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Title: The House of the Titans and Other Poems Author: A.E. (George W. Russell) * A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook * eBook No.: 0300941h.html Language: English Date first posted: Jul 2003 Most recent update: Apr 2019 This eBook was produced by Colin Choat and Roy Glashan. Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular paper edition. Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this file. This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html To contact Project Gutenberg of Australia go to http://gutenberg.net.au
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AE, pseudonym of George William Russell, (born April 10, 1867, Lurgan, County Armagh, Ireland; died July 17, 1935, Bournemouth, Hampshire, England), poet, artist, and mystic, a leading figure in the Irish literary renaissance of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Russell took his pseudonym from a proofreader's query about his earlier pseudonym, "AEon."
After attending the Metropolitan School of Art, Dublin, where he met the poet William Butler Yeats, Russell became an accounts clerk in a drapery store but left in 1897 to organize agricultural cooperatives. Eventually he became editor of the periodicals The Irish Homestead (1904-23) and The Irish Statesman (1923-30). In 1894 he published the first of many books of verse, Homeward: Songs by the Way. His first volume of Collected Poems appeared in 1913 and a second in 1926. He maintained a lifelong interest in theosophy, the origins of religion, and mystical experience. The Candle of Vision (1918) is the best guide to his religious beliefs.
—The Encylopaedia Britannica
Dear Osborn, not only because you are my friend, But that you are one of those who learned An ancient speech for us, who rediscovered Myths, once the scriptures of the northern world, I bring this poem, half dream, half vision, to you. I know, incredulous scholar, you will lift Ironic eyebrows as you read the tale. But being poet yourself you will forgive Unto the poet things unpardonable Done by a scholar. Yet I would defend My telling of the tale. These myths were born Out of the spirit of man and drew their meaning From that unplumbed profundity. I think In after ages they will speak to us With deeper voices and meanings. In one age Men turn to the world about them and forget Their old descent from heaven. In another They storm the heavens with supplication. Some Have found the glittering gates to open. I Beat many times upon the gates, but was not Like those who kept them mightily apart Until they entered. Yet from fleeting voices And visionary lights a meaning came That made my myth contemporary. And those Who read may find titans and king within Themselves. And, if they ponder further, they may, Not in my story, but on the shining heights Of their own spirit, hear those lordlier voices, The ageless shepherds of the starry flocks, They whose majestic meditation is The music of being; unto those who hear it Sweeter than bells upon a darkening plain When the dim fleeces move unto the fold.
The day was dead, and in the titans' hall The darkness gathered like some monstrous beast Prowling from pillar unto pillar: yet The brazen dais and the golden throne Made a fierce twilight flickering with stars Far in the depths. And there the sky-born king, Nuada, now king of earth, sat motionless, A fading radiance round his regal brows, The sceptre of his waning rule unused, His heart darkened, because the god within, Slumbering or unremembering, was mute, And no more holy fires were litten there. Still as the king, and pale and beautiful, A slender shape of ivory and gold, One white hand on the throne, beside him stood Armid, the wise child of the healing god. The king sat bowed: but she with solemn eyes Questioned the gloom where vast and lumbering shades, A titan brood, the first born of the earth, Cried with harsh voices and made an uproar there In the king's dun oblivious of the king. While Armid gazed upon them came a pain That stirred the spirit stillness of her eyes, And darkened them with grief. Then came her words "Tell me our story, god-descended king, For we have dwindled down, and from ourselves Have passed away, and have forgotten all." And at her calling "God-descended king" His head sank lower as if the glorious words Had crowned his brow with a too burning flame Or mocked him with vain praise. He answered not, For memory to the sky-born king was but The mocking shadow of past magnificence, Of starry dynasties slow-fading out, The sorrow that bound him to the lord of light He was, ere he had sunken in red clay His deity. The immortal phantom had not yet Revealed to him the gentler face it wears, The tender shadow of long vanquished pain And brightening wisdom, unto him who nears The Land of Promise, who, in the eve of time, Can look upon his image at the dawn And falter not. And as King Nuada sat With closed eyes he saw the ancient heavens, The thrones of awe, the rainbow shining round The ever-living in their ageless youth, And myriads of calm immortal eyes That vexed him when he met the wild beast glare And sullen gloom of the dark nation he ruled, For whom self-exiled, irrevocably He was outcast among the gods. And then The words of Armid came more thronged with grief "O, you, our star of knowledge, unto you We look for light, to you alone. All these Fall in that ancient anarchy again When sorrowing you put the sceptre by. Would not your sorrow shared melt in our love? Or our confederate grief might grow to power, And shake the gods or demons who decreed This darkness for us? Or if the tale forbade All hope, there is a sorrowful delight In coming to the very end of all, The pain which is the utmost life can bear, Where dread is done, and only what we know Must be endured, and there is peace in pain. I would know all, O god-descended king!" That tribe of monstrous and misshapen folk Whose clamor overlaid her speech, and made Its music a low murmur, had grown still Far down the hall. And at the close her words Came clear and purely, mingling with a voice And harp that hushed the titans. Ah, that voice That made the giants' ponderous bulk to faint And bent the shaggy heads low on great hands, While over the dark crouching figures towered Angus the Young, the well-beloved god, With proud tossed golden hair that glittered o'er The beautiful bare arms that caught the harp, And the bright form went swaying as he played. And there were scarlet birds, a phantom throng That dashed against the strings, and fled away In misty flame amid the brooding crowd, And vanished; while the colored dusk grew warm To the imagination, and was dense With dark heart-melting eyes, alluring lips, With milk-white bosoms, and with glimmering arms That drew the soul unto their folding love. And the tormented giants groaned and lay Prone on the hall, or stretched out hairy arms With knotted fingers feeling for the feet Of him who played. But the enchanter laughed, The pride of the brute tamer in his eyes, And looked at Armid. She had hidden her face To shut the vision, for he seemed no more Before her, but a fleshless creature stalked With bony fingers clutching at the strings, And all the giant nation lust-consumed Were dwindling out. "Is there no hope," she cried, "For them, for us; or must we still forget, And have not even memory we were gods, And these drop to that lightless anarchy From which they rose." Her tears were falling fast, The gods had learned to weep, the earth's first gift. Her weeping roused at length that stony king, Whose face from its own shadow lifted up Was like the white uprising of the moon. "O" better that remembrance be no more, Than we whose feet are tied unto this world Should seek in phantasy to climb the thrones Where once we sat and ruled the stars, and all The solemn cyclic motion of these spheres. And will the younger gods who took our seats Call to us and descend to give us place, Us who are feeble, who have lost our brightness, Whom only these acknowledge; these alone When by our arts we change their hearts' desires, Masking their hideous shapes with airy forms, With sheeny silver, lustrous pearl, pale gold, Out of that glory still within us. No 'Twere better that all memory should die," "Let it not die," cried Armid, flinging up In fountainous motion her white hands and arms That wavered, then went downward, casting out Denial. "Let it not die. Let us still be Even in heart-torturing remembrance bound To what we were. For that ancestral self May wake from out this pitiful dream of ours If there should mingle with it gleam or tone Of its own natural majesty. I think That unremembered world where we were born Is not far from us, yearns for us. Sometimes The air grows fragile and a light breaks through, And the tall heaven leans down to touch our brows, And our high kinsmen see us, and they are saying Of us, 'Soon they will awaken, soon Will come to us again.' And for a moment We almost mix in their eternity." Then, kneeling on the dais nigh the throne, She cast her arms upon the high king's knees, And took his hands, her drooping loveliness All shaken with appeal. "Tell me, I fear To melt into the blackness of this world, To know naught else and yet to hate it still, To lose the heavens yet not to be of earth, Its natural happiness not mine. O that Would be the blackest torture of the soul. To forget ourselves, not to know, to hate, To grow at last like all we hate. To have No hope but that the darkness owns. I shall Go mad unless you speak and tell me all." And then the high king told her all the tale, Which he alone remembered but in myth And symbol. It was so very long ago It might be but a dream, and thus it ran. In the beginning was the boundless Lir Within whose being heaven and earth were lost, And Light and Dark cradled together lay, And all things were at peace within the fold. The hunter with the hunted lay, for each Had found the end of battle and of hate Was adoration. There fierce things made gentle, And timid things made bold, and small made great, Mingled together at the Feast of Age. And then the long night closed. The day began And out of the Immeasurable deep, The habitation of eternity, Flared the high legions of the Light and Dark. Driving their tributary powers to build Ethereal realms and dim underworlds. And in the overworld from rarest fire And starry substances, the builders reared Murias, Gorlas, Findias and Falias, That were like living creatures, and towered and glowed And changed with the imagination. In those First realms of immortal youth the gods Had everywhere their hearts' desire. For them Cities soared heavenward even at the thought, And life was beautiful as it was dreamed, For every thought broke into instant light Around the burning multitudes of heaven. And fluid nature, ever mirroring The gods within Its glowing glass, was slave To them, and held its tyranny far off. And there the sorceress writhing in her mists Shaped her fierce powers in hateful effigies Of heaven and of heaven's shining hosts. And there her children fought blind battles. There Her stony kings held awful court. And there The only ecstasy life knew was pain, And torture was the only sacrifice That could propitiate their demon gods. Long ages inarticulate with pain Passed by before their cry pierced up to heaven. In that wide palace of the overworld Where Nuada was king, the gods sat dumb Between the lustrous pillars, on long lines Of thrones, that faded, glow by glow, to where The king on high sat aureoled with light. And all were silent for that shining air That bathed them and was both light and sound together, And made a magic music for the gods, The sweet notes trembling of themselves, had cried, Not as its wont, interpreting their joy, But as if stricken by some frenzied hand, And the wild notes of woe went shrilling on And chilled the shuddering gods. So all sat mute Frozen in starlike beauty on their thrones; For that they knew the lovely idleness Of youth in heaven was over, and ended all The entranced hours and foam-gay life. And now The Realm of the Living Heart, no more Inviolate, was stormed by sorrow, and they, Who feared no strife with elemental powers, Being themselves the masters of the fire, Must war with sorrow, a spirit thing, that feared No battlement that cast forth lightnings, but Came cowled invisibly past watch and ward, And none knew till it keened within the heart. When Nuada within the darkling hall Saw all the bowed heads of his sovereignty, The stricken children of the mighty Lir, He heard a voice within him crying, "Sorrow Has come upon you. Rise and war on sorrow." And to his eyes the underworld cast up Its nameless horrors 'mid the hall of heaven, Dim tyrannies that aped the sway of light, And grotesque idols of enormous bulk Carved by some gnomic art that never felt The spirit thrill of beauty. And he saw The altars smoking with the victim's blood, Where lips were dumb through hopelessness, but yet From the most inner living heart of these A cry went to the heart of all the world, And made that wild distracted melody That shook the gods. Then Nuada arose, A blazing torch of indignation, and called, And in his voice rang out such pity and wrath, The proud and golden races flashed and leaped Dilated unimaginably for war, With dragon crests of ruby and of gold That flamed o'er burning faces and lit eyes, Till all the hall was dense with forms of fire, The warrior magnificence of heaven, That, in a many-colored torrent, streamed From shining courts and from the lawns of light And swayed there to and fro with brandished fires Clenched in uplifted hands. They shouted loud Responding to the call of the high king. And Nuada spake thus unto the host. "This is the ending of the golden age, For that we know from ancient prophecy That darkness more intense than light has grown To shake the strings that for the mightiest Alone have voice. And we must hear them breathe Their melody of anguish age by age Until the very heavens are wrecked of joy, And we be crushed, as in that tyranny Where our dark brother Balor rules the gloom, Save we can overcome that tyranny. Though we be children of the mighty Lir, And though his might be in us to create, Yet what is built is only what we dream, And so it comes these heavens alone are holy Because of things that we imagine there. If, by the magic of the mighty Lir, Cities spring heavenward even at our thought And life is beautiful but as we dream, Our grief too shall discolor paradise And dim these glittering cities. Ye have heard The Children of the Darkness cry to us. And we who are the Children of the Light Must answer in the infinite brotherhood. Who will go with me to that underworld Where Balor for an iron age hath made Anguish immutable? Who ventures there Must wear the very body of death, and feel The very soul of hate gnaw in his heart; And can but overcome them so he use The tender and fierce fire of spirit alone." Out of his wider vision spake the king Of that abysmal life that underlay The Happy Plains. But they of heaven heard The tale unfearing. When the high king called, "Who will go with me, warriors of heaven?" A foam of glorious faces swayed to him Athirst for the heroic enterprise. And then the mightiest, rising from their thrones, Offered each one his own peculiar powers. "To earth I give the magic of the mind," Said Manannan, nighest of all to Lir. And Dana said, "I shall make beauty there." And Angus said, "My birds shall waken love." Ogma, "The might of heaven is Mine to give." Fintan, "I shall bring memory and hope." "And I shall be the vanishing of pain," Said Diancecht. And of the immortals none But would lay down his sceptre, and forgo The sweetness of his youth on such a quest. After long pondering and council sought Where the All-Father breathed his oracles, Forth fared the heavenly adventurers, The chosen of Lir's children, passing from The old, perpetual, rejoicing life, Where in the lucid being of the gods The Mighty Father, shining, made each one A mirror of his own infinitudes. Then weaving forms of magic power that might Withstand the elemental energies, Upon the mid world venturing, the gods Down the sidereal streams waned far away From the ancestral plains and Light of Lights. And lastly by aeonian journeyings Came unto earth, the desert verge of things, Where all the heavens once held within their hearts Were now without, beyond, and far away. And as a spider by the finest thread Hangs from the rafters, so the sky-born hung By but the frailest thread of memory from The habitations of eternity. Yet still about them clung a heavenly air, The shadow of their ancient nobleness; And gods they seemed unto the titan brood, Sovereign hitherto on earth. And these, All wonderstruck before the heaven-born, Were prostrate, and thereafter made them kings, Served them and worked their will, and built for them Cyclopean duns, massy, of bronze or stone The time defying and unchangeable Fabric of earth. And so, because the gods Were folk of many arts, and all had drunk The Well of Knowledge, every work they planned Was marvelous unto the earth-born tribes Suppliant of all that wisdom. For a time The heavenly quest seemed won, the face of earth Turned to the skies. But underneath it all Some evil sorcery worked on the gods, And from them one by one dropped memory, So that it came they knew no light but that Set in the sky, the bodily form to be Themselves. And earth had lost its first Impenetrable strangeness and grew dear As hearth and home. And they had happiness Moving amid its woods, rivers and hills. Only sometimes when gazing on the night, Freckled with myriad fires, they sighed and knew Not why they sighed. Or when the flaming sun Sank drowned in darkness it seemed a secret tale Was told of their own falling. They thought no more Of that transfiguration of titan into god They had imagined; and half a fable it seemed That story of heroic enterprise, And then it was forgotten utterly. The children of earth grew noble to their eyes, And they took brides from them, and through the gods The titan brood inherited the fires, Lights that made starry dreams of pride or power. And last the being of the gods was changed To be but lordlier titan, and their king Seemed but a madman dreaming of lost worlds. Then when the tale was told, with desperate eyes Armid gazed into the cyclopean dark, And to her imagination or spirit sense The brazen gloom was quick with livid shapes, Monstrosities of soul that in themselves Downward and backward prowl unto the brute. And here a ghoul, ice green, with famished eyes Glared at her where a titan's head had been; There apes that gibbered obscenely, monstrous cats That bristled with cold lights, and snaky heads, And dark implacable eyes of birds of prey That burned like evil fires within the gloom. But yet more terrible unto her heart The conflagration heaven had made on earth Breathing ethereal fire into red clay, Revealing beauty invisible before, The fairy star that glimmered o'er white brows, The lights that danced upon the airy limbs, The bloom and shadow as of delicate flowers That flickered over the sweet breasts, and dazzled The titans with strange graces. And, because The body cannot clasp the phantom glow, The soul wrought wantonness and unnameable Defilement upon spirit. Armid saw The beauty of the sky-maidens violated By the passionate imagination, and she reeled Sick with the horror, stretching out blind hands, For it was Angus by his song had kindled Desire so high that the sky maidens only Could satisfy the god-created lust. Then she groped outward for the mighty gates, And stood there trembling like a moth. The night, Black framed between the pillar posts of bronze, Glowed like a fiery furnace of blue flame, With heavens that lost themselves in their own depths, Rumoring their own infinitudes, Fainting and faltering in their speech, for light, Though swiftest of all things, ere it has found A resting Place or hamlet in the gloom The worlds it spake of have long ceased to be. As inaccessible as those dim lights The heavens from which the gods had fallen so far, From infinite to pigmy. Armid beat Upon her breast at her own impotence. Then the pure daughter of Diancecht Felt a fierce heat invade her, and she saw A titan with his red and bestial eyes Fixed on her beauty. The divine maid shuddered Through all her virgin being in premonition Of martyrdom through long ages to be, Of beauty bowed to sorrow, overborne By the unleashed brute in the titan heart. And the divine maid, maddened by her fears, Raced the dark lawn and onward to the beach, When the cold waters stayed her, and she paused, Holding her heart that fluttered like a bird At the long peril of the night in time. And then at last she sat upon a stone Gazing into the night, and heard the roar Of undistinguishable waters, until Upon the far horizon glowed a star, A star that rose where the late sun had set, A light dilating that came swiftly to her, And there were flutterings within the light As of celestial plumes fanning the air. And in the brightness there were fiery creatures, A winged horse, and o'er the rider's brow A sunrise blazed. The winged courser came, Trampling the glittering billows, and before it The light flared on, revealing the wild surges, That had been before invisible, leaping up In shadowy shining, and, like hurrying clouds, Beaten by the storm of light unto the shore, Where the thick smoke of foam rolled on the sands And broke, frothing with stars. Armid arose Her head bowed unto the glory of light, And when she lifted it the winged creature Had flown, but a tall warrior, its rider, Stood by her, a pillar of flame, his eyes so still They might have watched only eternities. She heard a voice that seemed soundless, that spoke To the spirit ear. "Tell the high king a champion Out of the Land of Promise comes to him." And with no word the daughter of Diancecht As one in trance, not moved by her own will, Walked to the great gateway. Unterrified She passed that titan who had frighted her, And came to the high king and told her tale. But he, obscured within himself, said only "What mightier warrior was there in heaven Than Ogma. Now he leads the giants in war. Tell thou that champion to fly his winged horse, Swift as its frantic plumes may carry, before The sorcery overcome him and he forgets." Then Armid came again to him who stood, A stillness in flame, unseen by any eye But hers, and spoke as the high king had said. That voice again spoke to her spirit ear. "I am an enchanter. Say this to the high king." So Armid spake to Nuada, but he: "Who had more enchantments than Dana, who made The primal forms of beauty for the gods. Now upon brute imaginings she casts Her glamour. What need have we for enchanters! So to the heavenly wizard Armid brought The king's denial: and he to her said, "Go To the high king, and say a poet waits Upon his threshold." And at this the king Spoke more disdainfully. "Have we not Angus, The poet whose song could recreate in us The ancientness before the worlds, where we, Lost in each other's being, found a honey Hoarded for us we could not find in time, A song we hear no more. For now that poet Praises beauty that is but redness of clay. And the mad winging of his fiery birds Kindles the torment of infinite desire For shapes so fleeting they are hardly born Ere they are crumbled. Say unto that poet There are too dark shadows about us for song." Once more came Armid, as one in trance, unto That heavenly poet forbidden song, who said, "I know the story of things past. I know The tale of things to be." And to the king She came as bidden by the master of time And spoke. But the king said, "Was not Fintan Historian and prophet! Now his history runs Backward to the abyss. His prophecies Tell only of worlds lightless and frozen, where we Shall have for cairn the glaciers over us. We need no prophet." And the maiden told Unto that seer what the high king had said. And he who came from out a timeless world Spoke to her. "I am a healer." And once more She stood before the throne. But Nuada cried, "A healer too! Have we not Diancecht! What need have we for another god to tend The blighted in mind or body, who are leprous With evil living, so that desire may be Fierce as before. That is no labor for gods." And then, forbidden healing, that lordly one Spake unto Armid, "Go thou to the high king And say I am a shepherd. I have wisdom To guide the starry flocks." And on swift feet As if that shepherd of stars had guided her, She passed the reeling titans and stood before The throne, and spoke even as the shepherd said. But Nuada answered. "Had not the Son of Lir All wisdom! Through him those who had only Blind strength have grown crafty to conspire Even against the gods. Say to that one It is easier to rule the heavens than the earth." And at this last denial the wise one said, "Ask the high king has he in that dark house One who is master of so many arts." And at this saying the high king sat upright As if a star had lighted the abyss Of memory, and it had recreated An ancient glory. And he cried to Armid, "Bring unto me that master of many arts." And Armid went more swiftly, wondering If he who had been so many times denied Still waited. In her imagination of him He was not single but innumerable, And all the stars and heavens were dancing in Her thoughts that bowed before him. But when she Passed through the gateway into the night that one Who would not be denied still waited there. Once more she looked into the ageless eyes, And spoke the high king's words, and led the way Through the great gateway to the brazen gloom. While Nuada was sunken in himself A clamor of giant voices filled the hall, The fierce titans disputing, and the darkness Shook as at night the mountain valleys shake When dragon and mad colossi roar from their caves. And the king woke and cried out terribly Smiting the echoing gong. "It is not fitting For slaves to brawl in presence of their king." And at his words the titans crouching were mute. For when the high king willed they must obey, His will burning like fire, and it had power To slay or to create. Then Armid came And with her came the master of many arts. And it may be because she had spoken with gods And was raised above herself, to the sky maiden The titans, so fearful before, now seemed remote As the far stars had been to her sadness. None But the high king and Armid saw the god. The daughter of Diancecht then sat apart With bowed head in the shadow of the throne, And heard voices above her of great beings, And saw a circle of the shining ones In the dark radiance under shuttered eyes. She heard first the voice of the high king Who spoke as one who was awaking from sleep Unto the heavenly visitor, "Why hast thou, Riding the horse of dawn, come to this place, To us forgotten in heaven. For it must Be but a legend of its dawn, the story Of those rebel against its joy, who thought To overcome the anarchs of the abyss And were themselves overcome. If thou Hast from pity come to help us, fly. There were immortals shining as thou art, And now they know not who they are, or from What heaven they fell. It may be that I too Shall grow like these who have forgotten all, Be darkened, nor know of any other world." And he who came from the ancestral light Said, "Thou are indeed darkened to dream Of these that any had been gods. Thou only Art real, these, but shadows of immortals. Since thou art darkened I will enter thee Giving my light to see the unfallen lights. Thou shalt hear voices speaking from thy own depths, And know to what evocation they will answer And dwell with thee even in this dark house." And while he spoke the thick and evil gloom Was paling within the titans' hall, and earth Grew shadowy thin, then dropped away. A light Dawned through the darkness like a fiery sun Risen within the world. The crouching titans Gave place unto a lordlier company Of the star-crested Ever-Living Ones, With eyes of ageless ecstasy, and faces Holy, compassionate, inexorable, With voices speaking the law of their high being Unto the king. And, in an air that was Both music and light together, the poet of heaven, A brightness within the light, came singing to him As if his song rose from the sun of life. "O, see our sun is dawning for us, ever dawning With ever youthful and exulting voices. Your sun is but a smoky shadow: ours The ruddy and eternal glow. Your fire Is far away, but ours within our hearts Is ever living, and through wood and wave Is ever dawning on adoring eyes. Do you not know me? I am the All-Father's voice. Until die twilight of the ages comes I sing the deathless union between all things. My birds from crystal-fiery plumage shed The Light of Lights. Their kisses wake the love That never dies and leads through death to me. I am in every love. But when they cling Unto the hands, the lips, the eyes, my song Is silent. I fly and vanish and return not Till the red flutterings of the heart are still. I live in every love, but it is lightless Until they know the love they seek through me Is not the single but the innumerable joy: Until desire has made them pass away From their own selves for ever, and they cry To the All-Father to give to them his death, The dark rapture where they are lost in him. I am known only to self forgetfulness. My love shall be in thine when love is sacrifice." And then most pitying, most inexorable, As from a shoreless sea of wisdom came The voice of unappeasable law, so still It seemed to waver between life and death. "Do not turn from me. Think on me long and long. Though I am justice and implacable, And nothing can escape me, no least erring, Yet am I also mercy and forgiveness. The pain I give is healing and guidance. It draws The marred in body and mind, the lost and strayed Back unto life, and to the path that leads Unto their high inevitable destiny Of beauty and delight. In those who mourn Their well-beloved dead I am the secret Sweetness they find in sorrow, coming to know That all was heavenly guided. And that wisdom Is absolution for their sins, and they Join in the cavalcade of starry minds. Know that all wisdom bides in joy or pain. When the mysterious river runs in channels Made clear by the pure spirit, its name is joy. But when the soul is thickened and dark the stream Breaks through and tends till all is purified By the sweet water. Those who know me thus Find joy in pain. They even press the spear For swifter absolution into the heart. I shall be with thee when thy will, no more Rebel, shall know that I am justice, and cry 'Hail unto thee! and hail! and hail for ever!' Although I come to thee as death, or strike At love that is more even to thee than life. Yield to me and thou art my conqueror. There is no other god than me to fear." So spake the ancestral voice of Diancecht, And after that dread wisdom came the voice Of Dana, mother of all and comforter. "I am the tender voice calling away, Whispering between the beatings of the heart, And inaccessible in dewy eyes I dwell, and all unkissed on lovely lips, Lingering between white breasts inviolate, And fleeting ever from the passionate touch, I shine afar till men may not divine Whether it is the stars or the beloved They follow with rapt spirit. And I weave My spells at evening, folding with dim caress, Aerial arms and twilight dropping hair, The lonely wanderer by wood or shore, Till, filled with some vast tenderness, he yields, Feeling in dreams for the dear mother heart He knew ere he forsook the starry way, And clings there pillowed far above the smoke And the dim murmur from the duns of men. I can enchant the rocks and trees, and fill The dumb brown lips of earth with mystery, Make them reveal or hide the god; myself Mother of all, but without hands to heal, Too vast and vague, they know me not, but yet I am the heartbreak over fallen things, The sudden gentleness that stays the blow, And I am in the kiss that foemen give Pausing in battle, and in the tears that fall Over the vanquished foe. And in the highest Among the Danann gods I am the last Council of pity in their hearts when they Mete Justice from a thousand starry thrones. My heart shall be in thine when thine forgives." After the voice of ancient beauty had died The voice of Ogma, the master of the fires: "Though I have might to roll the stars through heaven, And all the gods are suppliant of my power, And what they do is portion of my strength, I was made master by the All-Father only Because I was the gentlest of the gods. And, though I make fierce war upon the anarchs, My myrmidons are frail and delicate things. I hide within a blossom and its still beauty Becomes mighty as a star and none may touch it. I can stay the march of armies by a child. When I look through its eyes the passionate hand Falls, and the soul in awful penitence Hides in itself. And with a twilight air I can make anchorites of kings. I overcome Fierce things by gentleness. And my allies Against the thunder of congregated powers Are silences in heaven, the light in valleys, The smoke above the roof, the quiet hearth, The well-beloved things that come to be Images of peace in the All-Father's being. No sentinel can stay them, and they make Traitors to glory and pride. And so I gather Invincible armies that can invade The secret places of the spirit, until Even the comets and mad meteors, The lions of the wilderness of space, Who roam with fiery manes, the potentates Of air and earth, rulers of thrones and powers, Melted within themselves give fealty, And build together till the dream of life Mirrors the All-Father's being, and that Can know itself in us as we in him. When thou art of thine own will defenceless As the fragile flickering moth or trembling grass, I shall be champion for thee. Thou shalt find Invisible legions breathing love for thee Through the dark clay, or from the murmuring air, And by the margin of the deep. And when Thy spirit becomes so gentle it could pass Into another spirit and leave no wound, I will give unto thee this star to lead." Then came the voice of Fintan, the master of time. "I am all knowledge, all that was or is Or ever shall be glows and breathes in me In an eternal present. Even the gods Departing from me are lost within themselves, And slave to the enchantment that divides Has-been from yet-to-come and far from near. So they forget themselves and dwindle down From their full orbit. And they come to be Frail sparks that wander in the immensity Of their own primal being, moving ever Unto horizons that forever recede. Yet am I always with them. I abide Steadfast, the still innumerable light, Between the vanished and the coming wave. And yet they know me not. Incessant voices In every beating of the heart will call Away from me. For one will cry to them, 'O hurry, hurry to the golden age.' And yet another voice appeals, 'O come. A treasure lies in the rich wilderness. There is the fountain of youth.' Others will cry: 'Go not.' 'Thy love is dying.' 'Thy friend is false. 'Thine enemy derides thee.' 'That tyrant crush.' 'Let us be conqueror,' or 'All is lost!' Though they fly from me it is me they seek, Nor know that I am in their every breath. When unto these loud voices thy heart is blind, And hope and fear are dead, and thou art still Amid the battle thunder, and desire not Sceptre nor crown. Then I shall be with thee And melt for thee the heavens into one light, And shepherd the long aeons into one fold With all dead beauty and beauty yet unborn, And enemies made lovers, and dread monsters Become gentle and spirit things. Desiring nothing I will give thee all." And last of these Immortal voices spake the Son of Lir. "I am the shepherd of the starry flocks, The wisdom of the gods. And it is mine To plan for every spirit, even the worm And tiny gnat, their path through winding cycles Until they glow with uncreated light And blaze with power. And those who sat on thrones And shone like gods at dawn of the great day I bring to the abyss where they are dimmed, But not for their abasing. Those who know The heavens only are but slaves of light, Mirrors of majesties they are not, shining In beauty given to them, not their own, Nor born from their own valor. For to be True gods, self-moving, they must grow to power Warring in chaos with anarchs. It was I Who broke thy trance upon the Happy Plains Revealing to thee the underworld. And yet It was thy will made thee heroical And rebel to that joy. All the high gods Have made the sacrifice of heaven, and worn Dark clay around their light; and in the abyss Have known unnumbered sorrows, and the joy Of every creature, and come to myriad wisdom, A honey harvested from many lives. And so the primal vision is for them Transfigured into being. For thy first Heroical will to conquer thou must conceive Thyself as spirit to all nature, and All life that breathes within it to be thy own. When thou canst beat upon its myriad gates Crying, 'It is thyself that comes,' all gates Will open for thee; and the love that dwells In hate will burst its dungeon, and fly to thee As children fly to a beloved breast. High majesties shall be melted unto thee, The dragons of the waste be gentle, and The slave with thee be fearless and a king In his own heart, and the dumb mind have voice, And every spirit reveal the wonder concealed In its own depths. And when thou knowest all Thou shalt be counselor with the high gods Who pass remembering through the nights and days Of the All-Father, and at the Feast of Age Be with them when they plan for the new dawn Glories beyond all ever known. When thou Shalt pray, not for thyself, but for those others I will give thee the wisdom of eternity." The master of many arts was heard no more. The heaven-descended voices died in deeps Of the king's being. The starry shining shapes Through which the lords had utterance vanished. But Before the tide of darkness had returned, And by their mingled light of vision, he saw Within the titan heart, and felt its beating As he were one with it; and all the wonder And awe at the sky visitors; the beauty Unimaginable on earth before; And last, desire to hold, to own, to be: The tumult of unappeasable desire For loveliness that is of spirit alone Eluding the titan arm, leaving to it Only the primal clay; the titan trust In strength, the error oft repeated, and The brute despair and the descent to hells Earth had not known before the spirit came. Until from pain and fiery penitence And brooding, and self pity that came to be All pitiful, slowly die titan heart Found in its depths the magian mind that can Grow what it dreams on. And through its worship came Transfigurations, and the adoring heart Passed from itself; its ancient sorrows grown To be its blessings, its agonies become Its joys, the titan darkness to blaze with stars, And the high powers that only yield themselves To gentleness, awaiting its perfecting to give Sovereignty over all the elements. As one who reaps the harvest of ages at once He saw the titan thought invade the world, Run through its veins, until the silence broke With revelation; and the earth became A mother speaking to her children, giving The wisdom of her heavenly ways; her dawns, Her noons, her twilights magical with love; Life breathing life, no longer solitary. Its every breathing quick with multitude: The infinite above them with its lights From its majestical remoteness bent With voices and meanings from the vast, and earth Casting its robe of darkness to reassume Its ancient garment of light; and in divine Companionship waiting the tremor that runs Throughout the Spheres when the All-Father calls His children homeward; and the high grandees, The very noblest in the universe, Princes of stars, and solar kings, and rulers Of constellations and of galaxies, Are bowed in awe, and put aside their sceptres, As humble as the least of creeping things Before the mystery of the All-Father, The illimitable, whom none had ever known Though lost within him at the Feast of Age, So the high king, rapt in his vision, dreamed Of that great hostel at the end of time Where all the cycles sleep; and came at last To open his eyes upon the brazen gloom To know the labor before him, and to hear The titans raving madly in the hall.
Those images of beauty That once I did despise, Now in my age I cherish And clutch with miser's eyes. Even for one frail blossom I will make sacrifice. Once there were other treasures I had, O strange to say, Made dim those magic blossoms And I cast them away. I cast beauty from me As a god child might in play. O what was in the being Of boyhood that could make Beauty seem but a glimmer That followed in the wake Of some proud sails set sunward On some enchanted lake.
The skies were dim and vast and deep Above the vale of rest. They seemed to rock the stars to sleep Beyond the mountain's crest. I sought for graves I had mourned, but found The roads were blind. The grave, Even of love, heart-lost, was drowned Under time's brimming wave. Huddled beneath the wheeling sky, Strange was my comfort there: That stars and stones and love and I Drew to one sepulchre.
The pool glowed to a magic cauldron O'er which I bent alone. The sun burned fiercely on the waters, The setting sun: A madness of fire: around it A dark glory of stone. O mystic fire! Stillness of earth and air! That burning silence I For an instant share. In the crystal of quiet I gaze And the god is there. Within that loneliness What multitude! In the silence what ancient promise Again renewed! Then the wonder goes from the stones, The lake and the shadowy wood.
Thus did the laughing king, the magic maker, Draw me into the wind-glittering wood By an enchantment of blown boughs and lights, And faint and myriad flickerings within The many-pillared palace of leaves. The air, A flying girl, flame-limbed, before me runs Sprinkling the dark with jewels. Eyes are dizzy With sudden color. O, the hyacinths! I fall on knees watching the laughing king Hide stars in wild blossoms. On moss I lie, My eyes arc shuttered but the earth is airy, Dense to the body, to the spirit most clear. O, it was so in the golden age. Men lived In the bright fire, in air, in earth. They knew Only the being of the laughing king And had no name for themselves. A night Of many million years breaks now to dawn. As the numbed limb quickening to life becomes Once more the body we knew, so the whole star Quickens within me. Why was the spirit numb In a little dust? I glow to the full orb. Upon its burnished uplands what shining dancers, With what unfallen beauty, what wild innocence Make visible the laughter of their king! By what fleet witchery of limb the inaudible Becomes music to the eye, joy in the heart! What secret lies behind the lovely light? What lovelier darkness, from which spirit-clear Voices call to me, "O, come home, come home!"
I wake from her sweet play. Although my heart had hardly beat For a dream instant, the wild child Stamps with imperious feet. Wind-quickened shook the forest boughs; Green. glitterings died and came; O'er her young stormy beauty broke Ripples of shade and flame. I wake, my lovely child, I wake; I fly thy slave to be. Forgive, O voices from the deep, Yet come again to me.
I do not chide them that they fly the wood, Hill, river, lake, remote and endless shore, Nor pluck jewels of words out of the light, But seek their song under those cliffs of stone And stone-gray air that reels dizzy with mist. They think if they but watch their world they will Be master of it, their speech recall today Unto tomorrow. They do not know that time Forgets its hours, its days, its years and all But that which has some touch of the timeless on it. We do not care to know of Plato's town By what light arts, what trick of life, men made The color of their days. But we remember One who by airy labors found a way From earth to heaven, and looked upon a sea, Shoreless, of beauty, and told of it in words Dipt in its shining. I have no blame that they Forget the aristocracy of speech, and use Slang of the town, and have no age in their thought, And think as children might do if their world Were newly born, and god or sage had never Dropt star or lantern into our abyss: Or look on frailty, seeing the skimming dancers With lightness of feet lighten the leaden heart, Jetting gay fire into the fireless mind. They might look upon transience all day long Yet be in company of the gods, could they But know the Master of the Ceremony, Cry with Aratus, "Full of Zeus the city: Full of Zeus the harbor; and full of Zeus Are all the ways of men," the vision that makes All lights be torches in the mystery, All speech be part of the soliloquy, Or endless canticle, all holy, sung By Him who is poet both of heaven and earth.
Have they the same enchantment, these children straying In streets where electric moonlight and scintillating rose Shed blooms on the ashen air, as those other children Crouched in trance under hedgerows where hawthorn thickens its snows; Or those others, who under a real moon and stars Move to deeper wonder in themselves, who are still, Who touch each other but gently, lest they break the magic That makes them one with it on the night-shadowy hill.
How easily defeated! A fleet grace of limb Swept by; dark eyes that dared him follow where they led: And all the heavens had dwindled to one star for him, And the great deep lay hollow, lightless, blind and dead. Sadly the over-shadowing forms of might depart. His eyes with longing no more search the mystic sea. With one alone he lingers murmuring heart to heart, "One infinite, thy love, is life enough for me."
O, no, I was not wanton with that man. But to his imaginations, yes. I made Myself a hundred natures. It is writ, My myriad girlhood, in that printed page. Or was it I? Did I but play the part His magic plotted for me? Did he know That his imaginations lived in me And swayed me to be one of their own kind, To act the bawd for whom an emperor Might cast his world away: or it might be A maid to whom the world had never come, All innocent upon a fairy isle. Yet at the court of the great queen I had But one disdainful face, however many Wild hearts might beat within me: and high lords And admirals, who had wrecked Armadas, were Wrecked on a flinty look. O, I remember. My heart swoons to think upon that hour, When a young learned gentleman, his head Dizzy with gaudy words that had caught fire From sun and moon, importuned me to know The latest prince of speech. And I was swept, Half laughing and half scornful, to my fate. Yet I had not been one hour in the room Ere I was lit by many torches, and Knew, being in that humble lodging house, That I had come unto a lordlier court Than the great queen's, a court where kings and princes Robeless could awe by their own majesty, Or, being bare to the spirit, seemed as low As if they had not legions at their call. And there were elves that frolicked in his thought, And giddy knaves whose very sins seemed rooted In a wild nature, and might win them heaven To make laughter for angels. I knew a man Who held these very knaves had much to teach us As the apostles: and we would lose less Missing the queen of the dawn out of the myths, Juno, with grave eyes under heavenly brows And proud, starred peacocks, than if his rascal Jack Had never lived in story. Not at once Did I know all. No man will ever know The mystery of his being, of multitudes Within one spirit. Yet I knew from the first That they were with him, incorporeal real, Taking immortal bodies from sweet sounds, Leaping into our thought as gay moon, A slippery dancer, reels from wave to wave. He had hardly spoken ere a spirit of his Had flashed within me, and I had made answer Out of its nature. He turned upon me eyes So wonder-wise, so humorous kind, that I Was melted from my art of dignity And became once more the laughing girl who ran Under her father's elms, who knew no rank But life; jesting with folly; with her wit Pelting both lords and grooms. O, the sweet play, When all the delicate spirit's aflame, and points With its own fire the airy rapier, nor knows In that obscurity of delight the end That it desires, the point in the other's breast. For we are both half fearing and half faining The exquisite anguish of our piercèd heart. So flashed our speech. The first of many times. I had not more easily as a small child Told my heart stories than I could to him Tell everything in thought, as if he were An ampler, wiser heart-nurse to myself. And though I was all love I shrank from that, The mating of lips and body, lest having all I should have less than love; in the king's bed Be absent from his court. And when I was Within myself, the angels of wisdom and love Held passionate council in me. I was rent By images of love and by their martyrdoms, For I had buried many an image deep In the heart's doubt what would be noble to do. And for there was that warfare in me the girl Was ripened to full woman. I looked back Upon the woman I had been before As she upon her childhood. I was I think The only creature that by flesh and blood Entered the court of his spirit: and all others Came through some crystal mystic gate unto The throne of his heart as vassals might, and left Not tribute of pearl, ivory or gold But breathed their very spirits into him That he would dress as emperors and clowns, Play one against another. I do believe The mighty dead from unimagined homes Dreamed back their greatness and their frailty, The very lion front that awed the world, Shaking it by the thunder of words that fell From the imperious heaven of the high will. And how could it be other? We are not gods To create life, and only what is given us Order and rule. I know it, I, that was A glowing mirror to him, would sometimes, Ere he had spoken, find living in myself His latest imagination, the very trick Of its mad mood, and hear it afterwards Dressed in the actor's body cry on a stage. If it was so with me, might he not be A hostel for all life? For some design, I know not what. Perhaps that we who play Upon our surfaces might pry more deep In our rich mystery, the way be pointed That life must travel. I thought it so, that he Was magicked by the gods for their design, And I was handmaid to it. O how frail The instruments the gods must use in us! There came to the queen's court their masterpiece, A boy that stayed the breath, all glow and fire, Unflawed, so airy ivory of limb He might have leaped from an archangel's dream. And was it destiny that two such wonders Of soul and body should meet, be to each other Mystery and enchantment: beauty that had No soul but beauty itself: and the wise soul, Baffled in reading where there was not mind, Fell into dreaming, and at last was stayed On the body's miracle. And I grew sick Seeing the dawn of an unnatural love, The kind that marred the Grecian genius, and closed The nobleness of mind that had begun With Homer's tale. I cried upon myself As all corrupt to so misread the eyes That rested on the boy, or the sweet words. But when I knew that I had not misread, O, what heart shaking, what deep fountains of scorn Or pity broke out like madness. I lay awake Buffeted by fierce winds from heaven and hell, Searching the blackness of my night for God. And knew not whether God or devil counseled, Self love, or love that crucifies itself, Or anguish of long stemmed desire to have What passes from it. But I thought to stay That love unnatural test his spirit's walls Should thicken, and there be a solitude In that high court. And I used every art Of heart and body and gave the body to him, And had no joy in giving. The holy fires Whereof the Elohim compounded us If they glow not to one pure breathing, but Are all disordered, war in us and burn us By hurt of beauty or love, or wisdom cries, A mourner in the thick of erring delight. And he to whom I was no mystery, But a dear friend, stayed not his heart on me, For that infinitude of his wide mind, Searching ever for the undiscovered heart, Wandered away from me unto that one Beautiful, baleful and uncharted star Of boyhood. I knew my sacrifice was vain And a new madness shook me, making me All pitiless, with a mad woman's will To win her way even if soul be lost. And all affections in me made bitter, changed In dark reverse unto their opposites. I was as one who hears an angel sing To a sweet lute, then turns to her dark angel To sing the same song to the trembling strings, And pure and holy are made poisonous. When we are maddened, and the goblins in us Riot in incredible loves and hates I do not know if god or demon guides The storm while we are blinded. I was not The same although I moved to the same end. For now I was all hopeless in love, yet played With all my woman's art upon the boy, Meeting him in palace chambers or In garden alleys. I was I know not what Unconquered and rich wonder to his youth That had won all easily before, but now Met but a lovely mockery when he prayed; And the unravished beauty was to him, As with that other, the sole star of the heart. And so I drew him, half forgetting at times My purpose, for he was a masterpiece Of heaven, and how sweet to play with, till My purpose and some wildness in my blood Conspired together. I yielded to him, became A mistress unto two, one godlike in mind And one, the outer image of a god. And in intoxication of conquest the boy Wore all a victor's airs with me until Even rumor had no further secrets to tell. And then at last one day I met the other And he had known, and never was there face So ravaged, and my heart in every beat Let rain a drop all fiery red. There was I know not what wild pity in my eyes, And the god knows that at no other time Was I so lost from myself, so terribly his. Yet at his anguished words I wore the air Of one bred in the gay court of the world Above the ceremony by which the herd Order their ways, one who took carelessly This love or that, and knew no obligation But to win fuel to keep high one's fire. He could not read me, my heart-aching humor - For I was not then in his heart that never Misread, but only an apparition to his eyes - When I likened myself to him, the myriad minded Who gathered knaves and heroes with like love To snatch the inmost secret of them, so I Seeking as rich a wisdom, must, being woman, Who win only by the body, search the soul At its full tide in the completeness of love, When, to the vigilant spirit, it is quick With all it is. And I had not yet won Spirits enough to be a mate for him Learned in so many hearts. He threw at me A single word. I, who had masked my soul As the proud queen of harlots to deceive, Was yet angered he should be credulous, And all that was still virginal in me, And all my passion he should be deceived, Cried furiously in bitter and wild speech That spurned him. When god and devil through one voice Cry the same words they scorch with double fire. And he, the mighty seer, looked for a moment Upon me as if spirit and sense in him Were sundered. With no other word he went. He saw me never again. Yet I was victor Slaying the unnatural with the natural love. And I do think for all my bruised heart I was more happy than he. I can but guess From that he made the bitter Troilus speak Of Cressid in how many blazing fires His anger burned me. Still I dreamed of that Rich court so many colored once. But now, O, what dark travelers scourged to that dark house Brought as unto the nether sovereignty Tribute of raving madness, guilt and fear, Unto that one whose fearful artistry With pigments of midnight, eclipse and fire Could make them visible for ever. And yet I think that I, who had vanished from his eyes, Was still within him. For he, who painted me In many scarlet dyes, came ere the end To breathe forgiveness. I had once imagined For his delight myself to be a maid Bred on a fairy isle who knew not man, And I played for him with what innocence The maid would greet a lover who came to her. And at the last he had fondled in his thought My tender fantasy, and made himself An enchanter with spirits at his command And they had loved each other. So I think That he had come to know himself and me. O, why are we not certain of our fate! There was another dread enchanter imagined. A circle in the kingdom of the dead, Where sinful lovers, who are blown about In an eternal storm, cling to each other. I thought that I, even on that stormy air, Would have eternal joy were I the one To whom his hands clung in the eternal shade. And brooding on that poet's tale I dreamt That I was so blown about with one Who held to me, but when I saw his face It was not the face I loved, but was the face Beautiful, mad, hopeless, of that boy. And I awoke. I had been weeping in sleep And all my pillow was a wetness of tears.
O dark holy magic, To steal out at dawn, To dip face and feet in grasses The dew trembles on, Ere its might of spirit healing Be broken by the dawn. O to reel drunken On the heady dew, To know again the virgin wonder That boyhood knew, While words run to music, giving voices To the voiceless dew. They will make, those dawn-wandering Lights and airs, The bowed worshipping spirit To shine like theirs, They will give to thy lips an aeolian Music like theirs.
They touched each other with wondering hands. No sultry fire Stained the sweet crystal of spirit. They looked in each other's eyes But saw there only the innocence of the wise, No hiding beast. Had it flown, the dragon of desire? Oh, what heroes, what strong immortal, overcame That ancient evil? Again they were virginal, Light and air made music as before the Fall. Feet danced, hearts were airy, thoughts gay--gay as flame. They ran to each other: "Are they indeed over, the long, Unlit, black ages, crucifixions, agonies?" They forgave unforgivable sins. All these Old hates changed laughing into loves. All ancient wrong Was heavenly Justice. They were drawn Into a fold Where all things were in league. Even the stars drew nigh. A marvelous sweetness breathed. Was it from earth or sky? How came the heart to be melted? Was it the Age of Gold, Fabulous, unhoped for, the sabbatical aeon of time, Returned, not to rest in. No, but to hasten away, For deeps within them called, divine dark deeps, where they Beheld the fathers of being beckoning them to climb To sit on thrones starry with the Ancestral Lights. The wars of time were ended, the gates of the heart unbarred. A vastness flooded their being, a vastness myriad-starred. The soul remembered its youth. Oh, in what deeps, what heights! Then time turned on itself, yet the vision seemed so true The heart ached to be prophet, to run through the streets and cry "It is coming!--O, it Is coming! The Golden Age is nigh! See what star-glimmering citadels rise in the blue! What faces ancient with youth and wisdom watch from the towers, For us who strayed, who were lost, who rise again from the dead. For us, prodigals, the tables of heaven are spread; From earth to heaven of heavens. All that glory is ours!" And then the dragon croak of the city smote on my ears, Harsh with the screech of wheels, the rasp of brakes. And I Was again in the iron time. An unassailable sky. Above, and darkness before us for blind uncountable years.
All that was harsh or sweet To me was brought Through some affinity With soul or sense or thought. I complain not nor wonder. Just was my lot. I ask the wise to say Why are we heir To the wonder of the sky, The shining there. What justice gave to me This star-enchanted air? Is there still in us A heaven-descended ray Of that which built the palaces Of night and day? Do our first works, sun, moon, and stars, Shine on our clay? O, how my heart leaps up! It can laugh. It could fly, Even in dream being knit To that majesty! Though long passed from our glory, I can sing! I could fly!
She passed by, shadowing the shining waters, Noble and naiad-like her image, purpled Against the sunblaze. As she wandered on The old heart-sickness for beauty came upon me, Because that imagination of her I had Might shine on heaven or earth, be interlinked With those pure, grave-eyed, immortal dawn-maidens And glow unfading by them. It might be The light of some long night in time; that beauty Bowed to such sorrow that the soul beholding From its transfiguring anguish must be born Pure flame, as if it had known for itself Of cross, of passion and the martyr's pyre. And as from flowers that are invisible Fragrance is blown, so from the vanished image Fancies came thick, heart-troubling, honey-rich. And I had woven my own enchantment then And become slave to it. But remembrance came. There had been nothing seen, nothing at all But a radiant shadow in a blur of light. Was it all self-begotten fantasy? O agony of uncomprehended being That I might never know why those divine Dawn-maidens with so pure a lustre dwelt For an Instant within me. Or why I dreamed A martyrdom of innocent heroic youth; Why an heart-aching love. O did her spirit Carry in secret all its history, Its starry dynasties from heaven to earth? Was it whispered into my spirit in passing? Did I imagine all from my own depths? Is there a summit of being where the spirit, An undraped fire, flashes its fire within All other spirits, withholding nothing? Are Our secret exaltations, ecstasies, The loves more intimate than earth has given, The martyrdoms as dark as Calvary, Are they all born in that intensity Of innumerable, interlinked being? Is it because there nothing is withheld And we are made richer by dream than life, Our deepest love is given unto beauty We have never seen, to lips we have never Kissed nor heard in confession of love? O might it be that in those reveries, The moralist calls idle, there is wisdom More precious than their virtue distils for us! Our imaginations may be but flakes of fire That drift upon us from the burning clouds About a being that knows the innermost beat Of every heart. Was it from that exhaustless Secret well the soul of Shakespeare drew To give us creatures that are not of himself? O could our idleness grow to such virtue! Our lonely reverie break into multitude! How unwavering the will, how stern the heart, To receive unbroken all that revelation, The being of many risen within our own! I tremble, fearful at the first glowing of The magic-lovely, dragon-haunted air, Where all beauty is shadowed by its demon, And we are at once blessed and betrayed. O child, who set my thoughts flying so far, The ripples from thy passing feet have spread, Not dying away, but gathering power to cast Me heavenward, dizzy on their foam of light, To beat at blazing gates, to cry on the Innermost To know why I am so shaken by a shadow: Not even a face seen, no heart-troubling eyes, Only some wonder I imagined dwelling In a radiant shadow in a blur of light.
What treasure would we not have poured At the white feet, when love had power, If beauty that we had adored Were tender to us for an hour. I pass these burning memories. I Run on to find a child who lay On the warm earth, made tender by A love breathed up from the dark clay. How can I win that love again? All I could bring to earth it owns, What sacrifice must be, what pain To be in league with these gray stones!
Thou slender of limb; thou lightness; Wild grace that flies Over the shining sand Under cloud-brilliant skies: What beauty flies within thee, Sped from what skies? Thee for an instant The god possesses, Is joy in thy fleet limbs Gay feet and flying tresses. His lovely thought of thee the artist Delights in and caresses. Thou shalt remember hereafter Through sorrowful years That wonder of all thy moments, And pine for through tears. This moment that shall be for thee A fountain of tears.
How could she know, that child who thought So lovely pure the tale I told, Within what obscene pits were wrought The ores to make her fairy gold? How could she know through what dire strife, From what dark martyrdoms, there spring The resurrection and the life, The glow within the psyche's wing?
The wave of life breaks there in froth, A golden turbulence; and there Proud boys, their thoughts gilded and gay, Dance with their women light as air. What Thought digs wide the pit of space? What Will keeps the fierce stars apart? What Titans build the dancing floor For this soft indolence of heart? While magic trifles, lips and eyes, Catch at me through the wandering glow, My heart feels moving in its deeps The Great Deep's tidal under-tow.
Why Sit I here communing With shapes of the dead mind, The outworn perfect beauty The gods we left behind? Though here all gods are gathered The wonder has not grown. The gods speak to us only From their own natural throne. Not here, but in wild places Where wind and water reel In ecstasy, light-stricken. The gods may there reveal The forms that hold the sceptre, Brows bright with more than gold; All that through lips of wonder The sibyls breathed of old.
That wild rose blossom In sunlight or moonlight, A fountain of its own beauty, From hollow to height Casts up its winged airy petals - Transfigured light. It shapes its delicate images In light that all may see, East, west, on height, in hollow, Wherever eyes may be, The vain lovely prodigal Will give itself to thee. O'er every bloom a nimbus Of its own beauty rayed. None by another's glory Was cast into the shade. It seemed the hollow of heaven For each alone was made. Wonder! wonder! wonder! I saw in vision there Myriads of fairy fountains That cast upon the air Their foam of phantom blossoms, Upon the mystic air. What could that light so laden Be but the thought of One That to the heaven of heavens Can in an instant run, Bearing that myriad beauty Wider than moon or sun!
There below me on the hillside where the glaring lantern burned O what gay good-nights were shouted as the children homeward turned, Running on the mountain ridges where the dizzy lantern made Monstrous moths upon the midnight, flaring wings of light and shade. Soon the merry voices faintly died upon the distant ridge, And the giant moth had dwindled to the flicker of a midge, And its light was lost amid the village lights of earth and sky. Then a vast and silent river seemed to roll and pass me by. On its tide the gay fleet-footed boys and girls were borne afar To the port where sweep the golden galleons of sun and star, With their merchandise of monarchs, glittering legions, tumult, flame, And the heaven-assailing spirit and the clod without a fame, In the anchorage of silence drop and vanish. As I lay All but the desireless spirit seemed to roll and pass away. And that spirit whispered to me: Time is but desire: its waves Hurry onward on their flowing only those who are its slaves. As I lay upon the hillside, I, whom love had lost and fled, Knew I could be lost for ever and was strangely comforted. Then that high desireless spirit in the stillness came more nigh, Breathed within me for an instant, for an instant it was I. For an instant I was nameless and unto myself unknown, Nor knew I what looked on creation from that mountain seat alone.
How grave this night are earth and air! The darkness hides under its fleece The sombre stones 'mid which I lie In their profundity of peace. Above my savage couch I see, Dark glowing through what endless heights, The secret majesties of space, Its still innumerable lights! More ancient than all human love, There lies between these things and me Love, that through many a birth and death, Shall grow as vast as that wide sea.
Body Speaks The world wanders away from me. Beauty and love are clouds gone by. Heart is bereft of melody. This that is left: O, is it I? Why should a gorgeous cloth be spun Bedecked with gem-like eye and wing, Emblems of soul, as robe for one That is, disrobed, so pale a thing? Now all the colored winds are gone Heart has not strength even to mourn. All's numb but eyes that stare upon The dust to which they shall return. Soul Wakes So, when sweet temple voices tire, Will some one of a baser throng From sleepy fingers steal the lyre And drone to it so vile a song.
O, How I wreaked my childhood's spite When I first dwindled to this day, Thinking on my lost wonder world That was so very far away. And now my heart has come to rest, Or the green earth has homelier grown. Its children creep into my heart, Woodland and water, hill and stone. When I return to walk amid The thrones of light, O shall I dream Of the lost earth, a cloudy hill, A shadowy vale, a flickering stream!
Beneath those sweet contented voices A lovelier discontent, All unknown to the gay singers From hidden voices went. Hardly a breath, almost inaudible, A tone from distant spheres, That wrought within me that enchantment And stayed my listening ears. Was it the buried spirit in them beating Its love-fettered wings, Prisoner within the heart and weeping For what immortal things?
It is half an indignity and half a delight To know in age that I am but a child Kept in a nursery. And yet we must Be children of a king, pardoned so oft Our passion fits, immodesties and noise, Washed clean and dressed in shining raiment. Here In this wide palace of air my spirit glows With the gold and silver that it looks upon As if it had never paddled in the mire. Some majesty it must be ordered this Transfiguration, the drapery of light That I might come fitly unto the feast. And this deep music of being in me, how Could it be played upon my jangled strings But by a master to whom the broken heart, The listless will, the self-despisings, are But notes that in the spirit melody Had lost their sister notes, and sounding these All breathe together in one melting chord. O, what profundity, what gentleness In power, to take what's base or fearful and To find its place in beauty. I begin To guess the infinite wisdom of the king, And to what stature we must grow to come To our inheritance, how airy delicate The fingers holding the sceptre, and how deep Must be the vision in brows that wear the crown. For with what calm the princes of the stars Carry the madness of battle on their orbs, And yet the multitudinous agony Must be theirs also. Are not the hands that strike The stricken heart, within their sovereignty? I sigh to think of all the toll to be Ere we, who cry out at a prick of the thumb, Can in the inexorable cavalcade Ride on the power. And yet there is a joy In contemplating the heroic gods, The labor of the high, unshakeable ones In whom the king has trust. For have we not An infant spark of that which in the gods Can pierce both heaven and brothel with its light And be seduced neither by love nor hate, But with the secret wisdom of their king Weaving the richness of the universe Into the least of things. So in our dark Are breathings from the stars: no car but there The majesty whispers itself: there's no exalted Thought but the king gave unto it its light. Dazed by excess of riches we do not know That we are heaped with gifts from all the gods, Microcosmos unconscious of itself. And with this wisdom childhood ends, and all Its songs are sung. I know a door has closed Behind me and I can never again with joy Live in that house. The arts that once were sweet Would now be bitter in using. For not death Which brings us back to life can take away Age from the spirit. When again I try To learn the starry alphabet of life All I have passed through will be emptiness, And only that have power which draws me to The circle of wisdom. O, that I might be A nameless vagrant without home, who yet Could cry to the winds "Brother" as they pass, And nod back at the stars, and so adore The visible beauty that I may pass into All that I contemplate, and feel the trees Growing within me, men live, winds blow, seas roll In the inner glory. Being so myriad I Might forget I had a self and let the fullness Be counselor unto me, and move as those Born of the spirit, its messengers, whose ways Are undecipherable as the winds, And come at last after long tutelage Nigh to the circle of wisdom, to those who shine In ageless beauty and with smokeless light.
You tell me of my songs you cannot fit Their thought together, so contrary the lights. I cannot help you to the sense of it. We rise and fall, have many days and nights, Make songs in both; and when we are in our pit Gaze back in wonder at our own endless heights.
Now as I lean to whisper To earth the last farewells, The sly witch lays upon me The subtlest of her spells: Beauty that was not for me, The love that was denied, Their high disdainful sweetness Now melted from their pride: They run to me in vision, All promise in their gaze, All earth's heart-choking magic, Madness of nights and days. "These gifts are in my treasure, Though fleeting be the breath; Here only to wild giving Is love made fire by death. "This spell I put upon thee Must, in thy being burn, Till from the Heavenly City To me thou shalt return."
I look on wood and hill and sky, Yet without any tears To the warm earth I bid good-bye For what unnumbered years. So many times my spirit went This dark transfiguring way, Nor ever knew what dying meant, Deep night or a new day. So many times it went and came, Deeper than thought it knows Unto what majesty of flame In what wide heaven it goes.
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