Leonard (Leo) Cox
The Wind in the Field
30th Aug 2022Posted in: Leonard (Leo) Cox, Modernist Poets 0

The RYERSON

POETRY

CHAP-BOOKS

[illustration]

The

Wind in the Field

By LEO COX

[unnumbered page]

This is Chap-Book Number Fifty-nine

OF THIS EDITION OF WIND IN THE FIELD, BY LEO COX, TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY COPIES HAVE BEEN PRINTED. THIS CHAP-BOOK IS A PRODUCT OF THE RYERSON PRESS, TORONTO CANADA.

                Copyright, Canada, 1932,

                by The Ryerson Press

Some of the poems of this volume have appeared in Saturday Night, Canadian Bookman, Poetry of To-day, of London, The Poetry Year Book (Canadian Authors’ Association), and various Canadian newspapers. The author also desires to thank the Ryerson Press for permission to reprint a poem from Sheepfold, one of their series of Poetry Chap-Books. [unnumbered page]

The Wind in the Field

By LEO COX

[illustration]

[unnumbered page]

TO MY WIFE

[unnumbered page]

The wedded light and heat,

Winnowing the witless space,

Without a let,

What are they till they beat

Against the sleepy sod, and there beget

Perchance the violet!

                                               —Coventry Patmore.

~

The Wind in the Field

By Leo Cox

****

THE blue west sky moves down toward this hill

And becomes wind, washed through the cirrus cloud;

The mountains murmur and the pines are bowed,

The lake-pools tremble underneath its will.

Now the stream-willows sweep that were so still,

Now the sweet balsams and the cedars yield,

The grasses waken in the slumbering field,

The hill stirs softly, and the flowers fill.

And now my heart, like that blue field below,

Breaks into wave on wave before the wind,

Pulses with earth and water, tree and flower,

And then is still again—but shaken so

That I have solace for my troubled mind

And hold this moment for some bitter hour. [page 3]

A COUNTRY ROAD

SOME winter night the moon will rise

And flood this lane with silver eyes.

And the Great Dipper will possess

The tall elms’ bitter loveliness.

The wind will stir the drifting snow

In search of dreams of long ago;

All that can live in that December

Is what the heart and soul remember—

How on a certain summer day

Beauty on this long road lay

And wove with sun and cloud and tree,

A pattern of eternity;

How the sky touched the meadow-land

With everlasting lovely hand,

And how the flower-smelling wind

Meandered through my tired mind

And ran on down the waiting road,

Dream-laden down the waiting road   .   .   .

Making soft trouble in the trees.

Or how far woods, dissolved in rain,

Sent fragrant hedges to the lane;

And how the thrushes spun a thread

Of silken singing overhead;

How naturally an old house stood,

Nursed by field and tree and wood—

With creamy walls and shuttered green,

Heart to heaven, and how clean.   .   .   . [page 4]

How near the earth and my heart are,

In the smell of stone and tar;—

Fraught with fellowship of labour,

Every man my splendid neighbour;

And how at last the willows bend

Gravely to fate at the road’s end.   .   .   .

ᴥ ᴥ ᴥ

NIGHT STORM ON THE LAKE

THE midnight storm drowned every dreaming tree

Under the fresh, warm waterfall of rain,—

Into the sleeping hearts of birds again

Poured ecstasy for morning songs to be.

And in night’s crucible eternity

Plunged all high heaven in the soundless lake,

As though never another morn should break,

And melted mountains to a mineral sea.

I must put out again in life’s frail bark

Over the lake’s deep sorrow in the night,

Under the tears of sky, and with no light

But faith to guide me through the trackless dark;

But shall remember how we came at last

Into our haven, with the struggle past.   .   .   . [page 5]

ODE AFTER HARVEST

O MY North Star, empty the sky of light,

       Bring in the darkness, for the long day’s lost,—

The earth and I are ready for the night;

       The harvest’s home; let down the peace of frost.

    My hay has settled in the timbered mow,

           The silo rises ’round my heavy corn,

               My grain is sleeping gold.

    The reaping-knife is plotting with the plough

           Long ere next summer’s ready to be born,

               And earth and I are tired and very old.

We have drunk deeply, earth and I, spent days

       Lavishly under sun, rain, thunderstorm,

With heat and trouble; our two toiling clays

       Strove, soil and mind, high honours to perform.

    Faithful, we caught strange forces from the sun,

           Labouring blindly to distil their sweet

               Into our crop of fruits;

    Their beauty fleshed our cattle every one,

           Their knowledge swelled the kernels of our wheat,

               Their bitter strength sweats in our cellared roots.

And I have harvested many a precious thing

       For my mind’s treasury, holding the first

Sweet furrow-mists fresh from the mouth of spring,

       And tender summer showers for winter thirst.

    For the gray wastes, I have green moments made

           From smell of running sap, fields under the moon,

               And young corn ’round my knees;

    And for a solace when my heart’s afraid,

           I hear the poplars in the scorching noon,

               And breathe the incense from the cedar-trees. [page 6]

THE LOST VILLAGE OF CAPE RICH, ONT.

TELL, willow-tree, this morning of September,

Where are the fishermen who brought their spoil

Home from the bay, and learned life from the soil,

And taught their children by the winter ember.   .   .   .

Of this dead village lost is every member,

As are their dwelling-stones among the green;

Not a sole trace of where their lives have been—

Where are they, willow-tree, can you remember?

“Look, the great riches of that lilac-tree

Are the soft heat of lovers at the gate,

Now safe beyond the sorrow of the clock;

And, from the mellowed stones, toward the sea,

Sways lonely o’er this wild and rich estate

Some splendid heart in yon tall hollyhock.   .   .   .”

ᴥ ᴥ ᴥ

SEPTEMBER AFTERNOON

IN a deep wood I lie,

At summer end,

Under the green and gold

Birch-tops that bend

Tired against sky.

Last wind from the south

Shakes the leaves down,

Tatters the silver bark,

Turns the earth brown

Under its drouth.

In all the clamour

Of life can I find

Aught more important than

Acorns and wind

And fulfilment of summer? [page 7]

CHERBOURG BY MOONLIGHT

FOREVER now when I shall think of France,

I’ll leave the Channel to the fields of star

And slip behind the Cherbourg harbour bar

To find the grey town sleeping in a trance;

Shall creep up startled streets of ancient stone,

Shall hold my breath, lest the September leaves

And I, disturb the wonder of those eaves,

Shall find the poplars whispering alone;

Shall open wide my window to the moon

That floods the roofs, trees, gardens, and the sea;

And all things past, all things that are to be,

Shall be sweet knowledge in this silver noon.

And at the casement, fresh from heavy seas,

I shall drink always of this night’s strange peace.

ᴥ ᴥ ᴥ

QUEBEC AT NIGHT

THERE is a stairway to a citadel

That rises out of river, street, and porch,

Shakes with the basilica’s evening bell,

And later burns under the low moon’s torch;

Until the rock stirs in its agèd sleep

Uneasily beneath the older sky,

To dreams of soldiers climbing up its steep

With beating hearts for drum and battle-cry.

And it is thus that many a lonely thought,

Lighted and sung by golden circumstance,

And by a subtle magic sweetly caught,

Climbs up the fastness of my mind, and grants

My soul a sojourn in another clime,

My heart a journey backward into time.   .   .   . [page 8]

NIGHT IN ST. IRENÉE

THE forest hills resume their ancient sleep;

They touch Orion with a fringe of pines

And stretch their rocky flanks toward the deep

In an eternal gesture of slow lines.

All the pale poplars by the singing sand,

The wild, sweet thickets by the rushing stream,

The unschooled gardens of the meadow-land,

Are part the patterns of a complex dream.

So, too, is slumbering St. Irenée,

Dark miles around the scented countryside,

Even the stirring of men’s spirits—they,

And the slow, grey, living, restless, tide.

A dream of earth, ascending in the night

In kinship toward the stars’ descending light.

ᴥ ᴥ ᴥ

ANGELUS AT ST. IRENÉE

AGAIN the angelus sweeps down the hill,

Bronze-winged and shod with silver sound,

Up the mad torrent to the crumbling mill,

Over hot roads and purple mountains ’round,

Down to the sighing sand and sweeping tide,

Out into sea, and home along the cape,

Echoing back to belfry, altar-side;

Leaving its peace on colour and on shape.

And all the village soul is stirred to prayer,—

Rememb’ring how its pious faith was made,

How thick the graves lie in the churchyard where

Tremblay and Gautier and Girard are laid.   .   .   .

And how the summer’s glories subtly pass

Into the solemn splendours of the Mass.   .   .   . [page 9]

SUNRISE AT ST. IRENÉE

HOW shall I make this path of gold my own,

This stream of strength, this message from the sun,

This crimson flood of thought from heaven’s throne,—

And hold its essence when this day is done?

And how remember, for what bitter tears

That may come afterwards, this rising lark

Spinning a song, those hills shaking the dark;

How spend this morning gold through all my years?

Let me wake always so, my heart aware

Of the bright mystery of another day,

As yonder hills were, and the river there,

Stirred as the tide was, in this golden bay,—

While this strange beauty in the east was born,

As though this were the primal earthly morn.

ᴥ ᴥ ᴥ

FATHER POINT IN AUGUST

OUT of the matrix of the sky and sea,

A thought is yielded at the edge of sight,

Shapes to a ship under the summer light,

Comes into time from out eternity.

Freighted with foreign dreams and strange comes she,

Her keel-plates barnacled in coral night,

Hull salted under bergs, her decks bleached white,

Her siren stirring longings to be free.   .   .

There is an answering heart-beat of delay—

An intake of the breath along the shore—

A pause in the high labouring of man;

And then return to harvesting the hay,

The light-house watching o’er the river-floor,

The village turning back to safe Sainte Anne.   .   .   . [page 10]

LENTEN SONG

FROM hill and valley, island over,

Through the city, running free,

Snow is melting into river,

Ice is moving into sea.

Under woods of high Mount Royal,

Bitter-sweet of sap astir

Wakens for the summer’s toil

Every maple, birch, and fir.

Firmaments of cloud are resting

On the continents of trees

Where the crows must soon be nesting

And the blossoms bear the bees.

Drenching rock and roof and steeple,

Window, gable, street and square,

Rain floods down upon the people

From an ocean in the air.

Notre Dame’s two towers waken

Suddenly that were stone-bound;

All the city soon is shaken,

Drenched in iron seas of sound.

Every heart a lake of pity,

Every conscience penitent.   .   .   .

Rain is flooding on the city,

Bells are pouring peace in Lent. [page 11]

NIGHT RAIN ON MOUNT ROYAL

THIS is the night when joy and sorrow

Merge in wind and rain—

A troubled peace more than the morrow

Ever can contain.

No music afterwards could sing

Such bitter-sweet belief,

As on this hilltop everything

Now pours its evening grief;

As now the rain sweeps through the wood,

Pale with moon-haunted light,

And washes in its gentle flood

The green and silver night;

As now the sobbing forest shakes

Its crying, breathless trees

Until the deep heart almost breaks

Beyond the morrow’s ease;

Stirring the iron buried deep,

Stone, rock, and dreaming mould.   .   .   .

The hill awakes from bitter sleep,

And I am very old.   .   .   . [page 12]

PLACE VIGER, MONTREAL

LIKE an old man in memory returning,

To a loved place to lay his dead dreams there,

Comes the bronzed year with sandals tired and burning,

Sudden this morning to the mapled square;

The leaves are troubled in the still of noon,

The birds are restless with their little cries,

The fountain spray falls in a jewelled swoon

On the red glory underneath, and dies.

On the round, earthy bed where wilting flowers

Drench the brown mould with mighty drops of blood,

Waste the high passions of my earlier hours,

To richen death in winter’s frozen flood.

Then the faint promise of the wind comes by,

Stirring the heart with immortality.

ᴥ ᴥ ᴥ

NOW COMES OUR APRIL . . .

NOW comes our April through the winter park,

Stirring the trees to thought of bud and flower,

Of coming ecstasy of summer hour

Crowned with the singing of a morning lark.

On the buried rosery she sets her mark;

Her breath rides down through years of leaves, down deep

Through centuries of soil, silence, sleep.   .   .   .

And sets the rose-roots tingling in the dark;—

Like some ideal journeying to the soul

Through tyrannous dull days of commonplace,

Through habit’s lethargy and hope’s repose,

That in some fiery moment finds its goal,—

Touching the heart with strength, the mind with grace,

The whole life with the destiny of a rose! [page 13]

GARDEN POPPIES

THE year is caught, this morning in July,

In a small garden, drowsy with the heat;

And underneath the summer’s urgent feet,

Its wine is pressed out as the flowers die.

Sentient, the earth throws scarlet goblets high,—

A score of trembling cups flaming and sweet,

Raised to the sun,—a gesture swift, complete

With recognition under the ancient sky.

I drink in how the April seed has lain,

Burst, struggled, rose, and met the light;—

Sapped by the earth, the wind, the storm and rain,—

Thrust up its strength in slender, hairy shaft.   .   .   .

And from the bounty of these petals bright,

I drink all summer in at one sweet draught!

ᴥ ᴥ ᴥ

JUNE EVENING

HERE is an evening I have seen before—

The hill against the west is dipped in yellow,

Held to the sky, molten, and growing mellow,

Cools till the gold fails on the wood’s dark floor;

Now is the many-throated drone no more,

Stilled in the growing night until the morrow—

Only the single songs of insect sorrow

Sting the soft air as if to live no more.   .   .   .

So like that other long lost night in June

Is this sweet evening that they might be one;

And all the bitter years of dawn and noon

Since then a dream ending in setting sun;

But though my mind sees an eternal eve,

I cannot make my heavy heart believe. [page 14]

HAWTHORN BERRIES

I CAME upon an orchard hawthorn tree

Whose tired amber leaves fell one by one,

Leaving the dull-red berries unto me

Which on their branches proudly caught the sun.

Not many days they hung thus in the light,

Lending a neutral warmth to the still air,

Colouring the yellow afternoon with bright

Red wisdom from the orchard pulpit bare:

For lately fell these berries where the plough

Buried them deep, forgetting their ripe red,

And all their history—relentless now

Its callous iron turns them to their bed.   .   .   .

So in the world’s October, wiser men

Than I must die that we may live again.

ᴥ ᴥ ᴥ

COURAGE

I SAW a line of birch-trees yesterday;

How by some silver courage of their mind,

They bent their graceful strength before the wind

In long surrender as it sang away.

The tragic park’s November brown and gray

Swept all the slumbering beauty they could find

Into that spirit, and in birch confined

A brave smile at the sun. To me, to-day,

It is a symbol of a hope held high

Among the prophets of a race; a song

Sung against sorrow, or a moon that’s new

In a dark field of stars on winter sky;

But, most of all, it tells how calm and strong

A soul may be when faith is deep and true.   .   .   . [page 15]

POPLARS

SIX whispering poplars rise beside the wall—

Six subtle thoughts born in the eager earth

That leap, magnificent, from sturdy girth

And limb to the most trembling leaf of all.

They work their meaning out under the sky,

Forever in the wind uneasy ride,

Among the constellations nightly hide,

And make with sun their secret chemistry.

Toward the sleeping wall the poplars bend

With such a grace and will as though they’d shake,

With all this beauty, every brick awake,

To hasten each clay fibre to its end

Of being earth again and, sometime, caught

Into the system of a tree-made thought.

ᴥ ᴥ ᴥ

ON A CANARY

O WHEN our golden prisoner awakes

To find the sunlight flooding in his cage,

It is as though he sighted a new age—

The world’s alive with the rich thoughts he makes.

Moved deeply by discovery, he shakes

Song after song upon the morning’s stage

To an empty earth, a single singing sage

Releasing subtleties while morning breaks.

His black and yellow wings are trembling so,

His eyes flame so like stars in a golden sky,

His every feather knows such earnestness,—

That happier champion beauty could not know,

Nor truth more honest singer profit by,

Nor hope through sweeter voice itself confess! [page 16]

THE HORSE

I SAW him prisoner, a hill-bred horse,

Chained to a load that broke his rhythmic pace,

Fettered his feet, and stilled his muscled grace,

And tore his strong heart helpless with remorse.

On trembling flanks the long whip marked its course;

His mountain spirit called to a flying cloud,

To memoried winds on hilltops freshly ploughed;

And, strongly stirred, he gathered all his force.

In that lean strength were all his joys assembled—

Clean rush of water, summer lightning shaft,

The wind’s song, and the sweet of meadow-flower.

Thus close to life itself the watchers trembled,

The city shook beneath that mighty draft,

The towers marvelled at this living power!

ᴥ ᴥ ᴥ

ANALOGY

I PLACE red remnants from the roses

Into a blue-rimmed bowl,

To bathe my eyes in their calm beauty

And remember their whole.   .   .   .

So, too, I take your fragrant sayings

Into my heart’s control,

To rest my mind with their soft solace

And discover your soul.   .   .   . [page 17]

VIOLETS

I CAME on violets first at seven;

My little mind leaped free,

As, later, to high heaven, even,

At the first sight of sea.

I have seen violets in the town

That taught me what in toil

Was noble, with their heavy crown

Of beauty from the soil.

And others, by familiar stone,

Healed me a certain sorrow;

Their delicate sweet strength alone

Led me toward the morrow.

Their secret, though, I never knew

Till I saw beauties meet—

Violets wet with evening dew,

At my belovèd’s feet. [page 18]

SONNET IN THE SLUMS

THOSE dreary streets which crawl between slum parts

Can nevermore be quite as sad and grey;

Hope comes, rose-tinted, to unhoping hearts

Because, aflame with love, we passed that way.

Making a miracle in streets of care,

What eager splendour from our eyes we spent—

A god and goddess walking on the air

Dispensing largess everywhere we went!

A light will hover where to-day we passed,

Touch hearts’ despair, sweeten the years to come,

Brood softly on brick and stone while they may last,

And bury decently that dreadful slum;—

A light, born of your eyes, to match the peace

That shall spring up in flower when cities cease.   .   .   .

ᴥ ᴥ ᴥ

HANDS

AS THE loam-dreamy roots are stirred from sleep,

turn with a host of silent, living things,

move fibrous fingers in the dark warmth deep,

and raise green hope from wakened April springs;

as the tall stem and leaf move up serene,—

child of the sun and clay with beauty burst,

showing against the universal screen,—

the breath of God in crimson tulip-thirst.   .   .   .

So do I waken; quickened, so I grow;

moved surely by what tell your nervous hands—

I thrust blind questions I shall never know

until my heart in living flower stands.   .   .   .

but in the youth of love their answers guess,

when, thrilled with life, your hands and mine caress! [page 19]

MAY NIGHT

IT USED to be that every velvet night

Closed the tall tulip walls, shuttered the woods,

Spun the black dreams of hills, and filtered light

From farthest heaven into this world’s poor goods;

Never a May month came but mystery too,

Never the moon rode high but on adventure,

Never a bird sang sweet but my heart knew,

Never without me went a white cloud’s venture.

All the May night is stirred, now, in return,

Subtly aware of my heart’s need of you—

Strange chemistry my dreams, home-coming, learn,

As they drift back, May’s hundred magics through.

For when I hunger most your eyes to see,

All the May night brings home your love to me.   .   .   .

ᴥ ᴥ ᴥ

RENDEZVOUS

CARPETED thick with rotted leaves of frost,

The enchanted street led down into the day:

And as I walked, the mist-veils dropped away,

Leaving the startled trees bare, lonely, lost.

For a brief space I followed Summer’s ghost

Through the old orchard rich with apple-bough,

And all things turned to the sun, mist-breaking now,

For freedom from the frost—my own heart most.

And then far down the road I saw my dear,

Her cheeks alight with the sweet morning air,

Her heart awake like a still forest’s stir.   .   .   .

And O, the melting of the chains of fear,

The freedom, and the loss of heavy care,

And God! the promise at the sight of her! [page 20]

RETREAT PLAYED BY THE BUGLE BAND OF THE OTTAWA HIGHLANDERS AT CONNAUGHT RANGES

THE Highlanders are out along the land;

Their coats are crimson from an ancient fight,

Kilts dark with sorrow in the settling night,

Hearts waiting for a historied command.

Then suddenly a fierce joy sweeps the band

And half a hundred minds become as one,

The bugles flame a hymn to the setting sun,

The flag descends under tradition’s hand.   .   .   .

Under a spell the black Laurentians lie,

The northern evening has a heather breath,

And we are standing where the dead have stood

For songs of honour crying out to Skye,

A march for Bannockburn, and drums for death,

And lovesong on a stair in Holyrood.   .   .   .

ᴥ ᴥ ᴥ

LAST SUMMER

LAST SUMMER you and I lay down

Beneath this tall birch-tree

Whose tender branches were a crown

Of green and silver filigree.

There was such glory on that day,

Such triumph over pain,

Such beauty filled us as we lay

That may not come to us again.

The sky is trembling pale this noon,—

Less light in this tree’s green,

The silver’s turned to gray too soon,

Remembering where we two have been. [page 21]

LINES ON A BABY-GIRL

OH, HER eyes are deep pools under

Skies of twenty months of wonder.   .   .   .

Musing how her starry spirit

Shall this world’s poor goods inherit.

Joy and sorrow, night and noon—

She must learn them all too soon.

And her eyes shall, heaven-enriched,

Leave many a splendid thing bewitched;

Many a flower, richly strange,

Under her eyes shall know sweet change;

Many a field and wood shall learn

Her laughter, and her wonder earn.

And at her bidding worlds may move,

Through the fire of some man’s love.   .   .   . [page 22]

HISTORY OF ANNE

SHE felt none knows what life design

From some pre-natal sign;

For when the sweet child Anne had come,

A white flame lit the slum.

She sensed the whole in every part

Even with infant heart.

With threads of sun she wove the skies

With her mind’s early eyes.

With what she gathered of the rain

She made the seas again.

A bitter weed outside the door

She turned to meadow-floor;

And in an apple she would find

The orchards of her mind.

None knows of what high heaven of pleasure

Her brief love was a measure,

But when he died her eyes betrayed

Her poor heart sore afraid.

None knows what death still promised Anne

When she rejoined her man.  [page 23]

THE BALLET DANCER

SHE danced as though she saw the earth’s creation

And heard the Word that sent a wild unrest

Over the sea—a strange and hot elation

Through clay and rock, toward the tree and nest.

She danced as though she watched the world responding,

Inevitably, as blossoms one by one,

Answer the fruitful, anxious earth’s commanding,

And leave new beauty for the summer sun.

She danced as though she saw a great procession

Of splendid hopes and great despairs of men,

Which in her rhythms took a new expression,—

Of truth’s bright treasures a sweet specimen.

She danced as though she knew at heart that death

Meant but creation of a nobler breath.   .   .   .

ᴥ ᴥ ᴥ

TOWARD ENGLAND

NOW, tired, turn we from our haste and toil,

To look away from where the gold suns set,

Their western glory for a while forget,

And rest our hearts upon an older soil;

Dreaming of morning in a hundred towns,

Noon in a thousand woods with songs enriched,

Valleys with rainy afternoons bewitched,

And evenings on the lonely, tree-less downs.

And then, as from an hour devout with thought

Or fireside session delicate with dream,

From contemplation on a noble theme

Of subtle sight and sound superbly wrought;

Arise and make our morrows splendidly,

Renewed with beauty and with chivalry! [page 24]

THE FLYING BELLS

RED dawn is here, and ancient grief—

Heaven covered with a shroud of grey,

Hearts heavy with old unbelief,—

The morn of Easter Saturday.

Long years ago when gardens grew

Strange, sweet treasures, far at home,

The bells in every belfry flew,

Winged with sound, unseen to Rome.   .   .   .

And, like a cloud of grey gulls sweeping

Inland, satiate with sea-power,

Came back on Saturday to weeping

Window, arch, and belfry-tower.

And now, to-day, they shake the sky,

They melt the very stones with joy—

Would melt my heart if only I

Had watched for them as when a boy! [page 25]

WOOD AND STRAW

YOU say these silent things that serve us well

Are dead to light, to heat, to song, to touch;—

These shapes from trees are wood, and only such,

Which lost their heritage when the great trees fell;

When the long corn is cut, what man may tell

Whether the stalk is less fine than the ear,

Though straw but rest the beasts throughout the year,

And bread sustain the mighty soul’s frail shell.

For it may be that, even while we pray,

Some mighty Whole of which we are a part,

Examines, in the kindness of His heart,

Our little hope with what concern He may,

As in the manger, once, in Bethlehem,

God moved in wood and straw, and gazed at them.   .   .   .

EASTER THOUGHT

THE hedgerows are wiser than I—

Under the weight of their snows,

Expectation runs high.

Gathered by dark roots below,

From the clay sleep of the floods,

Rises the stuff of the buds.

The hedgerows are wiser than I—

Of Easter never knew they,

Resurrection, or why

The heart should be stirred to-day.   .   .   .

But the hedgerows renew their green breath

When taken each winter by death. [page 26]

PRAYER

INTO the evening air,

Heavy with chestnut-tree,

Up to the mild May stars,

There went a prayer from me.

Steeped in the sap it was,

And fragrant with the spring;

Wordless, and wondering,

A very fragile thing.   .   .   .

Doubtless it made the round

Of planetary spaces,

And grew tired of heaven

And high places.

When I am old, I think,

It will look out for me;

And it will say,

“Here is the thing you wished to be.” [page 27]

THE QUERY

IN old time, ere ever a dream was born,

Something disturbed the long curve of the world,

Whose pure rebellion gathered strength and hurled

A query into God’s still, dateless dawn.

Then there arose stirrings of silver light

That melted swiftly in a path of thought

Of high debate and mighty humour wrought,

Speeding into unutterable night.

And on this pilgrimage all beauties are,—

Ideas, judgments, conscience, ebb and flow,—

Cohered in patterns Nature cannot know,

A lost procession in the fields of star.   .   .   .

And in the ranks follow the hearts of men,

Lost till the silent march turns home again.

ᴥ ᴥ ᴥ

THE CLOCK

FOR one long hundred years the clock has stood

In many halls, and many fortunes known,

But no event has touched its monotone,

And nothing but Time’s tremor stirs its wood.

In utter disregard of bad and good,

Sways the unhurrying pendulum

In fateless, senseless equilibrium,

Waiting for Time to slay its own gray mood.

It need not wait: for Time came the first day,

Disguised as all the creatures of decay.

Give him but thought enough, and he will mock

Our effort to enshrine him in a clock.

As, it may be, the gods are moved to mirth

At a vain worship on this crumbling earth.   .   .   . [page 28]

GARGOYLE

THIS is some hunger that the workman knew,

A falling short of stone infinity,

A story of the enemies he slew

To put his high dreams in captivity.

Here are the evening strayings of his mind

With maiden, mirth, and glass—the flesh and bone

Of an ideal in sun and rain and wind,

Chiselled imperishably in the stone.

As, too, might God, in His creative task,

Have prisoned, in our few, hard, splendid years,

His unimagined ventures in a mask—

The balance of our joys against our fears;

Making, as in this gargoyle-headed glory,

In all Creation’s book, a human story.   .   .   .

ᴥ ᴥ ᴥ

RELATIVITY IN WORSHIP

YOU who have winged vantage among the stars,

And watch the green earth silently revolving,

What spacious problems yours, what splendid solving,

What freedom yours, and what your prison bars!

Have you great dreams, and are there hopes with you—

Dreams wrought of planets as are ours of earth,

And flaming tears, or some star-shaking mirth,

Some sympathy that stirs the light-years through?

Perhaps you tire colossally of space,

Of watching jewelled Earth the dawns adorning,

And dream of our green hills some July morning,

Of prayer in a tiny altar-place.   .   .   .

So tire we too, at times, of our great things,

Till taught of God from where the atom swings. [page 29]

WALTZ

IF my forefathers could by aught be stirred

From their cold place under the yewy hill,

From green sea-spoil where never sound is heard,

Or from rich roots nourished by battle still;—

No sword-cry, though it made history, could bring

Their shadowy souls from misty countries home,

No mother’s song, nor any chanted thing,

Would stir their dust deep in the honoured loam.

But if a cadence could, from memory’s skies,

Delve fiery fingers down into the earth,

That dance would fill them with a slow surprise,

Which first, in life, to splendid love gave birth;

And so perhaps this very evening’s measure

Moves them toward life again, with my own pleasure.   .   .   .

ᴥ ᴥ ᴥ

AN OLD FLORIN

FROM the still heart of some far, lonely hill,

Men brought this virgin silver to the fire,

And hammered it to their design and will,

Into a coin that symbolized desire.

Hid in its argent atoms is the tale

Of power it bought two hundred years ago—

A ransom, or a keg of golden ale,

Threats, promises, perhaps a death or so.   .   .   .

But as the pageants pass, to pay and earn,

It shows profound, hill-born indifference;

This mineral calm is omen of return

To a dark rendezvous with gold and pence.   .   .   .

And as I turn to another setting sun,

I know its destiny and mine are one [page 30]

FREIGHTER

SPEAK but a name, and I shall surely see,

With its shaped freedom lately from the mines,

Black, hungry steel run swiftly in long lines

To its new prison of the sky and sea;

Shall, with the ship’s every trembling, be

Faithful to every prompting in the heart,

Shall answer to her toil in every part,

And earnestly her strength shall comfort me.

As galleys slaved against the Afric wind,

Until, spice-heavy, came they home to Crete;

So fight these iron monsters, low with wheat,

And darkly slip into their ports assigned.

For what has urged him on since time began,

For all his iron ships, still urges man.

ᴥ ᴥ ᴥ

SONNET

(From the Spanish of Garcilasso de la Vega)

O LADY, while the colour of the rose

And lily shows itself in your appeal,

And while your ardent, modest looks reveal

What fires the heart, and yet restrains its throes;

And while your hair, in that rich vein it chose,

With swift and ever-ready flight beside

The beautiful white neck of marbled pride,

Moves with the wind and sweet disorder knows;—

Gather you from your happy, joyous spring,

The sweetest fruit, before old-tempered Time

Covers with snow your head so beautiful.   .   .   .

The rose must wither in a frozen clime,

And Age most surely will change everything,—

So not to make exception to His rule! [page 31]

MELANCHOLY

(From the French of the Comtesse de Noailles)

’TIS kindly evening, filled with whisperings;

The agèd sexton climbs the ancient tower,

And piously the deep-toned censer swings;

Against clear heaven the church-bell tells the hour.

Under its eaves the birds their nest have found,

But, suddenly, across the lace-work of the stone,

They fly in terror at the rain of sound

On crumbling gable that the years have known.

Shaking its sorrowing beats upon the air,

The bell stirs troublous memories in me,

Touched by its ebb and flooded by its flow.   .   .   .

In my deep heart, its echo shuddering there,

Every vibration frightens, scatters free,

A world of birds from sleep of long ago.

ᴥ ᴥ ᴥ

END-PIECE

WHEN a meadow was the world

I fashioned daisy-chains;

And later, to the mountain-tops,

And high cathedral-fanes,

I fashioned things of dream,

An empire and a Rome.   .   .   .

Now shall I fashion heaven,

When all my thoughts come home! [page 32]

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