Edwardian and Georgian Canadian Poets
The Flask of Love
29th Jun 2016Posted in: Edwardian and Georgian Canadian Poets 0

[unnumbered page, includes illustration:

See! I am leaving now! …the eyelids close,
   Death’s pallor falls upon the fevered cheek—
I stand beside the body as it droops
   Across the couch—LET LUST IN ASHES SEEK!

—From The Flask of Love.]

The FLASK of LOVE
and OTHER POEMS

By
ROLAND ST. ANBECK

Illustrations by
ROBERT STEWART

Original Publication by
THE SUN PUBLISHING COMPANY LIMITED,
VANCOUVER, B.C. CANADA.
1926.

[blank page]

The range of Mind is the Universe,
     Its limit the farthest Star—
And the written words of Prose or Verse
     Its visible Symbols are. [unnumbered page]

[blank page]

CONTENTS

Page
The Flask of Love 6
The Vagrant Host 14
The Aftermath 15
Dust 18
War 19
Snares 21
An Atheist in Hell 22
Dreamland 27
Compassion 28
I Wonder! 29
“There is No God” 30
Millennium 32
The Answer 33
The Prison of Thought 34
Meat for the Gods 36
Trinket-sellers 37
The Caesar and the Nazarene 39
The Bridges of Life 40
What Say You, God of Men? 41
“Let There Be Love!” 44
Love’s Greater Mysteries 45
A Starry Tryst 46
The Parting of the Ways 48
Affinity 49
Destiny 50
Lover and Cynic 52
The Cadaver 53
Flattery 57
The Heretic 58
My Enemy 59
To a Palmist 60
L’Envoi 61

ILLUSTRATIONS

The Flask of Love Frontispiece.
The Aftermath Opp. Page 16
An Atheist in Hell Opp. Page 24
[unnumbered page]

The FLASK of LOVE

INTRO:

It is an inherent belief in various parts of India that spiritual entities can consort with mortals, and frequently do so for nefarious purposes. This process is referred to hazily in the Occident as Black Art.

Elemental spirits (i.e. sprites that have not received opportunity of donning habiliments of flesh), are presumed to be willing allies, at times, in these uncanny practices, either through a desire to curry favour, or to participate by contact in material sensations.

In the following fantasy, a magician named Ghanya Singh has under his control an Elemental who, lured by the promise (impossible of fulfilment) that the magician will facilitate her entry into the Earth-life, has performed various unpleasant tasks with a growing reluctance.

When the story opens, the Sprite has been despatched upon an unusually odious errand which she is loth to complete. Returning with the task unaccomplished, she is chided for her timidity.

Finally, somewhat doubting the adept’s ability to fulfil his original promise, but fearful of his threatened curse, and equally apprehensive of the effect upon herself through Karma (the Law of Retribution), if she obeys her master’s latest and most obnoxious command, she exerts trickery worthy of the magician himself——

Exacting an oath, she completed the errand—but in the letter only, thus freeing herself from an irksome and unprofitable bondage, and concurrently inflicting a most terrible vengeance! [unnumbered page]

THE FLASK OF LOVE

”Wilt thou insist, O Master? Have I not
   (With what scant knowledge thou hast taught me) tried
To execute thy strangely-grim behest?—
   Accomplice of thy guilt! O woe betide
The Fates that linked our lives! Thou promised me
   That I, an Elemental spirit, soon
(By thine own aid, for service on my part)
   Should earn, through birth, my cheated fleshly boon.
And now thou mockest me! O Ghanya Singh!—
   Have I not run thine errands—brought thee news—
Revealed the deeds of them thou hatest most?
   And now thy pledge thou keepest with a ruse! …”

“T-s-h! Hold thy tongue, untutored spirit elf!
   Thy full reward doth come apace, and this
Is but a prelude of the joys to be—
   A cherished glimpse of future earthly bliss!
Thou hast been faithful in thy pygmy toil,
   But overrate it not; another Sprite
Would gladly take thy place and ask naught else
   Than our engaging solace of tonight.
Thou knowest, Sirdar Fan, how many elves
   Admission clamour at the gates of birth;
How long, how long—ungrateful one—hast thou
   Sought vainly for thy passport to the Earth?
Go, as I bid thee! Find thou, and control
   A comely Earth-born virgin; then come here
And learn, ‘til dawn, the Rhapsody of Love!—
   Forestall by years thy birth. What dost thou fear?
Perchance the maid whose soul thou shalt supplant,
   For one brief night, won foothold on this star
In thine own stead, thou puny weak-will’d Sprite!— [page 7]
   And kin of hers, who seek her near and far,
Shall deem, when she returneth on the Morn,
   She had but wandered aimless in her sleep—
Nor shall the maid, with spirit dormant, know
   How thou and I, my Sirdar Fan, drank deep,
From out the Flask of Love! …”

                    “But, Ghanya Singh,
   Twice have I failed this day. I cast the spell
Upon a damsel dozing at the Mosque—
   (Methinks the tolling of the noonday bell
Had lulled her to a tranquil, dreamy state
   Which made her pliant prey.) I lured her soul
To seek new temporary pastures while
   I crossed her portal; then, so that she did wake
And, in her ardent welcome of the priest,
   No further access could thine elf-slave make…”

“’Tis well ‘twas so! Could I not buy such trash
   Along the gutter’s edge? Today I seek
That which is undefiled!...”

                    “O Master, list!
   I found a maid (in bated breath I speak,
So chaste was she, with heart devoid of guile—
   So wistful, trustin, and with mind serene!)
Musing she was upon the happy fact
   That lover’s arms should find her pure and clean;
Passive she lay, so that our spirits twain
   Were soon transposed—and I, in full control [page 8]
Was starting forth when lo! a horror took
   Confused possession of this tortured soul!
O Master, would I dare my Karma face
   With such a crime ‘ere ever I was born?—
Nor couldst thou sanctify this erring child,
   Emerging black and foul upon the Morn!
Thou bargainest to lead me into birth
   If I some paltrhy errands would fulfil
Then thou didst set me spy upon the rich
   So thou couldst mulct them! Ay, thou press’d thy will
In devious ways with evil ends in view!—
   And now ‘gainst mine own sex thou bidst me hence
To take full toll! Nor canst extenuate
   By vengeful plea, for it is innocence
Thou cravest for this day—and thou couldst say
   (If trapped thou wert) ‘She of her own accord
Came to my couch, or else what doth she here?’
   O cunning Ghanya Singh! I doubt thy word
Because of this, so that thine oft-made pledge
   To find me birth (by means thou dost evade)
No longer beareth weight! … Nay, I am told
   That He, Whose hand the Elementals made,
Hath fashioned laws which give ALL equal right
   To enter into corpor, and no man
(Who by the same road came) can more than vaunt
   The skill to hasten, circumvent or ban.
Thou gavest me a name, but what of that?
‘Tis but a small convenient conceit;
O Ghanya Singh, how may my fealty bide
   By one so steeped in treacherous deceit?
How shall I know what infamy most vile
   Thou wilt command of me ‘til, sick and sear, [page 9]
I shall revert to darkness ‘ere the time
   Allotted me for soourn on thy sphere?
Nor have I proof (nay, have I doubts instead!)
   That thou canst aid me! Ay, in truth it seems,
O dark Magician, when I reach thine Earth
   My soul shall writhe ‘mid dread pre-natal dreams…”

“Thou childish elf, to squirm with such alarms!
   ‘Tis for thyself, in part, this whim I yearn,
For shalt thou not these hours of pleasure share?
   Rare is the gift thy folly fain would spurn!
And why these qualms anent to an unknown maid?
   She, acquiescing not, must needs retain
Her virtue—for no soul is held to book
   For others’ sins, nor registers a gain
For others’ sacrifice…”

                    “Ah, Ghanya Singh,
   Thou dost confess ‘tis wrong! Didst thou not say
No soul is held to book for others’ SINS?’
   And it is sin, thou knowest, to betray
(By psychic or by other means) a soul,
   E’en greater still that sin by one like thee
Who larger knowledge hath. Far better thou
   Shouldst use thy gifts in kindly charity…”

“Wouldst lecture me? Begone! Refuse me not,
   Thou sentimental Sprite, or thou shalt stay
Forever in thy zone!—My spoken word
   Through all Eternity could bar thy way!”

“Then if, O Ghanya Singh, I bring tonight
   A virgin unto thee, wilt let me free?” [page 10]

“I will!”

                    “And thou dost swear?”

                                        “I swear!”

                                                            “By whom?”

                                                                                “I swear it by—GAUTAMA!”

                                                                                                    “Wait—for me!”

* * *

“Enter, and close the door!...So, Sirdar Fan,
   Thou wast successful in thy quest at length!
I was about to light the lamp, now let
   The dusk enchant and give adventure strength.
How doth it feel to habitate the flesh?
   Seemeth it strange to enter by the door?
Earth things were naught to thee in spirit garb,
   But now thou standest firm upon the floor.”

“Ah, Ghanya Singh, the truth thou speakest now;
   I am affected not by mundane things
Save through the mind. Erstwhile I came to thee
   As though propelled by subtle, unseen wings—”

“—And now thou comest here in human guise
   For one glad night—the first that thou hast known!
Art grateful, Sirdar Fan? The stars will fade
   ‘Ere thou wilt let this mem’ry be o’ergrown…
I like thy choice, although I see not clear
   Within this gloom…Come hither…sit thee there…
Thou must have found this maiden in her sleep—
   How comest through the streets?—See, she doth wear
The filmy robes of night! Thou learnest fast! [page 11]
   Come, sit by me…How warm thy body is…
Thy cheeks seem sunken, but thine eyes are bright.
   And is it passion burneth thee like this?
I like thy hair, so long and flowing free…
   Place thou thine arm about my shoulder, so…
HOW HOT THY LIPS!...HOW COLD—HOW COLD—MY HEART—
   A chilly terror bids me tell thee ‘GO!’…”

“Thy heart doth prompt thee well, O Ghanya Singh—
  Recallest thou the oath thou canst not break?
I bring this virgin maid to thee tonight
   For my release…”

                    “But let her not awake
Until the Morn, and in her own abode!”

   “Not so our pact! I leave this flesh with thee,
Myself departing hence, O Ghanya Singh—
   So glut thy soul in carnal ecstasy!”

“So be it, then! A bauble will suffice,
   Or honeyed words shall soon assuage her grief;
This act thou deemest tragic is, to me,
   Upon my tree of life but one more leaf—
SO WAKEN HER!”

                    “Ay, Master, Waken her!’
   (Did I say ‘Master?’ Say I it no more!)
SHE SHALL NOT WAKE!...Dying was she of plague,
   But as her body shed its spirit-core. [page 12]
Its place I quick usurped! Dost like our rtryst?
   Wouldst strike? Canst harm this worn-out frame, or me?
Thou kissed these lips a moment gone!—that kiss
   Imparted germs of mortal death to thee!...
See! I am leaving now!...the eyelids close,
   Death’s pallor falls upon the fevered cheek—
I stand beside the body as it droops
   Across the couch—LET LUST IN ASHES SEEK!
My lesson learned. By flying to the flame
   The moth’s frail wings reap grievous injury;
Henceforth I bid ambition to be gone
   And wait, contented, for my destiny!—
But thou, O Ghanya Singh, this woeful night
   Bringeth thee Karma for thy bestial thought—
E’en now the Death-fangs at thy vitals gnaw…
   DRAIN WITH THIS CORPSE THE LOVE FLASK THOU HAST SOUGHT!” [page 13]

THE VAGRANT HOST

From out the Cosmic Source of Life were hurl’d
A myriad Atoms, by the God’s unfurl’d!
A myriad? Ay, and untold myriads more,
Toss’d careless from the Heaven’s exhaustless store;
And as they scattered to the Wings flung free,
The least of all that Vagrant Host was—ME!
AND YET (O boon!) IMBUED WITH LATENT STRENGTH
TO CLIMB, MYSELF, TO GODLIKE STATE AT LENGTH! [unnumbered page]

THE AFTERMATH

They found him where he fell, one pale cheek press’d
   Upon the pavement cold; his body sprawled
Spread-eagle. From a deep wound in his breast
   A crimson stream towards the gutter crawled.
Inglorious end for one so prominent—
   A churchly citizen who gave
To charity. Alas! his life-spark found its vent
   Sans kith or kin upon the lamplit pave.
They laid him in a casket, satin-lined,
   An with the pomp deserving of his worth—
With wreaths and tributes of the usual kind,
   Consigned him to the care of Mother Earth.
That night, beneath an inky sky unstarr’d,
   A corpse—a woman, middle-aged and poor,
Unknown and ragged and with face sin-scarr’d,
   Slow drifted from the river to the shore.

* * *

“Don’t touch me, Woman! Who are you to stop
   A man like me? I am not of your class,
How dare you, hag? You must have had a drop
   Too much. I’ll give you nothing! Let me pass!”

“Ah, it is you—‘tis YOU! My eyes are blear’d
   As by a thousand years of bitter pain
Although I am not old—for which I fear’d.
   I would not know you if we met again!
You call me ‘hag.’ ‘Tis true—a hag I am—
   Vilest of vile—the very scum of scum,
And not the love of e’en the Christ could dam
   The torrent of my hate!—Ah, you are dumb!
You know me now? [page 15]

                      “Why no, I know you not!
   Your drink-craz’d brain doth vain delusions snare,
Or, if this be some crude insidious plot,
   My word would outweigh yours; you would not dare!
So let me pass—don’t maul me—let me go…”

   “It is the will of hell that now we meet!
One pray’r I’ve prayed in all these years of woe:
   ‘To stretch my smug betrayer at my feet!’”

“Fie! how you threaten! Hag, you haven’t got
   The strength to kill! Woman, why do you prate
To ME of wanton deeds? I know you not!”

   “You do but fan the fires of my hate!
So! I was but a toy for one brief hour
   And then forgotten—to be cast aside
By careless hand like some pluck’d faded flow’r!
   ‘YOU KNOW ME NOT—and yet, before he died
(That helpless babe!) you shed repentant tears
   And swore to give him name.
You came not back!—and I, through all the years,
   Have fed my soul on hate until its flame
Is fierce enough to kill! Ah, you are right—
   A low and wretched hag I am, and yet,
Turn back your mem’ry to that starlit night
   When you, enraptured—(God, let me forget!)
Oh, how you praised me then. My youthful charms
   Rous’d your desire—and I, in love and trust,
Permitted you to hold me in your arms,
   A willing sacrifice to selfish lust.
LOOK AT ME NOW! Gaze in these sordid eyes!
   ‘Twas you who robb’d them of their innocence;  [page 16]

[unnumbered page, includes illustration: A churchly citizen who gave
To charity. Alas! His life-spark found its vent
Sans kith or kin upon the lamplit pave. —From The Aftermath]

[blank page]

Bloodshot and blear’d they are, and sinful-wise—
   Not all the tides of virtue or pretence
Could hide their guilt! My lips, from which you drank
   Their first sweet draught of bliss, they now have press’d
On other lips so often they are rank
   Like all my frame—and I, at birth so blest,
Now sleep wherever I can find a beast
   So low, depraved, or possible so drunk
That he is not fastidious! I feast
   Upon the dregs, for, deep though I have sunk,
This gaunt and wretched body must be fed…”

“Stop, for God’s sake, stop! Let me atone…”

”You cannot give atonement to the dead—
   And I am dead—my heart is as a stone;
But YOURS—ah! Yours is soft, so well you live!—
   As soft as that first kiss of mine! ‘Tis well!”

“Have you no mercy?”

                      “Mercy shall I give!
   Slow have I travell’d on the road to hell,
Each hour and day a torture, vivid, real!
   LOOK UP…those stars again…above your head…
THIS is my mercy!—SWIFT AS FLASHING STEEL!...

* * *

   Ah, it is done!...I spit upon the dead!” [page 17]

DUST

A fleck of Dust within a sunlit gleam—
   A moment glimpsed, and then forever gone!
How SMALL a thing within Creation’s scheme!
How VAST in its own compass it may seem—
   A WORLD ITSELF—sustaining life thereon.

A fleck of Dust within a sunlit gleam—
   A moment of Eternity, then gone!
Of such OUR world within Creation’s scheme;
How vast in its own compass it may seem,
   And you and I in suff’rance thereupon. [page 18]

WAR

The night is dark—but it is more than dark!
   The breezes whisper messages of dread—
The air is rank with odours from the stark
   And ghastly rigid bodies of the dead.

So this is WAR! The slinking rodents gray
   From many slimy burrows hazard out—
And pause at each red flare as if to say:
   “WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?”

THE RUTHLESS DAWN! A million eyes, unseen—
   Wakeful with hate—await the next assault,
While OTHER eyes from out their glassy sheen
   Stare sightless to sky’s repellent vault—

Stare upwards to the vultures overhead
   Slow drooping to the earth with wings spread out,
And wond’ring as they settle on the dead
   WHAT IT IS ALL ABOUT.

HOT NOON is here—the carnage at its height!
   Ah, glorious WAR!—This thy exultant hour!
How frail the arts of PEACE before thy might—
   To THEE belong the majesty, the power!

And thou hast humour too! See yonder man, 
   Slashed through the middle in a sabred rout!—
With his last faint breath he is asking Death
   “WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?”

AND NOW ‘TIS DUSK: the fields are damp with blood,
   Great armies rest in gloating truce a spell; [page 19]
Hush’d is the cry: “For Fatherland and—GOD!”
   For Whom they made a Paradise a hell!

And God from distant heavens turned His gaze
   Towards this tiny smoke-blurr’d star, far out,
And said: “Go, Couriers—see, beneath you haze,
   WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT!”  [page 20]

SNARES

And did I plant them, all these weeds and tares—
   These tangled snares?
If so, ‘twas long ago!
   They twine about me, will not let me go!
They over-run the pathway to my goal—
Can I not overcome them O My Soul?
   Their roots are tethered in the fertile past—
   THEY FAIN WOULD HOLD ME FAST! [page 21]

AN ATHEIST IN HELL

Night had wrapt her mantle round me, shades of darkness slowly bound me
   As my spirit cleft its body for its flight to the Unknown,
And my eyes could see but dimly, piercing through the shadows slimly,
   While the stillness haunted grimly, all my vaunted courage flown!
Oh, the ghostly, ghastly silence seemed to harbour hidden violence—
   Oh, the clammy chilly silence seemed to speak in bated breath,
While distorted shadows plastic, stealthily in shapes fantastic
   Round me circled, intermingling, ‘till I saw them clearer, singing
   Into weird and grotesque devils in an awesome Dance of Death!
Then I heard them whisper, whisper (faintly first, then louder, crisper)—
   ‘On my brain a tattoo beating with a mocking shocking greeting—
   Louder, louder yet, repeating—in a raucous chorus meeting—
   In a wild crescendo shrieking, shrieking—shrieking—shrieking—shrieking:
“THIS IS DEATH!” 

“God!” I moaned, “why do they taunt me? Why do mocking shadows haunt me?”
   But my voice seemed scarce an echo heard by mine own ear alone;
“Cease, oh cease!” I scream’d, “have pity! [page 22]
   End this mad’ning, sick’ning ditty—
   Get thee to thine hellish City where the damn’d of God atone!”
At that cry they ceased their chanting, quit their gruesome gibb’rish ranting,
   Stopped their loose-limbed frenzied dancing, chilling me with greater dread,
For the silence closer press’d me, by its contrast more oppress’d me,
With a nauseate fear depress’d me, with a deadlier awe obssess’d me,
   And I lost all hope of freedom from these loathsome leech-like dead!
Then I saw them slowly, slowly, (saw these shadowy imps unholy)
   Taking shape in firmer substance, silhouetted in the radiance
Of a red-rimm’d background horrid, like a far volcano torrid,
   And I cried: “Ye Saints, ‘tis Morning!
   Over Hell the Sun is dawning—
GOD! HOW RED!” 

Then I crumpled, weak and weeping, o’er my limbs a palsy creeping;
   On my bended knees I pleaded to the God I once defied—
Whined and whimpered, wept and pleaded to the God I’d never heeded—
   To the God I’d never “needed,” Whose existence I’d denied!
And my mem’ry, self-berating (all my smug complaisance hating)
   Spurred my tortured mind to rating mine own arrogance as crude, [page 23]
While my lips a pray’r were mumbling, unaccustomed phrases jumbling,
Puny egoism crumbling in that bitter spirit-humbling,
   For the scum of Hell were jeering, and their jests were foul and lewd!
Then they dragged me, still protesting, with irreverent hands molesting,
   Through the gaping eerie portal of Gehenna’s gates immortal 
   (Through the yawning hopeless portal of the City that no mortal
Ever entered without trembling) — and I saw the hosts assembling,
   Pointing mocking fingers at me in a sneering multitude,
Crying: “All thy pride of body was an earthly garment shoddyWe at least have raiment ragged: THOU hast left thy Spirit naked,
To the lowest depth descending!”  Then I looked (O Shame unending)
   I WAS NUDE!

Thus they led me, roughly, quickly (whilst I gagged on odours sickly)
   Through a winding rocky crevice to a cavernous abyss—
Hurried me o’er narrow ledges to the upper jagged edges
   (To the bleak and barren fledges) of a yawning precipice;
There my eyes (with fear dilating), downward slanted—penetrating 
   TO THAT HELL OF MINE OWN MAKING—to the souls therein immersed—
To those souls therein despairing—in a hopeless nescience faring— [page 24]

[unnumbered page, includes illustration: Here I hid my face in sorrow, for I knew that on the morrow…
Many more by my words driven would descend into oblivion.” — From An Atheist in Hell.]

[blank page]

(Souls whose eyes, so dully staring, spoke a state beyond all caring)—
   THESE, THE ERSTWHILE EARTH-BORN BEINGS IN MY THEORIES COERCED,
For ‘twas I (impassioned skeptic) with my utterances septic
   (With mine infidelic teachings and agnostic godless preachings)
SLEW (with ridicule and laughter) THEIR BELIEF IN AN HEREAFTER!

Here I hid my face in sorrow, for I knew that on the morrow,
(In mine ear alas! unseeking, words of fearsome portent speaking):
“We our sins are expiating, but these souls procrastinating
In a comatose condition, sans the succour of contrition;
See!’—their eyes—so set, unblinking! they are thinking, thinking, THINKING—
Holding fast to one illusion—clutching firmly thy delusion
   That the Dead know nothing after—that the Dead have no Hereafter—
For each soul is as it thinketh—as it thinketh—AS IT THINKETH!
   Thou hast snared them, led them, taught them—
   To this pit thy tenets brought them!
THINE the task to resurrect them; THINE the labour to infect them
   With a credence in the Future. Lo! these souls are thine—to nurture [page 25]
‘Till they waken, singly waken—‘till their Death-sleep is forsaken!
   Thou thy talents defied, thou thy God exemplified!
Now thy recompense is this: GOD THOU ART OF THIS ABYSS!

“’Til thy silent host deluded, of their bonds are stripp’d—denuded,
   ‘Til thy labour is concluded, thou shalt be a thing apart—
None assisting, none approaching, ring’d in solitude reproaching,
   Naught but day and night encroaching on the fastness where thou art!
THOU HAST WROUGHT THEIR FAITH IN DEATH—THOU MUST QUICKEN THEM WITH BREATH!

“When each soul at last is standing and with scornful lips is branding
   Thy philosophy of falsehood as an empty bubble blown—
Quell thou their ensuing madness, weed the tares of sullen sadness—
   Garner thou a worthy harvest from the seed that thou hast sown—
NOR SHALL THY ADVANCE BE SWIFTER THAN THE TARDIEST IN THY CARE—THAN THE SLOWEST LAGGARD THERE!” [page 26]

DREAMLAND

The things we see within a dream
   (The while we dream) authentic seem;
Outlandish, odd complexities!
   Yet seem they then realities.

And elves of Dreamland, coming here,
And seeing us (to them so queer)
Believe we must be what we seem
   Although to them ‘tis but a dream.

And are they real—the things that seem?
   Or are realities the dream? [page 27]

COMPASSION

I stood upon the road that runs
   From mythical Heav’n to orthodox Hell—
I watched the glad procession move
   Upward, each anxious his good deeds to tell,
And then (saw a scant few) return,
   Stumbling like cattle headlong into Hell.

“Where goest thou?” a Churchman cried,
   “For thou at last must choose ‘twixt Heav’n and Hell!”
“What wilt thou do in Heav’n?” I asked.
   “In joy,” he said, “forevermore to dwell.”
And what of those denied that boon?”
   “Poor fools,” he sneered, “they fain must live in Hell.”

“How shall these Creatures fare,” I asked,
   “Who must forever live in yonder Hell?”
“They are the damn’d!” he sternly said—
   “No tongue can fittingly their torments tell!”
“And thou from Heav’n couldst solace them?”
   “Nay. nay! There is a gulf ‘twixt Heav’n and Hell!”

I turned from him and started forth
   From mythical Heav’n to orthodox Hell,
And joined the distraught throng that press’d
   Downward in discord evermore to dwell.
“They need me NOT in Heav’n,” I mused,
“BUT I MAY COMFORT SOME LOST SOUL IN HELL.” [page 28]

I WONDER!

If ghosts there be, much would I give to know
   How fares the man who, wedded thrice or more,
Finds all his wives in hostile phalanx hold
   Awaiting him upon the farther shore.
What bitter jealousies there must ensue!—
   What secrets could they to each other tell!—
I wonder how a thing like that’s arranged!—
   Or maybe that is what they mean by “Hell.” [page 29]

“THERE IS NO GOD”

THERE IS NO GOD! Why should there be
   A guiding hand—a destiny?
What need of God to rule the stars
   Or hold the universe in bars?
      All things that are, they are—that’s all!

THERE IS NO GOD! The brain of Man
   Has placed on deity a ban;
Blind faith the sluggish mind befits;
   The god-myth feeds on fuddled wits.
      All things are born of Chance—that’s all!

What is it now? “Is intellect
   Of mortal things the chief elect?”
It is!—You ask: “Whence came this light?
   And is it not the reflex, slight,
      Of one great Brain that quickens all?” 

You ask: “If Man’s the highest role,
   Why can he not the stars control?
Why can he not new life create
   Without the law of mate to mate?”“But if MAN hasn’t reached that stage,
   How came these worlds in ordered gauge? [page 30]
Who gave them motion, form and plan?
   Who peopled them with Life—and Man?”
      I tell you, friend, ‘twas Chance—that’s all.

 “Then Chance is God! If Man is God,
   Why does he live upon the sod?
Why does he not know everything?
   Why does he to the earth-sphere cling?”
      Things just began—then grew, that’s all.

“Then ‘Chance’ brought fixed laws into play—
   Laws that the ‘Man-God’ must obey!—
Yet Man’s ABOVE this thing called Chance?
   How strange and queer a circumstance!
      O WISE ONE, YOU’RE A FOOL—THAT’S ALL!” [page 31]

MILLENIUM

Last night on Fancy’s wings I soared unto a distant sphere
Where Man were clean in thought and aim—subservient not to Fear;
Where Women were their equals and no slave-bound token wore,
And who, in love from passion freed, their viceless children bore.

None wrangled on the merits of conflicting foolish creeds,
Religions never meshed them in their tangled thorny weeds,
For all obeyed one simple rule: To live the best they can,
And consecrate their talents to the happiness of man.

Thus he who aided others, from all others gathered aid—
And ev’ry one, from high to low, in coin of love was paid;
And each one laboured at his best, nor thought of worldly pelf—
And each, in helping someone else, was lifted up himself.

Thus all was happiness and peace—no squalid slum defiled;
Each home a haven of delight to woman, man and child;
The minds of all that wondrous race were turned to love from birth
So that no evil deed could find a foothold on that earth.

* * *

And this I knew a vision was (a futuristic view)
Of this our little planet in—a million years or two! [page 32]

THE ANSWER

Man will ask you
   (God will not)
If thy neighbour
   Hath a blot—

If thou knowest naught,
   Say thou knowest not;
If thou knowest aught,
   Let it be forgot!

God will ask you
   (Man will not)
What good traits
   Thy neighbour’s got—

If thou knowest naught
   Say thou knowest not;
If thou knowest aught,
   Be it be forgot! [page 33]

THE PRISON OF THOUGHT

I coaxed a bird from out its cage
   And let it fly around;
It rested, frightened, on a vase,
   And trembled terror-bound.
When kindly hands approach’d too close,
   It rose with sudden lurch—
Regarding with suspicion those
   Who came too near its perch.

Quite lost it was within that room,
   And yet this bird had sung
For many years within the cage
   Which in that room was hung.
But when I lured it back again
   Into its prison small,
It seemed at peace and quite content,
   And frightened not at all.

* * *

And then I mused of men who lived
   Within a cage of thought,
Who never pushed the bars apart
   Or great achievement sought;
When others threw the gate ajar—
   Would liberation give,
They’d cringe behind some weak excuse!—
   EXIST—instead of LIVE!

Although their unlocked cage is hung
   Within a world of room,
They venture not in fear of some
   Imaginary doom. [page 34]
Alas! and will their souls at death
   Shrink in a cage so small
They never shall emerge to see
   The wonder of it all? [page 35]

MEAT FOR THE GODS

I saw a row of carcasses, hanging on butcher hooks,
   Blue labels branded on their hips which spoke of quality;
I saw a row of carcasses—I much disliked their looks,
   Although those trademarks told the truth—they WERE good quality.

          That night I dreamed—
          To me it seemed:

A race of gods, reared like ourselves, but more intelligent,
   O’er-ran the earth, but, like ourselves, they were carnivorous;
We were but cattle to these gods—these gods belligerent—
   They needed meat of quality to keep them virgorous.

          And so it seemed
          That, while I dreamed:

I saw a row of carcasses, hanging on butcher hooks,
   Blue labels branded on their hips which spoke of quality—
I saw a row of carcasses—I much disliked their looks,
   For in that row were YOU and ME—we ARE good quality! [page 36]

TRINKET SELLERS

He sold cheap trinkets on the street—
For years he sold them, blister’d feet
Shuffling o’er pavements sun-emboss’d
With Summer’s heat,
Or chilled with Winter’s frost.
And all his days (each wretched day too long)
He sold these paltry trinkets to the throng.
And then he died. They buried him. THAT’S ALL!

But is that all? Beneath the tawdry pall
There lay the shape—the semblance—of a man,
That triumph of the great Creator’s plan!

What brought him here? Why did he come?
The corpse knows not, that inert thing so numb!
What purpose served by HIS life’s useless span?
Was it an error? If it was, this parable
Proves God is fallible!

And is God fallible? Tonight turn you your gaze
To that vast misty haze
Of wonders that men call the sky
And wonder why
The God who made so orderly a sphere
Should make so many seeming blunders here—
For there are trinket-sellers, more or less,
In ev’ry walk of life—in rags and genteel dress,—
Shuffling along Life’s streets in slothful tardiness!

They are not blunders! We who leave the fount
Of Life Eternal cannot swiftly mount [page 37]
To godhead. God’s lieutenant’s, millions strong,
Must, by experience, know the wrong,
And learn to choose the right;
They first must travail through the Night!

The Soul that’s YOU—the Soul that’s ME—
Are trav’ling through Eternity;
The little space ‘twixt birth and death
Is but a long, deep, healthful breath
That feeds the Deathless Soul!
Truth must be bought—
We pay for lessons taught—
PAIN IS THE TOLL! [page 38]

THE CAESAR AND THE NAZARENE

“The past survives—in living pictures wrought;
Events are ‘prisoned in the realm of thought!”
Thus spake an angel (crystal in his hand)
Who bid me view this strange enchanted land.

* * *

Among the many scenes in that domain,
Two foremost doth my memory retain—

* * *

“What child is this,” I asked, “whose plaintive cry
Is stilled by regal mother’s lullaby?”
   Holding the glass above the infant’s head,
   The angel gazed within the globe and said:
“O Conquest! Carnage! Misery and Tears!—
Such discord shall he sow in thirty years!
   An empire weakened by his lust for fame
   As dwindling armies pillage in his name!”

* * *

“And who THIS child that tenderly is press’d
By mother, roughly clad, against her breast?”
   The angel held the crystal as before
   And spake when he its contents did explore:
“Conquest by Love! Strife overcome by Tears!—
A great Religion sown in thirty years!
   WORLD-PEACE ATTAINED, should nations but proclaim
   The simple truths expounded in His name!” [page 39]

THE BRIDGES OF LIFE

From Savage to the Civilized the gulf yawns wide, 
The Future Aeons bridge it for the foot of man;
But nations surge not on it to the farther side,
Nor set a foot upon the foremost span,
   Nor yet have found approaches to that span,—
For those who on this second bridge would tread
Must pass, at last, the demons Doubt and Dread;
And from the gulf dark clouds obscure the gate—
The weir of racial arrogance and hate!

* * *

And so the nations, only having crossed
The bridge that links them with primeval life,
In time recede—a retrogressive host—
Across the bridge of Centuries and Strife,
     For “NONE STANDS STILL!”—thus saith the Law of Life.

* * *

And in the Book of Books the Scribbler blots the page,
And starts anew the story of an Age. [page 40]

WHAT SAY YOU, GOD OF MEN?

“You give me life, mute God of Men,
   With no instructions writ
You send me forth adrift, and then
   In Sphinx-like silence sit.
Now with this life, what shall I do?
   I ask you, God of Men!
If I misuse it, shall I rue?
   And if I don’t, what then?

“Suppose, with iron will, I shun
   All pleasures of the flesh—
When I my mortal web have spun,
   What do you with the mesh?
Or if, in folly or in vice,
   I choose to set my feet,
Do I but play with loaded dice
   My so-called soul to cheat?

“And is this ‘spark’ they call ‘divine’
   Forever snugged at death—
Or does it journey past the line
   Of my last earthly breath?
And what reward (or what the grudge)
   Of virtue, fault or pain?
And by what right condemn or judge
   The creatures you disdain?

“Why should the needful cry of Man
   Through ages heedless be? [page 41]
Why garb so personal a plan
   In taunting mystery?
Religions? Ay! from dizzy heights
   They crash in their own strife!—
Why dot conflicting beacon lights
   Along the shores of Life?

“What shall we call you, God of Men?—
   Despot, or democrat?
No modern sign, by word or pen!—
   No Ark, no Ararat!
You spoke, they say, in days of yore
   To men, they say, were blest—
Must WE from hoary cryptic lore
   Your sacred riddle wrest?

“Or must we, now, in silence wait,
   Nor strive to lift the ban?
Are we but shuttlecocks of Fate—
   No aim, no end, no plan?
NO AIM? NO END? Ho, Death, the dice!
   If THIS be so, well, then,
Let vice be virtue, virtue—vice!
   WHAT SAY YOU, GOD OF MEN?”

* * *

Thus blatantly the Scoffer spake, tongue urged
   By doubt his arrogance to toll—
But when the Wind the noisome air had purged,
   And Silence gained control. [page 42]
This answer (couched in mortal words) emerged
   FROM HIS OWN SOUL.

I gave thee Life! What more dost thou
   O Ingrate, ask of Me?
With Godlike gifts I didst endow
   The frame I made for thee!
Should all My mighty ways be bared
   By one stroke of My hand?
My struggle is thy brain prepared
   With strength to understand! [page 43]

LET THERE BE LOVE

When God across the waters stretched His hand,
   Proclaiming Life in shallow and in deep,
And breathed His breath upon the barren land,—
   He knew no bond of flesh or blood would keep
Each species from absorption by its kind—
   (The weak a prey to strong voracious kin)
Without a tie of brotherhood to bind
   Each type unto itself, of fur or fin;
And so, from out the heavenly treasure trove,
He drew a morsel from the store of Love! [page 44]

LOVE’S GREATER MYSTERIES

Love is a Science—absolute,
   Fixed as the Stars and Death,
Implanted deep in Man and Brute,
   And fanned with Passion’s breath!

And this is Wisdom’s stern Decree
   That rules the Lower Realm
For Earth a sterile Void would be
   Sans Passion at the helm.

But, soon or late, each Human Soul
   The Upward Urge obeys
And, soaring nearer to its Goal,
   Enters diviner Ways.

For Love is Life, and Life is God!—
   Naught else can Man define;
And they who through Love’s shadows plod
   But serve the Will Divine!

But nearer he to God’s estate
   Who Love from Passion frees—
For that Strong Soul shall penetrate
   Love’s Greater Mysteries! [page 45]

A STARRY TRYST

We’ll meet tonight in the realm of dreams
   Where no earthly shackles bar—
Your soul and mine, in the moon’s pale beams,
   Shall soar to a lonely star,
And we’ll nestle close in a fond embrace
   With no mundane cares to mar,
While the glitt’ring sky-lights interlace
   And the world drifts on afar!

In the shadows of our starry bow’r
   Where no sordid thoughts intrude,
We shall while away each precious hour
   Of a heavenly interlude.

In the mystic halo of the sky
   We shall laugh and love and play—
And I’ll catch some stardust floating by
   As we cross the Milky Way—
And I’ll weave the stardust in your hair,
   Each fleck like a golden ray—
And when your thoughts on the morrow fare
   I’ll kiss your tears away!

In the depths of a starry moonlit dell
   We’ll linger in mossgrown glade,
And the music of the spheres shall swell
   To a joyous serenade!

Then I’ll tell you how I searched for you—
   For the soul that’s kin to me, [page 46]
With naught but the faint elusive clue
   Of a haunting memory—
For the earth was young, the stars were new,
   When our virgin souls went free
And, with hand in hand, we wandered through
   The gates of eternity.

I lost you then, and I searched in vain
   Through lives and through deaths untold
But I knew that I’d meet you once again
   ‘Ere the hoary stars grew cold!

I find you now, but the way seems drear,
   And our paths the shadows haunt,
And your heart is fluttering with the fear
   Of convention’s jibe and taunt—
But lo! in our dream-nest, with you near,
   The creeds of the earth we’ll flaunt—
For the joys of flesh are fleeting, dear,
   And they leave but mem’ries gaunt—

But your soul is mine, the skies are ours,
   And our dreams unfettered are,
So we’ll share tonight a few sweet hours
   On our dream-made moonlit star. [page 47]

THE PARTING OF THE WAYS

A gnarled and knotted forest is the Earth,
   Wherein are paths that twist and sore confound,
And we who haunt (of high or lowly birth)
   Do naught but grope, and know not whither bound.

Primeval signposts dot the weary ways
   Where pioneers have blazed a rough-hewn trail,
But Error stalks throughout the tangled maze,
   And few in quest of golden dreams avail.

And I, amid the Forest stark and dread,
   Paused on a path whose signposts lured me on—
“This is the Trail of Hope,” the pillars read,
   “Fear not! It leads to Happiness anon!”

And as I paused, adown the Path there came
   One whom, it seemed, the gods had sent to me;
With gladsome hail I called, my heart aflame,
   Nor heard the echoes answer mockingly—

For ‘ere the Moon her nightly course had sped,
   The path divided—ah, I might have known!—
And we upon the leering signposts read:
   “Go one each way—tread ye each path alone!”

* * *

Thus Fate decrees, nor mortals dare deny!
   Our new-found joy so soon a-tinged with pain;
God grant, dear heart, the signposts do not lie,
   And, farther on, our paths shall merge again! [page 48]

AFFINITY

Earth’s richest glories dies
   When day is done;
Of what avail the sea—the sky—
   Without the sun?

Night walks upon the deep—
   The earth re-born;
Of what avail is Nature’s sleep
   Without the morn?

All things in God’s array
   He made in twain—
Of what avail the heat of day
   Without the rain?

* * *

Dear Heart, of what avail
   The loss, the pain
Sans hope that soon—beyond the veil—
   We’ll meet again?  [page 49]

DESTINY
A Reincarnation Fantasy

When You and I from Essence sprung
   ‘Ere Life for us was Law,
In Vapour-mist we formless hung
And Each to Other trembling clung,
   Amazed in nameless awe!

And then some Force, or Will, or Fate
   Impelled us to the Earth,
Unheeding frightened cry of Mate
And led us through the tedious Gate
   To fleshy substance—Birth.

And I, as Brute, with mem’ry dimmed,
   Our Spirit source forgot—
And You, as Woman, shapely-limbed,
Aroused in Me a lust red-rimmed—
   Of Mercy knew I not.

But in the licit Aftermath
   I suffered for your pain,
For Retribution’s swerveless Wrath
Led Me once more through mortal Path
   To meet You once again.

And You, as Chief of tribal clan,
   And I as dusky Maid,
Met face to face, in Nature’s plan,
In lonely haunt, sans moral ban—
   And I, the Woman, paid! [page 50]

And thus We learned one Law of God;
   “Ye sow and reap in kind”—
And when our feet next blund’ring trod
The stony steeps of mortal Sod,
   Our hearts found Love enshrined.

And since that Day, as serf or sage,
   As peasant, lord or king,
As belted knight or humble page,
Our lives—entwining Age on Age—
   Gave Wisdom broader wing.

Undying Love chained You and Me,
   As soul, or seer or clod—
For Each was destined Each to be
A helpmeet to Infinity—
   A stepping-stone to God! [page 51]

LOVER AND CYNIC

The Lover gazed in her pensive eyes
And glimpsed a vision of Paradise.
The Cynic looked in her foxy eyes
And said to himself: “She’s worldly-wise!”

The Lover fondled her snow-white hand
And wondered if she would understand.
   The Cynic studied her tapered hand
   And murmured: “Beware!—the talon brand!”

The Lover fingered her wavy hair
And knew there was none that could compare.
   The Cynic glanced at her frizzled hair
   And muttered: “NOT what she used to wear!”

The Lover on ruby lips impressed
One wonderful kiss as he caressed.
   The Cynic was otherwise impressed:
   “A bait,” he sneered, “for a vampire’s jest!”

* * *

And who were these two? you ask of me.
Well, they both were one! How can that be?
   ‘Ere she spurned his suit, the Lover was he—
   And then he became a Cynic, you see. [page 52]

THE CADAVER

How damp it seems; and chill!—although I feel it not.
   To move! Ah no, ‘twould be to toss and turn;
This is my last abode—and seal’d,
   This wooden slot;
E’en if I could escape, what gain—or loss?

No welcome waits the corpse exhum’d;
   Lie here I must—
Lie still until the scavengers of earth
   With Nature’s tools shall crumble me
   Into the dust—
New soil prepare for vegetation’s birth.

And yet—to lift a hand—an arm!
   Nay, it is well;
‘Twould breed a crave for freedom—madness—fear!
Let me be tranquil in this tomb
   On which there fell
Scarce one regretful sympathetic tear.

Oh, what a sad disturbing thought:
   Near me there lies—
(What tears I shed when fun’ral bells were toll’d!)
—Lies she whom I have loved! If but
   My sightless eyes
Could penetrate this casket and the mold!

Ugh—no! That velvet flesh, perchance,
   Would be by now…!
Those fragile features…ashen…deathly…grey… [page 53]
   And yet, if I could speak, and she—
Our voices plow
   A pathwy through the intervening clay—

Ah, no! She fain would chide—and I
   Should shrink in shame
For her unwonted and untimely end!
   Far less the scorn of those who set
On me the blame—
(Those bitter weeks when none could call me friend!)

And still, if speak we may—and hear,
   I could divine
If she would not complete forgiveness make;
   Did I not ruthlessly lay down
This life of mine
   In retribution for my one mistake?

Ah no!—but for my sin she now,
   So debonair,
Would walk with that glad strife I loved to see;
   ‘Tis Springtime overhead—warm life—
Blue sky—the air—
   The mating birds…I, too, would living be.

Instead we lie—passive—inert—
   Clay merged in clay
I here, she there, a little way apart.
   Impatient fool! Love waited us
In lawful way…
   Was I alone at fault, heart of my heart?

Alas that reckless Passion should
   Gay Youth convert [page 54]
To gift so fatal when we lack restraint;
   Gold turned to dross! Affection sweet
To sighs revert,
   And tender Love fall victim to its taint!

But am I dead? I sleep and yet
   I muse—and think!
Is this a normal circumstance of death?
   No pain, all senses still’d—and Thought
The only link
   Betwixt the Quick and those devoid of breath.

Look! Look! Is that a gleam? Yes—no,
   ‘Tis something white!
It moves—approaches, like a spectral wraith!
   ’Tis she! Dear Heart! Transfigur’d! She!
Oh radiant sight.
   I see! I see!  Oh God, revive my faith!

Am I come back to life? Behold!—
   She beckons me—
And smiles—ah, she forgives! She calls! She calls!
   She says: “Beloved, rise and come!
“Lo! we are free.”
   I heard! I hear! God! these prison walls!

Is this a mirage of the grave?
   Do I but dream?
If I could speak! “I COME! I can! I speak!
   Let me but lift my arms! I do!
How light they seem[page 55]

Trembling I rise—nor the damp earth
   Resistance gives:
“Oh stay with me!”—She slowly moves away!
   Ah, this my hell!—earth-bound, while she,
A vision, lives
   To haunt—to mock—to torture me alway!

 I droop my head—Oh horror! Look
   I shriek! I moan!
Oh God—dear Jesus—Mary—pity me!
   Whose pallid corpse—here! at my feet?
 It is…MY OWN!
   Ah, now I know, I am my spirit—free.

I lift my eyes. She stretches forth
   Her arms, and smiles.
“Dear Heart, and are there regions of the soul
   Where Life’s deep wounds are heal’d?” “Belov’d,
On hallow’d isles
   Are sacred labours that shall make us whole.” [page 56]

FLATTERY

If I were Ruler of the Sea,
   I’d lull the restless waves to sleep,
   And split the waters of the deep
To comb the coral reefs for thee!
   I’d pry into each mollusk lair,
   I’d sort the treasures hidden there,
   And none but pearls of whiteness rare
Would I bring back to thee!

If I were Ruler of the Land,
   I’d bid the soughing wind be still
   Till ev’ry mountain, rock and hill
Were cleft in twain at my command!
   Yet, from the jewelled wealth laid bare,
   None would I choose but those so fair
   An angel might be proud to wear—
These would I give to thee!

* * *

Ah yes, ‘tis clear indeed to me,
I could not get such gems for thee—
   But who would ask consistency
   In preference to flattery? [page 57]

THE HERETIC

“Thou heretic!” the rabble cried.
   “Let thorns adorn thy brow!:
“Let robber hang on either side!”
   “Canst save thine own self now?”
The spikes his bleeding body held
   For ribald throng to view
That orthodoxy still might live!
And this his answer: “God, forgive;
   They know not what they do.”

“Presumptuous heretic!” we cry
   When some bold spirit pleads
That we the words of Christ should try
   To emulate in deeds.
Oh empty orthodoxy! When
   Will we be Christ like too?
Shall “Christians” ever Christians be,
And live in love and harmony?
   We know not what we do.” [page 58]

MY ENEMY

He was my enemy! The wrongful deed he wrought,
   Unjustified, unjust and unprovoked,
Gnawed daily at my soul; yet no revengeful thought
   Within my mind his cruel act evoked.

I evened not the slate. I let him live his life
   Contentful his existence to ignore,
Nor loos’d m tongue’s rebuke, nor sought in verbal strife
   To goad him my forgiveness to implore.

Now here he harmless lies, pale mourners standing by
   As if to prove that e’en a foe has friends;
Alas! his ancient sin so trivial seems that I
   Would scorn to ask the corpse make amends.

Oh rancor, hared, grudge, that sour the human heart!
   Oh stubborn pride that life’s glad pathways rend!
My privilege to pardon and my love impart—
   I could have made my enemy my friend. [page 59]

TO A PALMIST

Come they to you, each troubled soul, and confronting them you sit,
Reading the palm of the open hand and the secrets therein writ;
Engage they you with their wearisome tales of tangled love and woe,
Seeking a balm in the prophecy of things that they wish to know;
Clinging to every spoken word—so anxious, yet half afraid,
Evasive at times, yet hoping always that you will not evade,
Never admitting their own weak faults—and so you urgently try
To mingle your forecasts with advice—to stifle the trembling sigh,
Instilling a hope in despairing breasts where faith is on the wane
And helping the mental invalids to gather their strength again. [page 60]

L’ENVOI

No reincarnate Poe am I,
No Shelley, Byron, Keats;
No hidden mystics do I pry,
Nor, flaunting cryptic ritual, try
   Weird cabalistic feats—
I run no verbal heats.

A literary wilderness
   To me is solace scant;
Amid the throng I love to press—
Life, music, song—a girl’s caress!
   Avaunt to sham and cant—
I am no grave pedant.

In halls of fame those greater bards
   Shall live forevermore;
My fleeting fame a house of cards,
My feeble efforts paltry shards
   Devoid of learned lore—
Crumbs dropped upon the floor.

But though I play a lesser part
   With rhymes in cruder vein,
If one small line should hope impart
To some sad soul who, with new heart,
   Shall find his feet again—
Then it is not in vain! [page 61]
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