Modernist Canadian Poets
Roses of Shadows
11th Aug 2013Posted in: Modernist Canadian Poets 0

[2 blank pages]

ROSES OF SHADOW
BY
ELISE AYLEN
WITH A FOREWORD BY
DUNCAN CAMPBELL SCOTT
“Why should poor Beauty indirectly seek
Roses of shadow,”

TORONTO:  THE MACMILLAN COMPANY OF
CANADA LIMITED, AT ST. MARTIN’S HOUSE
1930
[unnumbered page]

Copyright, Canada, 1930, by
ELISE AYLEN
PRINTED IN CANADA
T H. BEST PRINTING CO., LIMITED
TORONTO, ONT.
[unnumbered page]

FOREWORD

   It is difficult to write a foreword to a collection of poems so individual and so temperamental as these.  The medium of prose seems a trifle clumsy and one should, if he could, invent a less emphatic medium, a medium that would give opportunity for delicate meaning and inference and avoid dogmatic and precise expression.  But the phrase and the sentence are the only medium at hand, and if one can escape the peril of using the heavy vocabulary of current criticism all may be well.  I am not certain that there should be criticism; if by that term we mean studied examination of these poems, an attempt to appraise their value, to trace influences and to compare them with contemporary work of other youthful writers.  This book, let us hope, will be followed by others when experience will have given breadth and substance to a varied subject matter, and when the power of expression has been increased, but without loss of any of its delicacy or strength.  I will, if I am able, avoid criticism in its coarser meaning and use the sense which a long occupation with poetry has given me to touch lightly here and there upon qualities which I think are fine and which hold the promise of future development.  Miss Aylen in her [page iii] arrangement of the poems, which cover several but not many years of work, has placed in the forefront some of those in free verse and by this announces a preference.  But there are many poems in the accepted forms almost as good as the leaders and her allegiance is clearly divided between the two camps.  By nothing is free verse made so sure and sound as by a thorough practice in the rigid forms of verse, and while I think that the idea in “Moon Spell”, for example, would lose something of its delicate charm if cast in a stanza form, I think its fragility is kept together by experiments that went before.  You cannot dispense with art in poetry, and art is a hard mistress; but she is liberal with her rewards.  Much of the ugliness of current free verse arises from lack of practice in the older forms and if my advice were to be sought, I should advise poets to invent even more difficult forms within which to exercise their powers of invention.  Mastery is to be gained through severe discipline rather than through easy liberty.  The original stanza-form “Tryst”, difficult but successfully handled, has helped to make sure the broken rhythm of “Bird Song”.

Throughout the poems will be found a swift sensitiveness to beauty and a range of intense feeling, from deepest melancholy to unaffected delight.  Melancholy is a luxury of youth and is fully enjoyed in these pages.  “Roses of Shadow” is, therefore, an apt title for the book, roses of shadow have both perfume and colour, although the one may be faint and the other subdued; beauties may even be revealed by shadow.  With some of our greatest [page iv] women poets, Miss Aylen shares the distinction that her poems of sorrow are the finest.  One might wish for more hopefulness, for more joy in the life that she evidently finds so absorbing; but a talent cannot be disciplined at its source but must be left to develop at will.

It is apparent that the writer has broad sympathies in letters and arts and brings together much that has stimulated thought and reflection.  The measure of these sympathies may be observed in the sonnet to a picture of Botticelli and in the dithyrambic lines to a picture of Lawren Harris.  In these sharply contrasted poems the palm goes to the modern, to the native artist.  The poet feels herself closer to the rough Canadian scene than to the perfection of the Tuscan master.

I am glad to say there is a total absence of the conventional treatment of Nature.  The chromo-sonnet, the pale wash-drawing of sunset and trees will not be found.  Birds and flowers are not called by their names; the blood-root and the white-throat-sparrow  are never mentioned; yet Nature is here, treated as modern painters treat her, in the mass, in her severer aspects and with native vigour.  The use of that word, vigour, leads me to remark on the diction of the poems which is direct and masculine.

There is variety but under it all runs the tone of melancholy.  There are gleams of sunshine in “Return” and “Tryst”; excursions into the realm of fancy in “Extravaganza” and the closing poem “Allegory” is a cycle of feeling that begins as it ends [page v] in a lofty quietude.  Poetry sometimes impresses by its volume and sometimes by its intensity; sometimes by the wealth of its content and the breadth of its appeal; sometimes by the strength of its effect within narrow limits:  it is to the last in kind of these classes that Miss Aylen’s poems belong.  It may be said here is one of the children of this troubled time, whose sensibility to things personal and general is acute, who suffers on both grounds and who communicates her moody interest in the beauty of life.

D.C.S. [page vi]

CONTENTS

PAGE

FOREWORD

iii

BIRD SONG

1

MOON SPELL

3

AUTUMN HILL SONG

4

ABOVE LAKE SUPERIOR

5

LA REVENANTE

7

ANTARES

9

NEC TAMEN CONSUMEBATUR

10

NOVEMBER TRYST

11

DEATH CHANT

13

LOW TIDE

14

CASTAWAY

16

CHRYSALIS

18

CAIN

20

MADONNA COL FIGLIO

21

GOLGOTHA

23

WILD APPLE

24

PINE

26

VICTUS

27

EVENSONG

28

THE SEEKER

29

A TRYST

30

BEFORE PARTING

32

VENUS DI MILO

33

[page vii]

CONTENTS

PAGE

THE DREAM CHESTS

34

LYRICS FROM THE SONG OF SONGS

36

FALSE DAWN

38

REED SPELL

39

SPRING SONG

40

RONDEAU

41

A FRAGMENT

42

RETURN

43

THE SPELL

44

AT EVENING

45

SONG

46

EXTRAVAGANZA

47

PSYCHE

49

AFTER SUNSET

50

JEWEL SONG

51

“INNOCENCE DYING OF A BLOOD-STAIN”

52

TO AGE

53

ALLEGORY

55

[page viii]

BIRD SONG

The swallows perch at intervals
On the taut lines of the telegraph wires,
Winged notes	
Placed rarely and austerely,
Some old-world strain they seem,
Some plaintive chant, poignantly simple.

One note grave and solitary
Holds aloof on the lowest line,
Heavy with half-conscious meaning;
And one note strayed and wandering,
Here and there flutters, elusive,
Wistfully seeking to harmonize itself with its fellows.

There is troubling in my song,
Vague, quivering unrest.

The cadence throbs and wavers,—
While my eyes following its strange rhythm
Are cheated of the close;—
For one note,
The last note of all, stirs softly
And is lost in the mild light. [page 1]

Then as if heaven put forth a hand
And gathered up the song unto itself,
In one long, rapid sweep the notes lift
And leave bare the mute wires
Darkly drawn;—
Patiently waiting
Till with sudden beat and host of wings
Out of wide skies
Shall song be sent again.

Lost thoughts
Descend with subtle flight from your vague ether,
From hid mind-regions gathering;
Once more along my naked heart-strings
Thread your poignant notes,
Your thin, spare melody. [page 2]

 

.

 

MOON SPELL

The moon has set fire
To the icicles,—
Their jets of crystal flame
Are flickering at the house-eaves.
Strangely that spirit ray
Fell, frozen to stillness
And broke in pallid embers.
Frail hands stretch wanly
To the chill moon-kindling;
They come softly who gather
At this rime-pale hearth of night.
When a world is moon-spelled
Where shall we take comfort?
How come again to the sun-warmth,
When flame has dript and frozen
Round a naked heart? [page 3]

.

 

AUTUMN HILL SONG

I am a reed shaken by the wind,
Let me speak prophecy.
Lo, I am all things from everlasting.
I am the infinite mother
Conceiving the universe
On the breast of eternal god,
Exultant, in consuming fire.
I am god begetting colour
With the lust of his eyes
In his vast, primal intensity of passion;
God emerging from mystic solitude
And coming with the shouting stars
To take this flushed and panting world
He fashioned for a bride.
O Life inseparate—	
Let the winds breathe through me,
And the blue veins of the rivers
Pulse with the beating of my heart;
Lo, I am all things from everlasting. [page 4]

.

ABOVE LAKE SUPERIOR

ON A PICTURE BY LAWREN HARRIS

Ghost trees thrust swordlike through chill, bitter light,
Guard here the passage to the austere land
In pallid menace.	

Beyond, illimitably
The air is soundless as the sagging deeps
Where creep blind sea-things;
Moveless
These waters of silence weigh on the oppressed earth.

Fold on fold, long clouds wind shroudlike on the heavens,
Unbroken, ominous.

The hills crouched and taciturn
Brood heavily
As on some ancient, unassuageable wrong;
The stifling forests are flung sullenly upon them,
With twisting, myriad roots groped deeply.

Whose heart shall beat slowly and mightily
With the heart of this place? [page 5]
To whom can it be known?
Is the spirit of it a seer,
Some savage anchorite, emaciate.
Who ponders,
Folded closely in his blanket,
With his lips tightly drawn and his eyes fixed on eternity,
Mutely communing
With ultimate things?
Was it the birth land of the grim, uncouth gods
Brought forth by the Wilderness-Spirit?
This solitude
Which now they seek again, stricken,
Driven by an age estranged, unseeing.

Let the pale sword blades be held back for them.
Let them move through in their gaunt dignity, unshaken.
There gather in last council, voicelessly,
Till their slow breath dies out in the dull air
And their bones lie starkly with the rock-ribbed mountains.

What heart shall bare the meaning of these things?
When shall the death-bands of cloud be rent
And light issue in revelation?
Intently
The land waits. [page 6]

.

LA REVENANTE

The stark boards of the dance pavilion
Creak wanly	
With rude tread of stolid feet,
The air stales in the harsh glare,
The crude blare of the players
Hammers discord at dulled ears.

From without, gigantic, threatening,
The night creeps and sprawls on the threshold,
With scarred teeth of shadow gnawing at light.

Beauty isolate and unsearchable
Poised listlessly at the verging of two worlds,
Light sheaved and drooping on the breast of darkness,
In pale fire wavering torchlike at the gaping lintel,
Burning, brooding
               She stands
Like Brynhild pallid in the bower of Gudrun,
As Simonette in the streets of Florance,
Or Helen holding aloof from the gossip of Priam’s household.
Mute and unapproachable,
Immeasurably separate. [page 7] 

She stirs, and steps among the dancers;
The waters of life are troubled,
Enchantment spreads from her in furthering circles;
The world quivers, failing,
And star dust is shaken from heaven,
Frail star dust caught in her bright-folded hair.

Strange thoughts wave incense in her clouded eyes
Mystically;
Old worlds are quickening in her heart-beats;
Passionate and unappeasable
The ghosts of dead gods rise and walk in the dance  pavilion. [page 8]

.

ANTARES

Low-swung, fitfully burning,
The star of thy nativity,
Fevered and troubled,
What fate throbs and grimaces in this red smouldering?
Pluck it swiftly, the unreachable fire bloom,
And shrivel thy heart at the flame of it:
Tread upon it, this clutching scorpion,
And unnameable be the mockery of its sting.
Thy life—	
Dark things shall creep out of hidden places,
Beauty consume thee,
Pierced suddenly by torment
Unholy be thy death. [page 9]

.

NEC TAMEN CONSUMEBATUR

As flame
As a flame does it burn,
My love for you;
Candle flame pale and shaken,
Timidly flickering in a dark chamber.
Wild fire flinging pain-writhed shadow,
Leaping at heaven,
Lurid and inextinguishable.
Altar flame consumed in sacrifice,
Withdrawn and vestal
In the inmost temple.
And lastly as hearth fire
Steadily burning,
Giving forth warmth and comfort,
Assuring,
Trustful, unwavering,
Patiently burning,
So let it be—as hearth fire—
My love for you;
Till in the house of unseen building
The roof-tree shall fall on desolate embers,
With the blanched ashes
Rot to dust. [page 10]

.

NOVEMBER TRYST

I

Have we seized in love this moment
On the cliff’s verge?
The hills, dark-habited, frown bleakly on our daring;
The wan river, hurling past us, foams in spite;
The embittered winds would dash us separate,—
Their fierce lash
Whips by unceasingly, distraught
With impotence and rage.
Like some white sisterhood the cold stars
Gather for their orisons
Aloof from us in pale austerity;
The rigid frost-bound earth denies us rest.
How shall we love against
This hostile universe?
Yet only
Closer a little
Our fingers grope and cling
And our eyes, unshakenly.

 

II

The hills dark with passion—
The tense, parted lips of the sky [page 11]
Press nearer them
Wearily,	
Satiate through longing.
The keen wind mates with the bitter waters.
Love,
Through the veil and the garland
One day shall death
Discover thy nakedness. [page 12]

.

DEATH CHANT

Rent is the tepee of my heart, that sheltered you,
Emberless is it	
And desolate,
The fire of it is trodden out.

I will walk fasting in the solitude;
I will seek tirelessly,
I the alone one,
Long, unendingly
Seek through sad ghost paths
The trail you have broken.
I will watch and hearken,
Crouched hauntedly,
When the storm clouds mass sullenly,
When the fire arrows slant through the heavens
And the skies are torn with the warwhoop of the gods.

It is there I will seek you.

I will smear my face with the death paint,
I will cry your death song in the forest;
The gaunt trees shall hear it
And cast their leaves. [page 13]

.

LOW TIDE

Here at the flood tide
The quivering waters
Urged at my heart’s shores,
Surging, compelling;
Here rose in wild pools
The stinging waters,
The tremendous waters
Indrawn from the infinite
Unsearchable seas.

Here lay unchallenged,
Breast to my bosom,
The tremulous heavens
And the wind-shaken stars.

Here lay unchallenged,
Breast to my bosom,
The tremulous heavens
And the wind-shaken stars.

Now creeps the thin stream
Shrunken and wasted,
Lags through the mudflats
Stagnant, miasmal,
crawls from the mudflats
That desolate, dankly
Spread stark and forsaken,
Score with the meagre
Dregs of its passion. [page 14]

God, O my God,
Let the pale stars be covered,
Draw the blind clouds
O’er the pitiless heavens,
Let fall forever
The dismal rain-veils,
The pallid mist-shrouds,
Between us
Who erstwhile were one. [page 15]

.

CASTAWAY

My heart on a waste shore
Dumbly staring,
Stands,	
Desperately searches
The sea and the sky—
My heart, wrecked and desolate,
In arid land.

The leashed waves foamingly
Clutch at my feet,
And are caught back snarling
In menace;
The bared sky glares;
All creation threatens me,
Savagely hostile.

The wind howls with derision,
And strange, shaking hands from heaven
Point spectral fingers in mockery.

O mockery.

For there,
’Twixt the sky and the sea, [page 16]
It hung for a moment,
Poised palely gleaming,
The wing of an angel,
Hovered, a sail,
And was lost in the sea
Or the sky.

Why do I stand so,
Brokenly staring,
Helpless,
With groping eyes
Wildering in madness,
Mutely
With strangling breast?

It comes not again;
Yet forever, a phantom
Born of my worn brain
Rending in madness
A ghost-sail trembles,
Skirts the horizon,
Mocking me. [page 17]

.

CHRYSALIS

My heart is folded,
Closed round the thought of you,
As the cereus sheathes its spent blossom,
As a shroud winds the dead.

My heart is a night pool
Holding the image of you
As the dark waters
Bosom a star—
One star,
Cast as a seed in a garden-bed,
Quick with a strange bloom.

(Tell, O thou loved one,
What flowereth from star seed?)

My heart is a chrysalis
Spun round the love of you,
Clingingly.
Love,
Lying stilled at the core,
Waits the hours
When at last it shall, struggling,
Shake free from its dull shell. [page 18]
Break forth, and wonderingly,
Tremulous,
Spread delicate wings
To the vague infinite of heaven. [page 19]

.

CAIN

Where is he, Abel my brother?
O hark, my God, but hark,
Yea, I will tell,
Thus, thus it was,
I knew not what I did,
O hark, my God.
In sacrifice
The firstling of his flock, before mine eyes,
He slew.	
So frail it was, and young,
Like some first, drooping blossom of the spring
Weakly it lay.
The dank blood spurting forth
Did madden me,
I knew not what I did,
Mad, mad I was,
And sick at heart, and blind;
Blindly I smote at him
And they lie thus, together.

First fruitage of the soil
I brought to thee;
That which the patient earth
At my awed tending did bring forth
And gave me in its fullness, unloth, [page 20]
Bloodless.
God, hadst thou seen the bleating thing
That nuzzled at his hand,
O God,
Then mark me, cast me forth,
For that my hand is reddened—
As was his.

Bare earth grew fair
With my long nurturing,
I toiled and cared,
I broke not the young blade;
God, who didst turn thee
From my fruit and flowers,
Blood must thou have?
Then, blood is there,
His—and the lamb’s.

Mark thou my brow;
The mark
That in all time to come
Shall be a sign, a cursed
And shudderous thing
Bound to my name.
My God—and yet—
O slew he not, as I? [page 21]

.

MADONNA COL FIGLIO

In a certain room a cast of Aphrodite contemplates a Virgin and Child.

Dark with all knowledge gazed those freighted eyes,
Infinite-seeming, deepening the rich gloom
That gathered round this frail madonna bloom
In the close shrine where she drooped lily-wise
Her small, pale face, wan with its meek surmise
And wonder for the fruit of her maid’s womb.
Within the quiet and shadow of the room
It seemed her lips trembled with sudden sighs
As though that fathoming gaze sore troubled her.
Tense with the pressure of an alien will
Bent her soft body, and strange life astir
Pulsed quick within her—then again was still;
And wistfully the little virgin pressed	
Closer the child, god-gotten, to her breast. [page 22]

.

GOLGOTHA

Thorn-torn and stricken, scourged, outstretched
In utter, aching loss,	
Bare to thy gaze my naked heart
Hangs quivering on its cross.

The bleeding hands dost thou not see?
The dread nails driven fast?
Nor hear my soul’s forsaken cry
In anguish wrung at last?

Hold, hold for me the hyssop-reed,
Thy myrrh my lips denied,
O lift thy pitying glance to be
The spear thrust through my side. [page 23]

.

WILD APPLE

Uncertain still, new-mated birds
Give song unseen.	
A little shyly still the fields
Wear their young green;

And, strange to their own beauty,
These wild buds unclose
Their lucent gleam of petal
Touched with dreamy rose.

Where all there naked moors
Spread bare of flower
This blush, strayed seedling hides
Its fragile dower.

The swarthy pines, like dark guards
Gathered round,
Hold the frail captive
In their secret ground,—

A maid, spring-veiled, who droops,
Wistful, austere,
Until her opened heart
With the full year [page 24]

Shall know its hidden end
Of leaf and root,
And from the throe of beauty
Come to bitter fruit. [page 25]

.

PINE

With grief-gaunt boughs flung pleading
Against all winds that roll,	
The grim pine is my own tree
And shadows on my soul.

Stark against the storm skies
Mourning and apart
The bleak pine is my own tree
Rooted in my heart. [page 26]

.

VICTUS

What is this starveling thing that creeps
Along life’s noisome ways?
What is this ragged, wailing thing
That weeps and prays?	

Among the city’s filth and grime
It steals where light hath fled, —
It is my soul, my soul that seeks
A crust of beauty for its bread.

O soul, my soul, turn, turn away,
In some dark place, O crawl and die,
And clutch the smothering dust around
To still thy wild, last cry. [page 27]

.

EVENSONG

Within grey, hiding, shadowy walls
Where frail peace flowerless grows,
There all my thoughts go quietly by
As in convent close.

With meek, bent heads and murmuring lips
And low-sung chants of praise,
They stoled and hooded, softly pass
In the still cloistered ways.

Only one thought, one, pale, wild thought
With thin, strained, wringing hands,
There by the gate yet clings and sees
The vague, far, dream-lit lands.

One quivering thought that turns and cries
And lingers moaning there,
While through the twilight tolling long,
The soft bells call to prayer. [page 28]

.

THE SEEKER

Life with crazed questioning I did sore entreat,
Caught at her robes and pleaded at her feet,
Sought but a word to still my wildered cries,
But life shrank from me with averted eyes.

Be still, O still:  with beating hands I wait
The laggard guardian of this mouldering gate—
Slow now she nears me, fretfully, whom I seek,
Mumbling the answer that life would not speak. [page 29]

.

A TRYST

How the whole bright earth has blossomed
For this day;	
Wings asway,	
Lilting bird-folk flit and rally
Through the valley,
And away
Down the fallow field of heaven
Little winds do stray;
By the streams with lilies laden,
By the birches slim and maiden,
Through the woodlands sweet with cedar
Wends my singing heart to meet her
Who is fair as they.

Low beside the slender rushes
There she lies;
With surprise
She will start, and then the laughter
Ripple after
From her eyes,
Deeper than the midnight meadows
Of the star-sown skies;
How the water lisps and glistens,
Where in elfin mood she listens, [page 30]
She so still and dreaming, artless,
O my love with happy, heartless
Laughter in her eyes.

Longing lips be brave and call her,
She my dear,
She will hear,
Will a moment wait beguiling—
Singing, smiling—
All my fear,
Then with flash of faery footsteps
Fleeting through the mere,
She is not; and leaveth only
All the brookside lying lonely,
Just the grass that was her pillow,
Just the birches and the willow
Lying lonely here.

If my wildered heart could find her,
Would she leave me here behind her
But a trace,
Place by place
Would I follow seeking after
Echoes of her faery laughter;
O beside her be forgetting
Earthly fever, earthly fretting,
In the eerie,
Faery beauty
Of her face. [page 31]

.

BEFORE PARTING

Love, the last moments that speed
Fleetingly on,	
Let me store for the time of my need
Ere I am gone.

Now, whilst I have you, begin
And one by one
Garner my thoughts of you in
Ere the lean years come.

Gather each glance and each smile,
Sheave them as grain,
That my heart may not starve the long while
Till I see you again.

Love, at the last, though none lack
From my full store,
Will my heart as a gleaner look back
For one smile more. [page 32]

.

VENUS DI MILO

Unmindful of the aching hand that wrought her,
The heart that marked her wonder as its goal,
She stands serene in the reposeful beauty
Of her untroubled soul.	

Her still, far gaze unnoting and unheeding,
But acquiescence meet
In the long worship that the hearts of ages
Have offered at her feet.

What pain, what doubt could stir that breast, quiet-breathing,
What sorrow mark on the clear brow its sign?
No rending, earthly anguish here has broken
The calm accordance of each cadenced line.

Unconscious of the dream that shaped her beauty,
Wherewith of old some mortal travailed long,
Forgetful of the toil and of the yearning
That poised her straight and strong.

Quietly she stands, with slow step half-advancing
To mount the heaven that no earth claim bars,
Paused so forever in that lone ascending
The wide flung stairway of the eager stars. [page 33]

.

THE DREAM CHESTS

Come, heart, we’ll go a-seeking all in our old, locked rooms,
Go plundering in the cobwebs and forgotten, dusty glooms.
The vague light pales and falters where they so long have stood,
These carved quaint chests of cedar and scented sandalwood.
O lift the lids time-heavy, setting the years astir,
And take them out, these tattered dreams, laid by in lavender.

Shake out the folds and hold them softly again to view,
All the frail, outworn garments woven one time of you.
See, this was sweet and silken, and this was quiet and grey,
And this one was a wild, glad thing I wore but for a day.
One after one I find them hid where their beauties fade:
What sets my hand a-trembling, anguished and sore afraid? [page 34]

Alone it lies and secret; ah Christ!  rent right in twain:—
There where my young heart pressed it, dark with a fateful stain. [page 35]

.

LYRICS FROM

THE SONG OF SONGS

1

Who is she that looks forth as the morning
When gold threads the veil of the gloom?
Who is she that comes softly as moonlight
Where pomegranates bloom?

Who is she that in beauty advances
Triumphal with trumpets that call,
And makes fast with her linked, slender fingers
My heart in her thrall?

She is fairer than dewfall on Sharon
When low plead the flute strains and long,
She is dread as an army with banners,
And sweet as a song.

 

2

Hushed calls a voice in anguish
Where the shadows move and throng,
“Waken my dove, my darling,
Wake for the night is long. [page 36]

Lift thy pale hands and open,
Open, O dream-beguiled,
For my locks are filled with the night-dews
And the night-winds are wild.

The warders watch through the valleys
And the guard-fires glower from the hill,
But love’s wings beat at thy window
And love’s lips plead for their will.”

Pleading low at the lattice,
Faint in thy last despair,
Heart that breaks in the darkness,
She sleeps and hath no care. [page 37]

.

FALSE DAWN

Upon the lake a lonely cry
Goes wailing to the waning moon,
Lifts quavering to the shaken sky,
The vague, crazed laughter of the loon.

And faltering through the forest far
A ghostly answer echoes shrill,
Wild plaining to the paling stars,
One haunted, stealthy whippoorwill.

How mocking in the ashen dawn
Ring still the cryings of the night,
And hearkening how my heart is wan
And trembling in the pallid light. [page 38]

.

REED SPELL

(An Ojibwa Myth)

I have danced with the rushes,
Slender and shaken;
The waters washed mournfully around us,
And faint songs were on the wind.
I have danced with the rushes,
Bent and swaying,
Till the shaft of the sunrise
Divided us,	
And enchantment fell from me.
At the nightfall they drew me,
Spell-weaving, mystical,
Who in wan morn twilight
Outcast me again.
Eerie and fitful
That darkness gathered,
Strangely that dawning unfolded.—
I have known the reed spirits
And my life
Is grown fragile as their song. [page 39]

.

SPRING SONG

O boughs, bend close in your youngling green,
With sunlight glimmering through,
And up through the leaves will my love take wing
Aloft in the windy blue.

High where the song of the airy things
Laughing would lure, and low—
O turn me not from along the way
Whither my love would go.

The wandering winds call me on and on,
And the pale clouds call me high,
But the bonding hills beckon down and down
To their heart, where my love doth lie. [page 40]

.

RONDEAU

The moon’s a milk-white unicorn
That seeks a maid for its delight,
Coursing the coverts of the night;
The trampled dark is spurned and torn.
   It wanders lone by brake and thorn,
And led by its own pallid light,
The moon’s a milk-white unicorn
That seeks a maid for its delight.
   She binds it by its slender horn,
Then down slow-turning from the height
It sinks to earth in woeful plight,
Ensnared and wounded and forlorn
The moon’s a milk-white unicorn. [page 41]

.

A FRAGMENT

Where the trees are pale with bridal bloom
I have laid me low in the shimmering gloom;
My heart is hushed and my eyes adrowse
With murmur of bees in the blossomy boughs,
And round me the wind-reaved petals blow
In little storms of fragrant snow.

Earth that I am, to earth I cling
Heart by heart with the pulsing spring,
Yet in longing vague how I strain for flight
To lift me high to the heart of light;
Dust of earth, that the skies would woo
Far to the breast of the vasty blue. [page 42]

.

RETURN

Awake, awake, put on thy strength, O city!
               Beauty put on;
Be glad, dear skies, that once with tears of pity
               Bewailed her gone.

As, with light step the mists and vapours breaking,
               Cometh the day,
So she has come, her blue eyes laughter waking,
               From far away.

Be glad, my heart; she brings the Spring behind her,
               And budding trees,
Glad, glad, O heart, for fairer thou shalt find her
               Even than these. [page 43]

.

THE SPELL

Thrust, through the woodlands, thou who art calling,
Calling me on through the wild-wandering ways,
Where dost thou lead me, thy ringing notes falling,
Mocking the quest of my far-straining gaze?

Farther yet father—the woods are aquiver,
Throbbing the buds with the pulse of the spring,
Stirring my heart with vague fear and foreboding,
Guiding, entreating, still dost thou sing.

Clearer, yet clearer, lucent, compelling,
Spell of the spring-tide that falls and is gone,
Urging me shaken with tremulous longing,
Leading me, calling me, luring me on. [page 44]

.

AT EVENING

Dim are the streets about me
In the veil of the gathering gloom,
And the wan, dead leaves fall, ghostlike
In the light of the maiden moon.

O pale in your moonlight beauty,
Cleaving the shadows apart,
Come, with your calm eyes smiling,
Breaking the mists in my heart.

Alone in the frail sad twilight
I wait with the sighing breeze;
O come, and my griefs shall wither
And fall with the falling leaves. [page 45]

.

SONG

Singing of the sunlight,
Colour of the skies,
Vagrance of the springtide
Caught within her eyes.

Luring of the west wind
Fraught with fragrant wile,
Flowers of all the Edens
Gathered in her smile.

Then how eve was happy,
How the dawns were sweet;
Kneeling to her beauty,
Praying at her feet.

Now the grey clouds gather
On my heaven’s blue
And the snow-drifts cover
Where the wild flowers grew.

Sinking with the burden
Borne so light of old,
Naked in the north wind
How my heart lies cold. [page 46]

.

EXTRAVAGANZA

I girt me with a robe of flame,
The cloaking winds were mine to wear,
I snared the winging stars and stript
Their shining plumage for my hair.

I caught the chalice of the morn,
And bore it, brimming, on my flight,
Deep-drained it till the world lay dark
And all my soul was drunk with light.

Then dashed it from my bright lips down
To where on the rude earth it cleft,
And watched to see the grovelling world
Suck frenzied at the dregs I left.

Through heaven’s courts I whirled and sped,
Leapt gleaming as a javelin cast,
And to the timid angels flung
Derisive greeting as I passed.

Unto the bounds of being swept,
Reeled wildly in a maddened bliss,
Soared singing and a moment there
Hung mute upon the waste abyss. [page 47]

A moment stayed those beating wings,
Poised awfully on the brink of night,
And slowly then in challenge spread
The passion of their seeking flight. [page 48]

.

PSYCHE

Wonder-shaken did she lie?
Failing, strange distressed,
Hold the heaven-wearied god
To her mortal breast?

Through the darkness did she bend,
Sore amazed and wan,
Touch with shrinking hand the face
She might not look upon?

Stricken was the new-fraught heart
With vast thoughts and dim,
Struggling for some wood of earth
Sweet to comfort him? [page 49]

.

AFTER SUNSET

Lost is the splendour,
The passion-flush of the heavens,
Here is left only
The colourless twilight,
The chill twilight
Blanched of its rapture,
Sadder than lovers
Desolately parting
Pallid and wordless.

Long from the sunrise
Is the night twilight,
Fall the void hours
And the vacant darkness,
Slow flow the waters,
The winds are heavy,
There is heard only
The shudder of silence
Where low breaks the moaning
Weary, unguided,
Of love wandering sightless,
Seeking the dawning. [page 50]

.

JEWEL SONG

To you a jewel
Haphazard strung as on a necklet,
And for me
The one thread running, binding all things else,
Whereon all life is strung.
The love bead lost,
You pause and ponder which of earth’s heaped gems
Shall fill love’s little gap.
But the frail thread, if it break once for me,
My very life in wrenched and sudden pain,
Falls all asunder;
My nights, my days, wild-scattered and at loss,
While the dulled hours slip feebly from my hold,
Roll singly and lie idly here and there,
Desolate utterly. [page 51]

.

“INNOCENCE DYING OF A BLOOD-STAIN”

Can these eyes gaze again on autumn hills,
Can they behold
The spreading red of sunset drench the skies,
And not see only this slow creeping stain,
Alone in its reality?
Thou guiltless;
Yet shall light be quenched
And beauty be embittered and made foul
Because one blood-drop
Falls upon thy gown indelibly?
O sit in sorrow pondering on this thing,
Draw closer yet the hood about thy face
And seek the shadow; solitary there
Brood wordlessly, amazed and wan,
Thy gaze unmoving till the pallid world
Is focussed to a point
Blood-red. [page 52]

.

TO AGE

Age	
Past the sickness of despair
And the restless torment of hope, sitting
With calm eyes and quiet hands
And slow, vague smilings—pity me.

My life is a rent leaf on the wind
Aimlessly blown,
Caught and shaken,
Whirled in void
By power heedless and unknowledgeable.

Is this thing forgotten of thee,
Closed in the dwindling years?

Were the wind-sighs and the prophecies
Unmenaced for you
That you speak with noddings and soft words
Of cloudless morning?

Is if forgotten—this throbbing flesh,
The twisted hands pressed on the torn heart,
All the dumb shrinking from the guessed-at years,
The desperate fingering of the untried steel,
And then the rush and the cry,
And life is upon thee! [page 53]

O outcry and bewilderment.
When shall my heart be tempered with maturity,
With knowledge and courage
And set-lipped fortitude?

The last defences
Quiver in the onslaught.

Age, sitting dreamful,
Close-lapped with peacefulness,
Pity me. [page 54]

.

ALLEGORY

You are the mountain
Immovable and rooted deeply
In the unshaken earth,
Snow-breasted,
The heights withdrawn
In a far clarity and silence,
Rapt in supreme quiescence.

O the waters, the hasty waters,
Of this torrent that is myself.
My life throbs in rough chasms,
Dark in its down-going,
A challenge flung, and a guideless seeking
For some unknown goal.
One moment yet before the leap—
Before the waters are lashed and broken
On the harsh juttings, and the crags,
One moment yet let me be still,
Clear, unfathomed,
Cool as a pool held and quieted
On the deep-bosomed mountain,
Fed by the pure snows, and tranquil
To reflect the austere height and the cleft heaven. [page 55]

One moment—then the leap and the seeking.
Through far things and hidden must my way be cut,
The dull earth severed for a passing.
Through arid reaches and through choking valleys,
By unimaginable courses,
Pressing, faltering
To the sea.

There may I be lost,
Outreaching the limits of being,
The narrow stream
Absorbed in the Infinite.

Thence shall my spirit be drawn forth by the sunlight,
Thence shall I be lifted
To hover in faint cloud-wreaths
Round the brow of the mountain.
In frail spirit caress let me rest there.
From that place whence the waters arose
There shall they return again,
So let me seek my source—
Changeless—
The mountain. [page 56]

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