Persephone,
     And even as she set out again to grow
     In twilight, in perdition's lean and inauspicious loam).
     She will love well," I said,
     "The flowers of the dead;
     Where dark Persephone the winter round,
     Uncomforted for home, uncomforted,
     Lacking a sunny southern slope in northern Sicily,
     With sullen pupils focussed on a dream,
     Stares on the stagnant stream
     That moats the unequivocable battlements of Hell,
     There, there will she be found,
     She that is Beauty veiled from men and Music in a swound."

     "I long for Silence as they long for breath
     Whose helpless nostrils drink the bitter sea;
     What thing can be
     So stout, what so redoubtable, in Death
     What fury, what considerable rage, if only she,
     Upon whose icy breast,
     Unquestioned, uncaressed,
     One time I lay,
     And whom always I lack,
     Even to this day,
     Being by no means from that frigid bosom weaned away,
     If only she therewith be given me back?"
     I sought her down that dolorous labyrinth,
     Wherein no shaft of sunlight ever fell,
     And in among the bloodless everywhere
     I sought her, but the air,
     Breathed many times and spent,
     Was fretful with a whispering discontent,
     And questioning me, importuning me to tell
     Some slightest tidings of the light of day they know no more,
     Plucking my sleeve, the eager shades were with me where I went.
     I paused at every grievous door,
     And harked a moment, holding up my hand,—and for a space
     A hush was on them, while they watched my face;
     And then they fell a-whispering as before;
     So that I smiled at them and left them, seeing she was not there.
     I sought her, too,
     Among the upper gods, although I knew
     She was not like to be where feasting is,
     Nor near to Heaven's lord,
     Being a thing abhorred
     And shunned of him, although a child of his,
     (Not yours, not yours; to you she owes not breath,
     Mother of Song, being sown of Zeus upon a dream of Death).
     Fearing to pass unvisited some place
     And later learn, too late, how all the while,
     With her still face,
     She had been standing there and seen me pass, without a smile,
     I sought her even to the sagging board whereat
     The stout immortals sat;
     But such a laughter shook the mighty hall
     No one could hear me say:
     Had she been seen upon the Hill that day?
     And no one knew at all
     How long I stood, or when at last I sighed and went away.

     There is a garden lying in a lull
     Between the mountains and the mountainous sea,
     I know not where, but which a dream diurnal
     Paints on my lids a moment till the hull
     Be lifted from the kernel
     And Slumber fed to me.
     Your foot-print is not there, Mnemosene,
     Though it would seem a ruined place and after
     Your lichenous heart, being full
     Of broken columns, caryatides
     Thrown to the earth and fallen forward on their jointless knees,
     And urns funereal altered into dust
     Minuter than the ashes of the dead,
     And Psyche's lamp out of the earth up-thrust,
     Dripping itself in marble wax on what was once the bed
     Of Love, and his young body asleep, but now is dust instead.

     There twists the bitter-sweet, the white wisteria
     Fastens its fingers in the strangling wall,
     And the wide crannies quicken with bright weeds;
     There dumbly like a worm all day the still white orchid feeds;
     But never an echo of your daughters' laughter
     Is there, nor any sign of you at all
     Swells fungous from the rotten bough, grey mother of Pieria!

     Only her shadow once upon a stone
     I saw,—and, lo, the shadow and the garden, too, were gone.

     I tell you you have done her body an ill,
     You chatterers, you noisy crew!
     She is not anywhere!
     I sought her in deep Hell;
     And through the world as well;
     I thought of Heaven and I sought her there;
     Above nor under ground
     Is Silence to be found,
     That was the very warp and woof of you,
     Lovely before your songs began and after they were through!
     Oh, say if on this hill
     Somewhere your sister's body lies in death,
     So I may follow there, and make a wreath
     Of my locked hands, that on her quiet breast
     Shall lie till age has withered them!

                             (Ah, sweetly from the rest
     I see
     Turn and consider me
     Compassionate Euterpe!)
     "There is a gate beyond the gate of Death,
     Beyond the gate of everlasting Life,
     Beyond the gates of Heaven and Hell," she saith,
     "Whereon but to believe is horror!
     Whereon to meditate engendereth
     Even in deathless spirits such as I
     A tumult in the breath,
     A chilling of the inexhaustible blood
     Even in my veins that never will be dry,
     And in the austere, divine monotony
     That is my being, the madness of an unaccustomed mood.

     This is her province whom you lack and seek;
     And seek her not elsewhere.
     Hell is a thoroughfare
     For pilgrims,—Herakles,
     And he that loved Euridice too well,
     Have walked therein; and many more than these;
     And witnessed the desire and the despair
     Of souls that passed reluctantly and sicken for the air;
     You, too, have entered Hell,
     And issued thence; but thence whereof I speak
     None has returned;—for thither fury brings
     Only the driven ghosts of them that flee before all things.
     Oblivion is the name of this abode: and she is there."

     Oh, radiant Song!  Oh, gracious Memory!
     Be long upon this height
     I shall not climb again!
     I know the way you mean,—the little night,
     And the long empty day,—never to see
     Again the angry light,
     Or hear the hungry noises cry my brain!
     Ah, but she,
     Your other sister and my other soul,
     She shall again be mine;
     And I shall drink her from a silver bowl,
     A chilly thin green wine,
     Not bitter to the taste,
     Not sweet,
     Not of your press, oh, restless, clamorous nine,—
     To foam beneath the frantic hoofs of mirth—
     But savoring faintly of the acid earth,
     And trod by pensive feet
     From perfect clusters ripened without haste
     Out of the urgent heat
     In some clear glimmering vaulted twilight under the odorous vine.

     Lift up your lyres!  Sing on!
     But as for me, I seek your sister whither she is gone.
     [VASSAR COLLEGE, 1918]
     Oh, loveliest throat of all sweet throats,
       Where now no more the music is,
     With hands that wrote you little notes
       I write you little elegies!


     Heap not on this mound
       Roses that she loved so well;
     Why bewilder her with roses,
       That she cannot see or smell?
     She is happy where she lies
       With the dust upon her eyes.


     Be to her, Persephone,
     All the things I might not be;
     Take her head upon your knee.
     She that was so proud and wild,
     Flippant, arrogant and free,
     She that had no need of me,
     Is a little lonely child
     Lost in Hell,—Persephone,
     Take her head upon your knee;
     Say to her, "My dear, my dear,
     It is not so dreadful here."


     Give away her gowns,
     Give away her shoes;
     She has no more use
     For her fragrant gowns;
     Take them all down,
     Blue, green, blue,
     Lilac, pink, blue,
     From their padded hangers;
     She will dance no more
     In her narrow shoes;
     Sweep her narrow shoes
     From the closet floor.


     Let them bury your big eyes
     In the secret earth securely,
     Your thin fingers, and your fair,
     Soft, indefinite-colored hair,—
     All of these in some way, surely,
     From the secret earth shall rise;
     Not for these I sit and stare,
     Broken and bereft completely;
     Your young flesh that sat so neatly
     On your little bones will sweetly
     Blossom in the air.

     But your voice,—never the rushing
     Of a river underground,
     Not the rising of the wind
     In the trees before the rain,
     Not the woodcock's watery call,
     Not the note the white-throat utters,
     Not the feet of children pushing
     Yellow leaves along the gutters
     In the blue and bitter fall,
     Shall content my musing mind
     For the beauty of that sound
     That in no new way at all
     Ever will be heard again.

     Sweetly through the sappy stalk
     Of the vigorous weed,
     Holding all it held before,
     Cherished by the faithful sun,
     On and on eternally
     Shall your altered fluid run,
     Bud and bloom and go to seed;
     But your singing days are done;
     But the music of your talk
     Never shall the chemistry
     Of the secret earth restore.
     All your lovely words are spoken.
     Once the ivory box is broken,
     Beats the golden bird no more.


     Boys and girls that held her dear,
       Do your weeping now;
     All you loved of her lies here.

     Brought to earth the arrogant brow,
       And the withering tongue
     Chastened; do your weeping now.

     Sing whatever songs are sung,
       Wind whatever wreath,
     For a playmate perished young,

     For a spirit spent in death.
     Boys and girls that held her dear,
     All you loved of her lies here.



     We talk of taxes, and I call you friend;
     Well, such you are,—but well enough we know
     How thick about us root, how rankly grow
     Those subtle weeds no man has need to tend,
     That flourish through neglect, and soon must send
     Perfume too sweet upon us and overthrow
     Our steady senses; how such matters go
     We are aware, and how such matters end.
     Yet shall be told no meagre passion here;
     With lovers such as we forevermore
     Isolde drinks the draught, and Guinevere
     Receives the Table's ruin through her door,
     Francesca, with the loud surf at her ear,
     Lets fall the colored book upon the floor.

     Into the golden vessel of great song
     Let us pour all our passion; breast to breast
     Let other lovers lie, in love and rest;
     Not we,—articulate, so, but with the tongue
     Of all the world: the churning blood, the long
     Shuddering quiet, the desperate hot palms pressed
     Sharply together upon the escaping guest,
     The common soul, unguarded, and grown strong.
     Longing alone is singer to the lute;
     Let still on nettles in the open sigh
     The minstrel, that in slumber is as mute
     As any man, and love be far and high,
     That else forsakes the topmost branch, a fruit
     Found on the ground by every passer-by.

     Not with libations, but with shouts and laughter
     We drenched the altars of Love's sacred grove,
     Shaking to earth green fruits, impatient after
     The launching of the colored moths of Love.
     Love's proper myrtle and his mother's zone
     We bound about our irreligious brows,
     And fettered him with garlands of our own,
     And spread a banquet in his frugal house.
     Not yet the god has spoken; but I fear
     Though we should break our bodies in his flame,
     And pour our blood upon his altar, here
     Henceforward is a grove without a name,
     A pasture to the shaggy goats of Pan,
     Whence flee forever a woman and a man.

     Only until this cigarette is ended,
     A little moment at the end of all,
     While on the floor the quiet ashes fall,
     And in the firelight to a lance extended,
     Bizarrely with the jazzing music blended,
     The broken shadow dances on the wall,
     I will permit my memory to recall
     The vision of you, by all my dreams attended.
     And then adieu,—farewell!—the dream is done.
     Yours is a face of which I can forget
     The color and the features, every one,
     The words not ever, and the smiles not yet;
     But in your day this moment is the sun
     Upon a hill, after the sun has set.

     Once more into my arid days like dew,
     Like wind from an oasis, or the sound
     Of cold sweet water bubbling underground,
     A treacherous messenger, the thought of you
     Comes to destroy me; once more I renew
     Firm faith in your abundance, whom I found
     Long since to be but just one other mound
     Of sand, whereon no green thing ever grew.
     And once again, and wiser in no wise,
     I chase your colored phantom on the air,
     And sob and curse and fall and weep and rise
     And stumble pitifully on to where,
     Miserable and lost, with stinging eyes,
     Once more I clasp,—and there is nothing there.

     No rose that in a garden ever grew,
     In Homer's or in Omar's or in mine,
     Though buried under centuries of fine
     Dead dust of roses, shut from sun and dew
     Forever, and forever lost from view,
     But must again in fragrance rich as wine
     The grey aisles of the air incarnadine
     When the old summers surge into a new.
     Thus when I swear, "I love with all my heart,"
     'Tis with the heart of Lilith that I swear,
     'Tis with the love of Lesbia and Lucrece;
     And thus as well my love must lose some part
     Of what it is, had Helen been less fair,
     Or perished young, or stayed at home in Greece.

     When I too long have looked upon your face,
     Wherein for me a brightness unobscured
     Save by the mists of brightness has its place,
     And terrible beauty not to be endured,
     I turn away reluctant from your light,
     And stand irresolute, a mind undone,
     A silly, dazzled thing deprived of sight
     From having looked too long upon the sun.
     Then is my daily life a narrow room
     In which a little while, uncertainly,
     Surrounded by impenetrable gloom,
     Among familiar things grown strange to me
     Making my way, I pause, and feel, and hark,
     Till I become accustomed to the dark.

     And you as well must die, beloved dust,
     And all your beauty stand you in no stead;
     This flawless, vital hand, this perfect head,
     This body of flame and steel, before the gust
     Of Death, or under his autumnal frost,
     Shall be as any leaf, be no less dead
     Than the first leaf that fell,—this wonder fled.
     Altered, estranged, disintegrated, lost.
     Nor shall my love avail you in your hour.
     In spite of all my love, you will arise
     Upon that day and wander down the air
     Obscurely as the unattended flower,
     It mattering not how beautiful you were,
     Or how beloved above all else that dies.

     Let you not say of me when I am old,
     In pretty worship of my withered hands
     Forgetting who I am, and how the sands
     Of such a life as mine run red and gold
     Even to the ultimate sifting dust, "Behold,
     Here walketh passionless age!"—for there expands
     A curious superstition in these lands,
     And by its leave some weightless tales are told.

     In me no lenten wicks watch out the night;
     I am the booth where Folly holds her fair;
     Impious no less in ruin than in strength,
     When I lie crumbled to the earth at length,
     Let you not say, "Upon this reverend site
     The righteous groaned and beat their breasts in prayer."

     Oh, my beloved, have you thought of this:
     How in the years to come unscrupulous Time,
     More cruel than Death, will tear you from my kiss,
     And make you old, and leave me in my prime?
     How you and I, who scale together yet
     A little while the sweet, immortal height
     No pilgrim may remember or forget,
     As sure as the world turns, some granite night
     Shall lie awake and know the gracious flame
     Gone out forever on the mutual stone;
     And call to mind that on the day you came
     I was a child, and you a hero grown?—
     And the night pass, and the strange morning break
     Upon our anguish for each other's sake!

     As to some lovely temple, tenantless
     Long since, that once was sweet with shivering brass,
     Knowing well its altars ruined and the grass
     Grown up between the stones, yet from excess
     Of grief hard driven, or great loneliness,
     The worshiper returns, and those who pass
     Marvel him crying on a name that was,—
     So is it now with me in my distress.
     Your body was a temple to Delight;
     Cold are its ashes whence the breath is fled,
     Yet here one time your spirit was wont to move;
     Here might I hope to find you day or night,
     And here I come to look for you, my love,
     Even now, foolishly, knowing you are dead.

     Cherish you then the hope I shall forget
     At length, my lord, Pieria?—put away
     For your so passing sake, this mouth of clay
     These mortal bones against my body set,
     For all the puny fever and frail sweat
     Of human love,—renounce for these, I say,
     The Singing Mountain's memory, and betray
     The silent lyre that hangs upon me yet?
     Ah, but indeed, some day shall you awake,
     Rather, from dreams of me, that at your side
     So many nights, a lover and a bride,
     But stern in my soul's chastity, have lain,
     To walk the world forever for my sake,
     And in each chamber find me gone again!


     I looked in my heart while the wild swans went over.
     And what did I see I had not seen before?
     Only a question less or a question more;
     Nothing to match the flight of wild birds flying.
     Tiresome heart, forever living and dying,
     House without air, I leave you and lock your door.
     Wild swans, come over the town, come over
     The town again, trailing your legs and crying!

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