If to be left were to be left alone,
And lock the door, and find one's self again,
Drag forth and dust Penates of one's own,
That in a corner all too long have lain;
Read Brahms, read Chaucer, set the chessmen out
In classic problem, stretch the shrunken mind
Back to its stature on the rack of thought_
Loss might be said to leave its boon behind.
But fruitless conversation and the exchange
With callow wits of bearded cons and pros
Enlist the neutral daylight, and derange
A will too sick to battle for repose.
Neither with you nor with myself, I spend
Loud days that have no meaning and no end.
Pity me not because the light of day
At close of day no longer walks the sky;
Pity me not for beauties passed away
From field and thicket as the year goes by;
Pity me not the waning of the moon,
Nor that the ebbing tide goes out to sea,
Nor that a man's desire is hushed so soon,
And you no longer look with love on me.
This have I known always: Love is no more
Than the wide blossom that the wind assails,
Than the great tide that treads the shifting shore,
Strewing fresh wreckage gathered inthe gales:
Pity me that the heart is slow to learn
What the swift mind beholds at every turn.
I see so clearly now my similar years
Repeat each other, clad in rusty black,
Like one hack following another hack
In meaningless procession, dry of tears,
Driven empty, lest the noses sharp as shears
Of gutter-urchins at the hearse's back
Should sniff a man died friendless and attack
With silly scorn his deaf triumphant ears.
I see so clearly how my days must run,
One year behind another year until
At length these bones that leap into the sun
Are lowered into the gravel, and lie still.
I would at times the funeral were done,
And I abandoned on the ultimate hill.
I shall go back again to the bleak shore
And build a little shanty on the sand
In such a way that the extremest band
Of brittle seaweed shall escape my door
But by a yard or two; and nevermore
Shall I return to take you by the hand.
I shall be gone to what I understand,
And happier than I ever was before.
The love that stood a moment in your eyes,
The words that lay a moment on your tongue,
Are one with all that in a moment dies,
A little under-said and over-sung.
But I shall find the sullen rocks and skies
Unchanged from what they were when I was young.
Once more into my arid days like dew,
Like wind from an oasis, or the sound
Of cold sweet water bubbling underground,
A treacherous messenger_the thought of you
Comes to destroy me; once more I renew
Firm faith in your abundance, whom I found
Long since to be but just one other mound
Of sand, whereon no green thing ever grew.
And once again, and wiser is no wise,
I chase your colored phantom on the air,
And sob and curse and fall and weep and rise
And stumble pitifully on to where,
Miserable and lost, with stinging eyes,
Once more I clasp--and there is nothing there.
If I grow bitterly,
Like a gnarled and stunted tree,
Bearing harshly of my youth
Puckered fruit that sears the mouth;
If I make of my drawn boughs
An inhospitable house,
Out of which I never pry
Toward the water and the sky,
Under which I stand and hide
And watch the day go by outside_
It is that a wind too strong
Bent my back when I was young;
It is that I fear the rain
Lest it blister me again.
That Love at length should find me out and bring
This fierce and trivial brow into the dust
Is, after all, I must confess, but just;
There is a subtle beauty in the thing,
A wry perfection; wherefore now let sing
All voices how into my heart was thrust,
Unwelcome as Death's own, Love's bitter crust,
All criers proclaim it, and all steeples ring.
This being done, there let the matter rest;
What more remains is neither here nor there.
That you requite me not is plain to see;
Myself your slave herein have I confessed.
Thus far, indeed, the world may mock at me,
But if I suffer, it is my own affair.
Dirge Without Music
I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the cold ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind.
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.
Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains_but the best is lost.
The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love_
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.
Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave,
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind,
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.
Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
And last year's leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year's bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide
There are a hundred places where I fear
To go,_so with his memory they brim
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, "There is no memory of him here!"
And so stand stricken, so remembering him!
Here is a wound that never will heal, I know,
Being wrought not of a dearness and a death,
But of a love turned ashes and the breath
Gone out of beauty; never again will grow
The grass on that scarred acre, though I sow
Young seed there yearly and the sky bequeath
Its friendly weathers down, far underneath
Shall be such bitterness of an old woe.
That April should be shattered by a gust,
That August should be levelled by a rain,
I can endure, and that the lifted dust
Of man should settle to the earth again;
But that a dream can die, will be a thrust
Between my ribs forever of hot pain.
Loving you less than life, a little less
Than bitter-sweet upon a broken wall
Of brush-wood smoke in autumn, I confess
I cannot swear I love you not at all.
For there is that about you in this light_
A yellow darkness, inister of rain_
Which suddenly recalls my stubborn sight
To dwell on you, and dwell on you again.
And I am made aware of many a week
I shall consume, remembering in what way
Your brown hair grows about your brow and cheek,
And what divine absurdities you say:
Till all the world, and I, and surely you,
Will know I love you, whether or not I do.
You loved me not at all but let it go;
I loved you more than life, but let it be.
As the more injured party, this being so,
The hour's amenities are all to me_
The choice of weapons; and I gravely choose
To let the weapons tarnish where they lie;
And spend the night in eloquent abuse
Of senators and popes and such small fry
And meet the morning standing, and at odds
With heaven and earth and hell and any fool
Who calls his soul his own, and all the gods,
And all the children getting dressed for school...
And you will leave me, and I shall entomb
What's cold by then in an adjoining room.
I know my mind and I have made my choice;
Not from your temper does my doom depend;
Love me or love me not, you have no voice
In this, which is my portion to the end.
Your presence and your favours, the full part
That you could give, you now can take away:
What lies between your beauty and my heart
Not even you can trouble or betray.
Mistake me not_unto my inmost core
I do desire your kiss upon my mouth;
They have not craved a cup of water more
That bleach upon the deserts of the south;
Here might you bless me; what you cannot do
Is bow me down, who have been loved by you.
Well, I have lost you and I lost you fairly
In my own way and with my full consent.
Say what you will, kings in a tumbrel rarely
Went to their deaths more proud than this one went.
Some nights of apprehension and hot weeping
I will confess but that's permitted me;
Day dried my eyes; I was not one for keeping
Rubbed in a cage a wing that would be free.
If I had loved you less or played you slyly
I might have held you for a summer more,
But at the cost of words I value highly,
And no such summer as the one before.
Should I outlive this anguish_ and men do_
I shall have only good to say of you.
Sonnet in Dialectic (clxi)
And is indeed truth beauty?--at the cost
Of all that we cared for, can this be?--
To see the coarse triumphant, and to see
Honour and pity ridiculed, and tossed
Upon a poked-at fire; all courage lost
Save what is whelped and fattened by decree
To move among the unsuspecting free
And trap the thoughtful, with their thoughts engrossed?
Drag yet that stream for Beauty, if you will;
And find her, if you can; finding her drowned
Will not dismay your ethics,--and you will still
To one and all insist she has been found...
And haggard men will smile your praise, until,
Some day, they stumble on her burial mound.
It is fashion now to wave aside
As tedious, obvious, vacuous, trivial, trite,
All things which do not tickle, tease, excite
To some subversion, or in verbiage hide
Intent, or mock, or with hot sauce provide
A dish to prick the thickened appetite;
Straightforwardness is wrong, evasion right;
It is correct, de riguere, to deride.
What fumy wits these modern wags expose,
For all thir versatility: Voltaire,
Who wore to bed a night cap, and would close,
In fears of drafts, all windows, could declare
In antique stuffiness, a phrase that blows
Still through men's smoky minds, and clears the air.
Mindful of you the sodden earth in spring,
And all the flowers that in the springtime grow,
And dusty roads, and thistles, and the slow
Rising of the round moon, all throats that sing
The summer through, and each departing wing,
And all the nests that the bared branches show,
And all winds that in any weather blow,
And all the storms that the four seasons bring.
You go no more on your exultant feet
Up paths that only mist and morning knew,
Or watch the wind, or listen to the beat
Of a bird's wings too high in air to view,--
But you were something more than young and sweet
And fair,--and the long year remembers you.
Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare.
Let all who prate of Beauty hold their peace,
And lay them prone upon the earth and cease
To ponder on themselves, the while they stare
At nothing, intricately drawn nowhere
In shapes of shifting lineage; let geese
Gabble and hiss, but heroes seek release
From dusty bondage into luminous air.
O blinding hour, O holy, terrible day,
When first the shaft into his vision shone
Of light anatomized! Euclid alone
Has looked on Beauty bare. Fortunate they
Who, though once only and then but far away,
Have heard her massive sandal set on stone.
Love me no more, now let the god depart,
If love be grown bitter to your tongue!
Here is my hand; I bid you from my heart
Farewell, fare very well, be always young.
As for myself, mine was a deeper drouth:
I drank and thirsted still but I surmise
My kisses are now sand against your mouth,
Teeth in your palm and pennies on your eyes.
Speak but one cruel word, to shame my tears;
Go, but in going, stiffen up my back
To meet the yelping of the mustering years--
Dim trotting shapes that seldom will attack
Two with a light who match their steps and sing:
To one alone and lost, another thing.
I said in the beginning did I not?--
Prophetic of the end, though unaware
How light you took me, ignorant that you thought
I spoke to see my breath upon the air:
If you walk east at daybreak from the town
To the cliff's foot by climbing steadily
You cling at noon whence there is no way down
But to go toppling backwards to the sea.
And not the birds nor birds'-eggs, so they say,
But for a flowerthat in these fissures grows,
Forms have been seen to move throughout the day
Skyward; but what its name is no one knows.
'Tis said you find beside them on the sand
This flower relinquished by the broken flower.
No lack of counsel from the shrewd and the wise
How love may be acquired and how conserved
Warrants this laying bare before your eyes
My needle to your north abruptly swereved;
If I would hold you, I must hide my fears
Lest you be wanton, lead you to believe
My compass to another quarter veers,
Little surrender, lavishly receive.
But being like my mother the brown earth
Fervent and ull of gifts and free from guile,
Liefer would I you loved me for my worth,
Though you should love me but a little while,
Than for a philtre and doll can brew,--
Though thus I bound you as I long to do.
I think I should have loved you presently,
And given in earnest words I flung in jest;
And lifted honest eyes for you to see,
And caught your hand against my cheek and breast;
And all my pretty follies flung aside
That won you to me, and beneath your gaze,
Naked of reticece and shorn of pride,
Spread like a chart my little wicked ways.
I, that had been to you, had you remained,
But one more waking from a recurrent dream,
Cherish no less the certain stakes I gained,
And walk your memory's halls, austere, supreme,
A ghost in marble of a girl you knew
Who would have loved you in a day or two.
Read history: thus learn how small a space
You may inhabit, nor inhabit long
In crowding Cosmos--in that confined place
Work boldly; build your flimsy barriers strong;
Turn round and round and, make warm you nest; among
The other hunting beasts, keep heart and face,--
Not to betray the doomed and splendid race
You are so proud of, to which you belong.
For trouble comes to all of us: the rat
Has courage, in adversity, to fight;
But what a shining animal is man,
Who knows, when pain subsides, that is not that,
For worse than that must follow--yet can write
Music; can laugh; play tennis; even plan.
Now by the path I climbed, I journey back.
The oaks have grown; I have been long away.
Talking with me your memory and your lack
I now descend into a milder day;
Stripped of your love, unburdened of my hope,
Descend the path I mounted from the plain;
Yet steeper than I fancied seems the slope
And stonier, now that I go down again.
Warm falls the dusk; the clanking of a bell
Faintly ascends upon this heavier air;
I do recall those grassy pastures well:
In early spring they drove the cattle there.
And close at hand should be a shelter, too,
From which the mountain peaks are not in view.
There is a well into whose bottomless eye,
Though I were flayed, I dare not lean and look,
Sweet once with mountain water, now gone dry,
Miraculously abandoned by the brook
Wherewith for years miraculously fed
It kept a constant level cold and bright,
Though summer parched the rivers in their bed;
Withdrawn these waters, vanished overnight.
There is a word I dare not speak again,
A face I never again must call to mind;
I was not craven ever nor blenched at pain,
But pain to such a degree and of such kind
As I must suffer if I think of you,
Not in my senses will I undergo.
I must not die of pity; I must live;
Grow strong. not sicken; eat, digest my food,
That it may build me, and in doing good
To blood and bone, broaden the sensitive
Fastidious pale perception: we contrive
Lean comfort for the starving, who intrude
Upon them with our pots of pity; brewed
From stronger meat must be the broth we give.
Blue, bright September day, with here and there
On the green hills a maple turning red,
And white clouds racing in the windy air!-
If I would help the weak, I must be fed
In wit and purpose, pour away despair
And rinse the cup, eat happiness like bread.
When did I ever deny, though this was fleeting,
That this was love? When did I ever, I say,
With iron thumbs put out the eyes of the day
In this cold world where charity lies bleating
Under a thorn, and none to give him greeting,
And all that lights endeavour on its way
Is the teased lamp of loving, the torn ray
Of the least kind, the most clandestine meeting?
As God's my judge, I do cry holy, holy,
Upon the name of love however brief,
For want of whose ill-trimmed, aspiring wick
More days than oe i have gone forward slowly
In utter dark, scuffling the drifted leaf,
Tapping the road before me with a stick.
Song of a Second April
April this year, not otherwise
Than April of a year ago
Is full of whispers, full of sighs,
Dazzling mud and dingy snow;
Hepaticas that pleased you so
Are here again, and butterflies.
There rings a hammering all day,
And shingles lie about the doors;
From orchards near and far away
The gray wood-pecker taps and bores,
And men are merry at their chores,
And children earnest at their play.
The larger streams run still and deep;
Noisy and swift the small brooks run.
Among the mullein stalks the sheep
Go up the hillside in the sun
Pensively; only you are gone,
You that alone I cared to keep.