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Title: Artemis to Actaeon, and Other Verses
Author: Wharton, Edith, 1862-1937
Language: English
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Part I--


Part II--


Part III--




  THOU couldst not look on me and live: so runs
  The mortal legend--thou that couldst not live
  Nor look on me (so the divine decree)!
  That saw'st me in the cloud, the wave, the bough,
  The clod commoved with April, and the shapes
  Lurking 'twixt lid and eye-ball in the dark.
  Mocked I thee not in every guise of life,
  Hid in girls' eyes, a naiad in her well,
  Wooed through their laughter, and like echo fled,
  Luring thee down the primal silences
  Where the heart hushes and the flesh is dumb?
  Nay, was not I the tide that drew thee out
  Relentlessly from the detaining shore,
  Forth from the home-lights and the hailing voices,
  Forth from the last faint headland's failing line,
  Till I enveloped thee from verge to verge
  And hid thee in the hollow of my being?
  And still, because between us hung the veil,
  The myriad-tinted veil of sense, thy feet
  Refused their rest, thy hands the gifts of life,
  Thy heart its losses, lest some lesser face
  Should blur mine image in thine upturned soul
  Ere death had stamped it there. This was thy thought.
  And mine?

  The gods, they say, have all: not so!
  This have they--flocks on every hill, the blue
  Spirals of incense and the amber drip
  Of lucid honey-comb on sylvan shrines,
  First-chosen weanlings, doves immaculate,
  Twin-cooing in the osier-plaited cage,
  And ivy-garlands glaucous with the dew:
  Man's wealth, man's servitude, but not himself!
  And so they pale, for lack of warmth they wane,
  Freeze to the marble of their images,
  And, pinnacled on man's subserviency,
  Through the thick sacrificial haze discern
  Unheeding lives and loves, as some cold peak
  Through icy mists may enviously descry
  Warm vales unzoned to the all-fruitful sun.
  So they along an immortality
  Of endless-envistaed homage strain their gaze,
  If haply some rash votary, empty-urned,
  But light of foot, with all-adventuring hand,
  Break rank, fling past the people and the priest,
  Up the last step, on to the inmost shrine,
  And there, the sacred curtain in his clutch,
  Drop dead of seeing--while the others prayed!
  Yes, this we wait for, this renews us, this
  Incarnates us, pale people of your dreams,
  Who are but what you make us, wood or stone,
  Or cold chryselephantine hung with gems,
  Or else the beating purpose of your life,
  Your sword, your clay, the note your pipe pursues,
  The face that haunts your pillow, or the light
  Scarce visible over leagues of labouring sea!
  _O thus through use to reign again, to drink_
  _The cup of peradventure to the lees,_
  _For one dear instant disimmortalised_
  _In giving immortality!_
  So dream the gods upon their listless thrones.
  Yet sometimes, when the votary appears,
  With death-affronting forehead and glad eyes,
  _Too young_, they rather muse, _too frail thou art,_
  _And shall we rob some girl of saffron veil_
  _And nuptial garland for so slight a thing?_
  And so to their incurious loves return.

  Not so with thee; for some indeed there are
  Who would behold the truth and then return
  To pine among the semblances--but I
  Divined in thee the questing foot that never
  Revisits the cold hearth of yesterday
  Or calls achievement home. I from afar
  Beheld thee fashioned for one hour's high use,
  Nor meant to slake oblivion drop by drop.
  Long, long hadst thou inhabited my dreams,
  Surprising me as harts surprise a pool,
  Stealing to drink at midnight; I divined
  Thee rash to reach the heart of life, and lie
  Bosom to bosom in occasion's arms.
  And said: _Because I love thee thou shalt die!_

  For immortality is not to range
  Unlimited through vast Olympian days,
  Or sit in dull dominion over time;
  But this--to drink fate's utmost at a draught,
  Nor feel the wine grow stale upon the lip,
  To scale the summit of some soaring moment,
  Nor know the dulness of the long descent,
  To snatch the crown of life and seal it up
  Secure forever in the vaults of death!

  And this was thine: to lose thyself in me,
  Relive in my renewal, and become
  The light of other lives, a quenchless torch
  Passed on from hand to hand, till men are dust
  And the last garland withers from my shrine.


  NAY, lift me to thy lips, Life, and once more
  Pour the wild music through me--

  I quivered in the reed-bed with my kind,
  Rooted in Lethe-bank, when at the dawn
  There came a groping shape of mystery
  Moving among us, that with random stroke
  Severed, and rapt me from my silent tribe,
  Pierced, fashioned, lipped me, sounding for a voice,
  Laughing on Lethe-bank--and in my throat
  I felt the wing-beat of the fledgeling notes,
  The bubble of godlike laughter in my throat.

  Such little songs she sang,
  Pursing her lips to fit the tiny pipe,
  They trickled from me like a slender spring
  That strings frail wood-growths on its crystal thread,
  Nor dreams of glassing cities, bearing ships.
  She sang, and bore me through the April world
  Matching the birds, doubling the insect-hum
  In the meadows, under the low-moving airs,
  And breathings of the scarce-articulate air
  When it makes mouths of grasses--but when the sky
  Burst into storm, and took great trees for pipes,
  She thrust me in her breast, and warm beneath
  Her cloudy vesture, on her terrible heart,
  I shook, and heard the battle.

  But more oft,
  Those early days, we moved in charmed woods,
  Where once, at dusk, she piped against a faun,
  And one warm dawn a tree became a nymph
  Listening; and trembled; and Life laughed and passed.
  And once we came to a great stream that bore
  The stars upon its bosom like a sea,
  And ships like stars; so to the sea we came.
  And there she raised me to her lips, and sent
  One swift pang through me; then refrained her hand,
  And whispered: "Hear--" and into my frail flanks,
  Into my bursting veins, the whole sea poured
  Its spaces and its thunder; and I feared.

  We came to cities, and Life piped on me
  Low calls to dreaming girls,
  In counting-house windows, through the chink of gold,
  Flung cries that fired the captive brain of youth,
  And made the heavy merchant at his desk
  Curse us for a cracked hurdy-gurdy; Life
  Mimicked the hurdy-gurdy, and we passed.

  We climbed the slopes of solitude, and there
  Life met a god, who challenged her and said:
  "Thy pipe against my lyre!" But "Wait!" she laughed,
  And in my live flank dug a finger-hole,
  And wrung new music from it. Ah, the pain!

  We climbed and climbed, and left the god behind.
  We saw the earth spread vaster than the sea,
  With infinite surge of mountains surfed with snow,
  And a silence that was louder than the deep;
  But on the utmost pinnacle Life again
  Hid me, and I heard the terror in her hair.

  Safe in new vales, I ached for the old pang,
  And clamoured "Play me against a god again!"
  "Poor Marsyas-mortal--he shall bleed thee yet,"
  She breathed and kissed me, stilling the dim need.
  But evermore it woke, and stabbed my flank
  With yearnings for new music and new pain.
  "Another note against another god!"
  I clamoured; and she answered: "Bide my time.
  Of every heart-wound I will make a stop,
  And drink thy life in music, pang by pang,
  But first thou must yield the notes I stored in thee
  At dawn beside the river. Take my lips."

  She kissed me like a lover, but I wept,
  Remembering that high song against the god,
  And the old songs slept in me, and I was dumb.

  We came to cavernous foul places, blind
  With harpy-wings, and sulphurous with the glare
  Of sinful furnaces--where hunger toiled,
  And pleasure gathered in a starveling prey,
  And death fed delicately on young bones.

  "Now sing!" cried Life, and set her lips to me.
  "Here are gods also. Wilt thou pipe for Dis?"
  My cry was drowned beneath the furnace roar,
  Choked by the sulphur-fumes; and beast-lipped gods
  Laughed down on me, and mouthed the flutes of hell.

  "Now sing!" said Life, reissuing to the stars;
  And wrung a new note from my wounded side.

  So came we to clear spaces, and the sea.
  And now I felt its volume in my heart,
  And my heart waxed with it, and Life played on me
  The song of the Infinite. "Now the stars," she said.

  Then from the utmost pinnacle again
  She poured me on the wild sidereal stream,
  And I grew with her great breathings, till we swept
  The interstellar spaces like new worlds
  Loosed from the fiery ruin of a star.

  Cold, cold we rested on black peaks again,
  Under black skies, under a groping wind;
  And Life, grown old, hugged me to a numb breast,
  Pressing numb lips against me. Suddenly
  A blade of silver severed the black peaks
  From the black sky, and earth was born again,
  Breathing and various, under a god's feet.
  A god! A god! I felt the heart of Life
  Leap under me, and my cold flanks shook again.
  He bore no lyre, he rang no challenge out,
  But Life warmed to him, warming me with her,
  And as he neared I felt beneath her hands
  The stab of a new wound that sucked my soul
  Forth in a new song from my throbbing throat.

  "His name--his name?" I whispered, but she shed
  The music faster, and I grew with it,
  Became a part of it, while Life and I
  Clung lip to lip, and I from her wrung song
  As she from me, one song, one ecstasy,
  In indistinguishable union blent,
  Till she became the flute and I the player.
  And lo! the song I played on her was more
  Than any she had drawn from me; it held
  The stars, the peaks, the cities, and the sea,
  The faun's catch, the nymph's tremor, and the heart
  Of dreaming girls, of toilers at the desk,
  Apollo's challenge on the sunrise slope,
  And the hiss of the night-gods mouthing flutes of hell--
  All, to the dawn-wind's whisper in the reeds,
  When Life first came, a shape of mystery,
  Moving among us, and with random stroke
  Severed, and rapt me from my silent tribe.
  All this I wrung from her in that deep hour,
  While Love stood murmuring: "Play the god, poor grass!"

  Now, by that hour, I am a mate to thee
  Forever, Life, however spent and clogged,
  And tossed back useless to my native mud!
  Yea, groping for new reeds to fashion thee
  New instruments of anguish and delight,
  Thy hand shall leap to me, thy broken reed,
  Thine ear remember me, thy bosom thrill
  With the old subjection, then when Love and I
  Held thee, and fashioned thee, and made thee dance
  Like a slave-girl to her pipers--yea, thou yet
  Shalt hear my call, and dropping all thy toys
  Thou'lt lift me to thy lips, Life, and once more
  Pour the wild music through me--

  VESALIUS IN ZANTE (See note at end)


  SET wide the window. Let me drink the day.
  I loved light ever, light in eye and brain--
  No tapers mirrored in long palace floors,
  Nor dedicated depths of silent aisles,
  But just the common dusty wind-blown day
  That roofs earth's millions.

  O, too long I walked
  In that thrice-sifted air that princes breathe,
  Nor felt the heaven-wide jostling of the winds
  And all the ancient outlawry of earth!
  Now let me breathe and see.

  This pilgrimage
  They call a penance--let them call it that!
  I set my face to the East to shrive my soul
  Of mortal sin? So be it. If my blade
  Once questioned living flesh, if once I tore
  The pages of the Book in opening it,
  See what the torn page yielded ere the light
  Had paled its buried characters--and judge!

  The girl they brought me, pinioned hand and foot
  In catalepsy--say I should have known
  That trance had not yet darkened into death,
  And held my scalpel. Well, suppose I _knew?_
  Sum up the facts--her life against her death.
  Her life? The scum upon the pools of pleasure
  Breeds such by thousands. And her death? Perchance
  The obolus to appease the ferrying Shade,
  And waft her into immortality.
  Think what she purchased with that one heart-flutter
  That whispered its deep secret to my blade!
  For, just because her bosom fluttered still,
  It told me more than many rifled graves;
  Because I spoke too soon, she answered me,
  Her vain life ripened to this bud of death
  As the whole plant is forced into one flower,
  All her blank past a scroll on which God wrote
  His word of healing--so that the poor flesh,
  Which spread death living, died to purchase life!

  Ah, no! The sin I sinned was mine, not theirs.
  Not _that_ they sent me forth to wash away--
  None of their tariffed frailties, but a deed
  So far beyond their grasp of good or ill
  That, set to weigh it in the Church's balance,
  Scarce would they know which scale to cast it in.
  But I, I know. I sinned against my will,
  Myself, my soul--the God within the breast:
  Can any penance wash such sacrilege?

  When I was young in Venice, years ago,
  I walked the hospice with a Spanish monk,
  A solitary cloistered in high thoughts,
  The great Loyola, whom I reckoned then
  A mere refurbisher of faded creeds,
  Expert to edge anew the arms of faith,
  As who should say, a Galenist, resolved
  To hold the walls of dogma against fact,
  Experience, insight, his own self, if need be!
  Ah, how I pitied him, mine own eyes set
  Straight in the level beams of Truth, who groped
  In error's old deserted catacombs
  And lit his tapers upon empty graves!
  Ay, but he held his own, the monk--more man
  Than any laurelled cripple of the wars,
  Charles's spent shafts; for what he willed he willed,
  As those do that forerun the wheels of fate,
  Not take their dust--that force the virgin hours,
  Hew life into the likeness of themselves
  And wrest the stars from their concurrences.
  So firm his mould; but mine the ductile soul
  That wears the livery of circumstance
  And hangs obsequious on its suzerain's eye.
  For who rules now? The twilight-flitting monk,
  Or I, that took the morning like an Alp?
  He held his own, I let mine slip from me,
  The birthright that no sovereign can restore;
  And so ironic Time beholds us now
  Master and slave--he lord of half the earth,
  I ousted from my narrow heritage.

  For there's the sting! My kingdom knows me not.
  Reach me that folio--my usurper's title!
  Fallopius reigning, _vice_--nay, not so:
  Successor, not usurper. I am dead.
  My throne stood empty; he was heir to it.
  Ay, but who hewed his kingdom from the waste,
  Cleared, inch by inch, the acres for his sowing,
  Won back for man that ancient fief o' the Church,
  His body? Who flung Galen from his seat,
  And founded the great dynasty of truth
  In error's central kingdom?

  Ask men that,
  And see their answer: just a wondering stare
  To learn things were not always as they are--
  The very fight forgotten with the fighter;
  Already grows the moss upon my grave!
  Ay, and so meet--hold fast to that, Vesalius.
  They only, who re-conquer day by day
  The inch of ground they camped on over-night,
  Have right of foothold on this crowded earth.
  I left mine own; he seized it; with it went
  My name, my fame, my very self, it seems,
  Till I am but the symbol of a man,
  The sign-board creaking o'er an empty inn.
  He names me--true! _Oh, give the door its due_
  _I entered by. Only, I pray you, note,_
  _Had door been none, a shoulder-thrust of mine_
  _Had breached the crazy wall"_--he seems to say.
  So meet--and yet a word of thanks, of praise,
  Of recognition that the clue was found,
  Seized, followed, clung to, by some hand now dust--
  Had this obscured his quartering of my shield?

  How the one weakness stirs again! I thought
  I had done with that old thirst for gratitude
  That lured me to the desert years ago.
  I did my work--and was not that enough?
  No; but because the idlers sneered and shrugged,
  The envious whispered, the traducers lied,
  And friendship doubted where it should have cheered
  I flung aside the unfinished task, sought praise
  Outside my soul's esteem, and learned too late
  That victory, like God's kingdom, is within.
  (Nay, let the folio rest upon my knee.
  I do not feel its weight.) Ingratitude?
  The hurrying traveller does not ask the name
  Of him who points him on his way; and this
  Fallopius sits in the mid-heart of me,
  Because he keeps his eye upon the goal,
  Cuts a straight furrow to the end in view,
  Cares not who oped the fountain by the way,
  But drinks to draw fresh courage for his journey.
  That was the lesson that Ignatius taught--
  The one I might have learned from him, but would not--
  That we are but stray atoms on the wind,
  A dancing transiency of summer eves,
  Till we become one with our purpose, merged
  In that vast effort of the race which makes
  Mortality immortal.

  _"He that loseth_
  _His life shall find it":_ so the Scripture runs.
  But I so hugged the fleeting self in me,
  So loved the lovely perishable hours,
  So kissed myself to death upon their lips,
  That on one pyre we perished in the end--
  A grimmer bonfire than the Church e'er lit!
  Yet all was well--or seemed so--till I heard
  That younger voice, an echo of my own,
  And, like a wanderer turning to his home,
  Who finds another on the hearth, and learns,
  Half-dazed, that other is his actual self
  In name and claim, as the whole parish swears,
  So strangely, suddenly, stood dispossessed
  Of that same self I had sold all to keep,
  A baffled ghost that none would see or hear!
  _"Vesalius? Who's Vesalius? This Fallopius_
  _It is who dragged the Galen-idol down,_
  _Who rent the veil of flesh and forced a way_
  _Into the secret fortalice of life"_--
  Yet it was I that bore the brunt of it!

  Well, better so! Better awake and live
  My last brief moment as the man I was,
  Than lapse from life's long lethargy to death
  Without one conscious interval. At least
  I repossess my past, am once again
  No courtier med'cining the whims of kings
  In muffled palace-chambers, but the free
  Friendless Vesalius, with his back to the wall
  And all the world against him. O, for that
  Best gift of all, Fallopius, take my thanks--
  That, and much more. At first, when Padua wrote:
  "Master, Fallopius dead, resume again
  The chair even he could not completely fill,
  And see what usury age shall take of youth
  In honours forfeited"--why, just at first,
  I was quite simply credulously glad
  To think the old life stood ajar for me,
  Like a fond woman's unforgetting heart.
  But now that death waylays me--now I know
  This isle is the circumference of my days,
  And I shall die here in a little while--
  So also best, Fallopius!

  For I see
  The gods may give anew, but not restore;
  And though I think that, in my chair again,
  I might have argued my supplanters wrong
  In this or that--this Cesalpinus, say,
  With all his hot-foot blundering in the dark,
  Fabricius, with his over-cautious clutch
  On Galen (systole and diastole
  Of Truth's mysterious heart!)--yet, other ways,
  It may be that this dying serves the cause.
  For Truth stays not to build her monument
  For this or that co-operating hand,
  But props it with her servants' failures--nay,
  Cements its courses with their blood and brains,
  A living substance that shall clinch her walls
  Against the assaults of time. Already, see,
  Her scaffold rises on my hidden toil,
  I but the accepted premiss whence must spring
  The airy structure of her argument;
  Nor could the bricks it rests on serve to build
  The crowning finials. I abide her law:
  A different substance for a different end--
  Content to know I hold the building up;
  Though men, agape at dome and pinnacles,
  Guess not, the whole must crumble like a dream
  But for that buried labour underneath.
  Yet, Padua, I had still my word to say!
  _Let others say it!_--Ah, but will they guess
  Just the one word--? Nay, Truth is many-tongued.
  What one man failed to speak, another finds
  Another word for. May not all converge
  In some vast utterance, of which you and I,
  Fallopius, were but halting syllables?
  So knowledge come, no matter how it comes!
  No matter whence the light falls, so it fall!
  Truth's way, not mine--that I, whose service failed
  In action, yet may make amends in praise.
  Fabricius, Cesalpinus, say your word,
  Not yours, or mine, but Truth's, as you receive it!
  You miss a point I saw? See others, then!
  Misread my meaning? Yet expound your own!
  Obscure one space I cleared? The sky is wide,
  And you may yet uncover other stars.
  For thus I read the meaning of this end:
  There are two ways of spreading light: to be
  The candle or the mirror that reflects it.
  I let my wick burn out--there yet remains
  To spread an answering surface to the flame
  That others kindle.

  Turn me in my bed.
  The window darkens as the hours swing round;
  But yonder, look, the other casement glows!
  Let me face westward as my sun goes down.


  FRA PAOLO, since they say the end is near,
  And you of all men have the gentlest eyes,
  Most like our father Francis; since you know
  How I have toiled and prayed and scourged and striven,
  Mothered the orphan, waked beside the sick,
  Gone empty that mine enemy might eat,
  Given bread for stones in famine years, and channelled
  With vigilant knees the pavement of this cell,
  Till I constrained the Christ upon the wall
  To bend His thorn-crowned Head in mute forgiveness . . .
  Three times He bowed it . . . (but the whole stands writ,
  Sealed with the Bishop's signet, as you know),
  Once for each person of the Blessed Three--
  A miracle that the whole town attests,
  The very babes thrust forward for my blessing,
  And either parish plotting for my bones--
  Since this you know: sit near and bear with me.

  I have lain here, these many empty days
  I thought to pack with Credos and Hail Marys
  So close that not a fear should force the door--
  But still, between the blessed syllables
  That taper up like blazing angel heads,
  Praise over praise, to the Unutterable,
  Strange questions clutch me, thrusting fiery arms,
  As though, athwart the close-meshed litanies,
  My dead should pluck at me from hell, with eyes
  Alive in their obliterated faces! . . .
  I have tried the saints' names and our blessed Mother's
  Fra Paolo, I have tried them o'er and o'er,
  And like a blade bent backward at first thrust
  They yield and fail me--and the questions stay.
  And so I thought, into some human heart,
  Pure, and yet foot-worn with the tread of sin,
  If only I might creep for sanctuary,
  It might be that those eyes would let me rest. . .

  Fra Paolo, listen. How should I forget
  The day I saw him first? (You know the one.)
  I had been laughing in the market-place
  With others like me, I the youngest there,
  Jostling about a pack of mountebanks
  Like flies on carrion (I the youngest there!),
  Till darkness fell; and while the other girls
  Turned this way, that way, as perdition beckoned,
  I, wondering what the night would bring, half hoping:
  _If not, this once, a child's sleep in my garret,_
  _At least enough to buy that two-pronged coral_
  _The others covet 'gainst the evil eye,_
  _Since, after all, one sees that I'm the youngest_--
  So, muttering my litany to hell
  (The only prayer I knew that was not Latin),
  Felt on my arm a touch as kind as yours,
  And heard a voice as kind as yours say "Come."
  I turned and went; and from that day I never
  Looked on the face of any other man.
  So much is known; so much effaced; the sin
  Cast like a plague-struck body to the sea,
  Deep, deep into the unfathomable pardon--
  (The Head bowed thrice, as the whole town attests).
  What more, then? To what purpose? Bear with me!--

  It seems that he, a stranger in the place,
  First noted me that afternoon and wondered:
  _How grew so white a bud in such black slime,_
  _And why not mine the hand to pluck it out?_
  Why, so Christ deals with souls, you cry--what then?
  Not so! Not so! When Christ, the heavenly gardener,
  Plucks flowers for Paradise (do I not know?),
  He snaps the stem above the root, and presses
  The ransomed soul between two convent walls,
  A lifeless blossom in the Book of Life.
  But when my lover gathered me, he lifted
  Stem, root and all--ay, and the clinging mud--
  And set me on his sill to spread and bloom
  After the common way, take sun and rain,
  And make a patch of brightness for the street,
  Though raised above rough fingers--so you make
  A weed a flower, and others, passing, think:
  "Next ditch I cross, I'll lift a root from it,
  And dress my window" . . . and the blessing spreads.
  Well, so I grew, with every root and tendril
  Grappling the secret anchorage of his love,
  And so we loved each other till he died. . . .

  Ah, that black night he left me, that dead dawn
  I found him lying in the woods, alive
  To gasp my name out and his life-blood with it,
  As though the murderer's knife had probed for me
  In his hacked breast and found me in each wound. . .
  Well, it was there Christ came to me, you know,
  And led me home--just as that other led me.
  _(Just as that other?_ Father, bear with me!)
  My lover's death, they tell me, saved my soul,
  And I have lived to be a light to men.
  And gather sinners to the knees of grace.
  All this, you say, the Bishop's signet covers.
  But stay! Suppose my lover had not died?
  (At last my question! Father, help me face it.)
  I say: Suppose my lover had not died--
  Think you I ever would have left him living,
  Even to be Christ's blessed Margaret?
  --We lived in sin? Why, to the sin I died to
  That other was as Paradise, when God
  Walks there at eventide, the air pure gold,
  And angels treading all the grass to flowers!
  He was my Christ--he led me out of hell--
  He died to save me (so your casuists say!)--
  Could Christ do more? Your Christ out-pity mine?
  Why, _yours_ but let the sinner bathe His feet;
  Mine raised her to the level of his heart. . .
  And then Christ's way is saving, as man's way
  Is squandering--and the devil take the shards!
  But this man kept for sacramental use
  The cup that once had slaked a passing thirst;
  This man declared: "The same clay serves to model
  A devil or a saint; the scribe may stain
  The same fair parchment with obscenities,
  Or gild with benedictions; nay," he cried,
  "Because a satyr feasted in this wood,
  And fouled the grasses with carousing foot,
  Shall not a hermit build his chapel here
  And cleanse the echoes with his litanies?
  The sodden grasses spring again--why not
  The trampled soul? Is man less merciful
  Than nature, good more fugitive than grass?"
  And so--if, after all, he had not died,
  And suddenly that door should know his hand,
  And with that voice as kind as yours he said:
  "Come, Margaret, forth into the sun again,
  Back to the life we fashioned with our hands
  Out of old sins and follies, fragments scorned
  Of more ambitious builders, yet by Love,
  The patient architect, so shaped and fitted
  That not a crevice let the winter in--"
  Think you my bones would not arise and walk,
  This bruised body (as once the bruised soul)
  Turn from the wonders of the seventh heaven
  As from the antics of the market-place?
  If this could be (as I so oft have dreamed),
  I, who have known both loves, divine and human,
  Think you I would not leave this Christ for that?

  --I rave, you say? You start from me, Fra Paolo?
  Go, then; your going leaves me not alone.
  I marvel, rather, that I feared the question,
  Since, now I name it, it draws near to me
  With such dear reassurance in its eyes,
  And takes your place beside me. . .

  Nay, I tell you,
  Fra Paolo, I have cried on all the saints--
  If this be devil's prompting, let them drown it
  In Alleluias! Yet not one replies.
  And, for the Christ there--is He silent too?
  _Your_ Christ? Poor father; you that have but one,
  And that one silent--how I pity you!
  He will not answer? Will not help you cast
  The devil out? But hangs there on the wall,
  Blind wood and bone--?

  How if _I_ call on Him--
  I, whom He talks with, as the town attests?
  If ever prayer hath ravished me so high
  That its wings failed and dropped me in Thy breast,
  Christ, I adjure Thee! By that naked hour
  Of innermost commixture, when my soul
  Contained Thee as the paten holds the host,
  Judge Thou alone between this priest and me;
  Nay, rather, Lord, between my past and present,
  Thy Margaret and that other's--whose she is
  By right of salvage--and whose call should follow!
  Thine? Silent still.--Or his, who stooped to her,
  And drew her to Thee by the bands of love?
  Not Thine? Then his?

  Ah, Christ--the thorn-crowned Head
  Bends . . . bends again . . . down on your knees,

  Fra Paolo!
  If his, then Thine!

  Kneel, priest, for this is heaven. . .


  GREAT cities rise and have their fall; the brass
  That held their glories moulders in its turn.
  Hard granite rots like an uprooted weed,
  And ever on the palimpsest of earth
  Impatient Time rubs out the word he writ.
  But one thing makes the years its pedestal,
  Springs from the ashes of its pyre, and claps
  A skyward wing above its epitaph--
  The will of man willing immortal things.

  The ages are but baubles hung upon
  The thread of some strong lives--and one slight wrist
  May lift a century above the dust;
  For Time,
  The Sisyphean load of little lives,
  Becomes the globe and sceptre of the great.
  But who are these that, linking hand in hand,
  Transmit across the twilight waste of years
  The flying brightness of a kindled hour?
  Not always, nor alone, the lives that search
  How they may snatch a glory out of heaven
  Or add a height to Babel; oftener they
  That in the still fulfilment of each day's
  Pacific order hold great deeds in leash,
  That in the sober sheath of tranquil tasks
  Hide the attempered blade of high emprise,
  And leap like lightning to the clap of fate.

  So greatly gave he, nurturing 'gainst the call
  Of one rare moment all the daily store
  Of joy distilled from the acquitted task,
  And that deliberate rashness which bespeaks
  The pondered action passed into the blood;
  So swift to harden purpose into deed
  That, with the wind of ruin in his hair,
  Soul sprang full-statured from the broken flesh,
  And at one stroke he lived the whole of life,
  Poured all in one libation to the truth,
  A brimming flood whose drops shall overflow
  On deserts of the soul long beaten down
  By the brute hoof of habit, till they spring
  In manifold upheaval to the sun.

  Call here no high artificer to raise
  His wordy monument--such lives as these
  Make death a dull misnomer and its pomp
  An empty vesture. Let resounding lives
  Re-echo splendidly through high-piled vaults
  And make the grave their spokesman--such as he
  Are as the hidden streams that, underground,
  Sweeten the pastures for the grazing kine,
  Or as spring airs that bring through prison bars
  The scent of freedom; or a light that burns
  Immutably across the shaken seas,
  Forevermore by nameless hands renewed,
  Where else were darkness and a glutted shore.




  BECAUSE the currents of our love are poured
  Through the slow welter of the primal flood
  From some blind source of monster-haunted mud,
  And flung together by random forces stored
  Ere the vast void with rushing worlds was scored--
  Because we know ourselves but the dim scud
  Tossed from their heedless keels, the sea-blown bud
  That wastes and scatters ere the wave has roared--

  Because we have this knowledge in our veins,
  Shall we deny the journey's gathered lore--
  The great refusals and the long disdains,
  The stubborn questing for a phantom shore,
  The sleepless hopes and memorable pains,
  And all mortality's immortal gains?


  Because our kiss is as the moon to draw
  The mounting waters of that red-lit sea
  That circles brain with sense, and bids us be
  The playthings of an elemental law,
  Shall we forego the deeper touch of awe
  On love's extremest pinnacle, where we,
  Winging the vistas of infinity,
  Gigantic on the mist our shadows saw?

  Shall kinship with the dim first-moving clod
  Not draw the folded pinion from the soul,
  And shall we not, by spirals vision-trod,
  Reach upward to some still-retreating goal,
  As earth, escaping from the night's control,
  Drinks at the founts of morning like a god?


  All, all is sweet in that commingled draught
  Mysterious, that life pours for lovers' thirst,
  And I would meet your passion as the first
  Wild woodland woman met her captor's craft,
  Or as the Greek whose fearless beauty laughed
  And doffed her raiment by the Attic flood;
  But in the streams of my belated blood
  Flow all the warring potions love has quaffed.

  How can I be to you the nymph who danced
  Smooth by Ilissus as the plane-tree's bole,
  Or how the Nereid whose drenched lashes glanced
  Like sea-flowers through the summer sea's long roll--
  I that have also been the nun entranced
  Who night-long held her Bridegroom in her soul?


  "Sad Immortality is dead," you say,
  "And all her grey brood banished from the soul;
  Life, like the earth, is now a rounded whole,
  The orb of man's dominion. Live to-day."
  And every sense in me leapt to obey,
  Seeing the routed phantoms backward roll;
  But from their waning throng a whisper stole,
  And touched the morning splendour with decay.

  "Sad Immortality is dead; and we
  The funeral train that bear her to her grave.
  Yet hath she left a two-faced progeny
  In hearts of men, and some will always see
  The skull beneath the wreath, yet always crave
  In every kiss the folded kiss to be."


  Yet for one rounded moment I will be
  No more to you than what my lips may give,
  And in the circle of your kisses live
  As in some island of a storm-blown sea,
  Where the cold surges of infinity
  Upon the outward reefs unheeded grieve,
  And the loud murmur of our blood shall weave
  Primeval silences round you and me.

  If in that moment we are all we are
  We live enough. Let this for all requite.
  Do I not know, some winged things from far
  Are borne along illimitable night
  To dance their lives out in a single flight
  Between the moonrise and the setting star?


  The Moment came, with sacramental cup
  Lifted--and all the vault of life grew bright
  With tides of incommensurable light--
  But tremblingly I turned and covered up
  My face before the wonder. Down the slope
  I heard her feet in irretrievable flight,
  And when I looked again, my stricken sight
  Saw night and rain in a dead world agrope.

  Now walks her ghost beside me, whispering
  With lips derisive: "Thou that wouldst forego--
  What god assured thee that the cup I bring
  Globes not in every drop the cosmic show,
  All that the insatiate heart of man can wring
  From life's long vintage?--Now thou shalt not know."


  Shall I not know? I, that could always catch
  The sunrise in one beam along the wall,
  The nests of June in April's mating call,
  And ruinous autumn in the wind's first snatch
  At summer's green impenetrable thatch--
  That always knew far off the secret fall
  Of a god's feet across the city's brawl,
  The touch of silent fingers on my latch?

  Not thou, vain Moment! Something more than thou
  Shall write the score of what mine eyes have wept,
  The touch of kisses that have missed my brow,
  The murmur of wings that brushed me while I slept,
  And some mute angel in the breast even now
  Measures my loss by all that I have kept.


  Strive we no more. Some hearts are like the bright
  Tree-chequered spaces, flecked with sun and shade,
  Where gathered in old days the youth and maid
  To woo, and weave their dances: with the night
  They cease their flutings, and the next day's light
  Finds the smooth green unconscious of their tread,
  And ready its velvet pliancies to spread
  Under fresh feet, till these in turn take flight.

  But other hearts a long long road doth span,
  From some far region of old works and wars,
  And the weary armies of the thoughts of man
  Have trampled it, and furrowed it with scars,
  And sometimes, husht, a sacred caravan
  Moves over it alone, beneath the stars.



  LIKE Crusoe with the bootless gold we stand
  Upon the desert verge of death, and say:
  "What shall avail the woes of yesterday
  To buy to-morrow's wisdom, in the land
  Whose currency is strange unto our hand?
  In life's small market they had served to pay
  Some late-found rapture, could we but delay
  Till Time hath matched our means to our demand."

  But otherwise Fate wills it, for, behold,
  Our gathered strength of individual pain,
  When Time's long alchemy hath made it gold,
  Dies with us--hoarded all these years in vain,
  Since those that might be heir to it the mould
  Renew, and coin themselves new griefs again.


  O Death, we come full-handed to thy gate,
  Rich with strange burden of the mingled years,
  Gains and renunciations, mirth and tears,
  And love's oblivion, and remembering hate.
  Nor know we what compulsion laid such freight
  Upon our souls--and shall our hopes and fears
  Buy nothing of thee, Death? Behold our wares,
  And sell us the one joy for which we wait.
  Had we lived longer, life had such for sale,
  With the last coin of sorrow purchased cheap,
  But now we stand before thy shadowy pale,
  And all our longings lie within thy keep--
  Death, can it be the years shall naught avail?

  "Not so," Death answered, "they shall purchase sleep."



  ON immemorial altitudes august
  Grief holds her high dominion. Bold the feet
  That climb unblenching to that stern retreat
  Whence, looking down, man knows himself but dust.
  There lie the mightiest passions, earthward thrust
  Beneath her regnant footstool, and there meet
  Pale ghosts of buried longings that were sweet,
  With many an abdicated "shall" and "must."

  For there she rules omnipotent, whose will
  Compels a mute acceptance of her chart;
  Who holds the world, and lo! it cannot fill
  Her mighty hand; who will be served apart
  With uncommunicable rites, and still
  Surrender of the undivided heart.


  She holds the world within her mighty hand,
  And lo! it is a toy for babes to toss,
  And all its shining imagery but dross,
  To those that in her awful presence stand;
  As sun-confronting eagles o'er the land
  That lies below, they send their gaze across
  The common intervals of gain and loss,
  And hope's infinitude without a strand.

  But he who, on that lonely eminence,
  Watches too long the whirling of the spheres
  Through dim eternities, descending thence
  The voices of his kind no longer hears,
  And, blinded by the spectacle immense,
  Journeys alone through all the after years.



  IMMENSE, august, like some Titanic bloom,
  The mighty choir unfolds its lithic core,
  Petalled with panes of azure, gules and or,
  Splendidly lambent in the Gothic gloom,
  And stamened with keen flamelets that illume
  The pale high-altar. On the prayer-worn floor,
  By worshippers innumerous thronged of yore,
  A few brown crones, familiars of the tomb,
  The stranded driftwood of Faith's ebbing sea--
  For these alone the finials fret the skies,
  The topmost bosses shake their blossoms free,
  While from the triple portals, with grave eyes,
  Tranquil, and fixed upon eternity,
  The cloud of witnesses still testifies.


  The crimson panes like blood-drops stigmatise
  The western floor. The aisles are mute and cold.
  A rigid fetich in her robe of gold,
  The Virgin of the Pillar, with blank eyes,
  Enthroned beneath her votive canopies,
  Gathers a meagre remnant to her fold.
  The rest is solitude; the church, grown old,
  Stands stark and grey beneath the burning skies.
  Well-nigh again its mighty framework grows
  To be a part of nature's self, withdrawn
  From hot humanity's impatient woes;
  The floor is ridged like some rude mountain lawn,
  And in the east one giant window shows
  The roseate coldness of an Alp at dawn.




  HERE by the ample river's argent sweep,
  Bosomed in tilth and vintage to her walls,
  A tower-crowned Cybele in armoured sleep
  The city lies, fat plenty in her halls,
  With calm parochial spires that hold in fee
  The friendly gables clustered at their base,
  And, equipoised o'er tower and market-place,
  The Gothic minister's winged immensity;
  And in that narrow burgh, with equal mood,
  Two placid hearts, to all life's good resigned,
  Might, from the altar to the lych-gate, find
  Long years of peace and dreamless plenitude.



  Yon strange blue city crowns a scarped steep
  No mortal foot hath bloodlessly essayed:
  Dreams and illusions beacon from its keep.
  But at the gate an Angel bares his blade;
  And tales are told of those who thought to gain
  At dawn its ramparts; but when evening fell
  Far off they saw each fading pinnacle
  Lit with wild lightnings from the heaven of pain;
  Yet there two souls, whom life's perversities
  Had mocked with want in plenty, tears in mirth,
  Might meet in dreams, ungarmented of earth,
  And drain Joy's awful chalice to the lees.


  ILARIA, thou that wert so fair and dear
  That death would fain disown thee, grief made wise
  With prophecy thy husband's widowed eyes,
  And bade him call the master's art to rear
  Thy perfect image on the sculptured bier,
  With dreaming lids, hands laid in peaceful guise
  Beneath the breast that seems to fall and rise,
  And lips that at love's call should answer "Here!"

  First-born of the Renascence, when thy soul
  Cast the sweet robing of the flesh aside,
  Into these lovelier marble limbs it stole,
  Regenerate in art's sunrise clear and wide,
  As saints who, having kept faith's raiment whole,
  Change it above for garments glorified.


  ONE grief there is, the helpmeet of my heart,
  That shall not from me till my days be sped,
  That walks beside me in sunshine and in shade,
  And hath in all my fortunes equal part.
  At first I feared it, and would often start
  Aghast to find it bending o'er my bed,
  Till usage slowly dulled the edge of dread,
  And one cold night I cried: _How warm thou art!_

  Since then we two have travelled hand in hand,
  And, lo, my grief has been interpreter
  For me in many a fierce and alien land
  Whose speech young Joy had failed to understand,
  Plucking me tribute of red gold and myrrh
  From desolate whirlings of the desert sand.


  THINK you we slept within the Delphic bower,
  What time our victim sought Apollo's grace?
  Nay, drawn into ourselves, in that deep place
  Where good and evil meet, we bode our hour.
  For not inexorable is our power.
  And we are hunted of the prey we chase,
  Soonest gain ground on them that flee apace,
  And draw temerity from hearts that cower.

  Shuddering we gather in the house of ruth,
  And on the fearful turn a face of fear,
  But they to whom the ways of doom are clear
  Not vainly named us the Eumenides.
  Our feet are faithful in the paths of truth,
  And in the constant heart we house at peace.



_Love will make men dare to die for their beloved. . . Of this
Alcestis is a monument . . . for she was willing to lay down her
life for her husband . . . and so noble did this appear to the gods
that they granted her the privilege of returning to earth . . . but
Orpheus, the son of OEagrus, they sent empty away. . ._

--PLATO: _The Symposium._

  ORPHEUS the Harper, coming to the gate
  Where the implacable dim warder sate,
  Besought for parley with a shade within,
  Dearer to him than life itself had been,
  Sweeter than sunlight on Illyrian sea,
  Or bloom of myrtle, or murmur of laden bee,
  Whom lately from his unconsenting breast
  The Fates, at some capricious blind behest,
  Intolerably had reft--Eurydice,
  Dear to the sunlight as Illyrian sea,
  Sweet as the murmur of bees, or myrtle bloom--
  And uncompanioned led her to the tomb.

  There, solitary by the Stygian tide,
  Strayed her dear feet, the shadow of his own,
  Since, 'mid the desolate millions who have died,
  Each phantom walks its crowded path alone;
  And there her head, that slept upon his breast,
  No more had such sweet harbour for its rest,
  Nor her swift ear from those disvoiced throats
  Could catch one echo of his living notes,
  And, dreaming nightly of her pallid doom,
  No solace had he of his own young bloom,
  But yearned to pour his blood into her veins
  And buy her back with unimagined pains.

  To whom the Shepherd of the Shadows said:
  "Yea, many thus would bargain for their dead;
  But when they hear my fatal gateway clang
  Life quivers in them with a last sweet pang.
  They see the smoke of home above the trees,
  The cordage whistles on the harbour breeze;
  The beaten path that wanders to the shore
  Grows dear because they shall not tread it more,
  The dog that drowsing on their threshold lies
  Looks at them with their childhood in his eyes,
  And in the sunset's melancholy fall
  They read a sunrise that shall give them all."

  "Not thus am I," the Harper smiled his scorn.
  "I see no path but those her feet have worn;
  My roof-tree is the shadow of her hair,
  And the light breaking through her long despair
  The only sunrise that mine eyelids crave;
  For doubly dead without me in the grave
  Is she who, if my feet had gone before,
  Had found life dark as death's abhorred shore."

  The gate clanged on him, and he went his way
  Amid the alien millions, mute and grey,
  Swept like a cold mist down an unlit strand,
  Where nameless wreckage gluts the stealthy sand,
  Drift of the cockle-shells of hope and faith
  Wherein they foundered on the rock of death.

  So came he to the image that he sought
  (Less living than her semblance in his thought),
  Who, at the summons of his thrilling notes,
  Drew back to life as a drowned creature floats
  Back to the surface; yet no less is dead.
  And cold fear smote him till she spoke and said:
  "Art thou then come to lay thy lips on mine,
  And pour thy life's libation out like wine?
  Shall I, through thee, revisit earth again,
  Traverse the shining sea, the fruitful plain,
  Behold the house we dwelt in, lay my head
  Upon the happy pillows of our bed,
  And feel in dreams the pressure of thine arms
  Kindle these pulses that no memory warms?
  Nay: give me for a space upon thy breast
  Death's shadowy substitute for rapture--rest;
  Then join again the joyous living throng,
  And give me life, but give it in thy song;
  For only they that die themselves may give
  Life to the dead: and I would have thee live."

  Fear seized him closer than her arms; but he
  Answered: "Not so--for thou shalt come with me!
  I sought thee not that we should part again,
  But that fresh joy should bud from the old pain;
  And the gods, if grudgingly their gifts they make,
  Yield all to them that without asking take."

  "The gods," she said, "(so runs life's ancient lore)
  Yield all man takes, but always claim their score.
  The iron wings of the Eumenides
  When heard far off seem but a summer breeze;
  But me thou'lt have alive on earth again
  Only by paying here my meed of pain.
  Then lay on my cold lips the tender ghost
  Of the dear kiss that used to warm them most,
  Take from my frozen hands thy hands of fire,
  And of my heart-strings make thee a new lyre,
  That in thy music men may find my voice,
  And something of me still on earth rejoice."

  Shuddering he heard her, but with close-flung arm
  Swept her resisting through the ghostly swarm.
  "Swift, hide thee 'neath my cloak, that we may glide
  Past the dim warder as the gate swings wide."
  He whirled her with him, lighter than a leaf
  Unwittingly whirled onward by a brief
  Autumnal eddy; but when the fatal door
  Suddenly yielded him to life once more,
  And issuing to the all-consoling skies
  He turned to seek the sunlight in her eyes,
  He clutched at emptiness--she was not there;
  And the dim warder answered to his prayer:
  "Only once have I seen the wonder wrought.
  But when Alcestis thus her master sought,
  Living she sought him not, nor dreamed that fate
  For any subterfuge would swing my gate.
  Loving, she gave herself to livid death,
  Joyous she bought his respite with her breath,
  Came, not embodied, but a tenuous shade,
  In whom her rapture a great radiance made.
  For never saw I ghost upon this shore
  Shine with such living ecstasy before,
  Nor heard an exile from the light above
  Hail me with smiles: _Thou art not Death but Love!_

  "But when the gods, frustrated, this beheld,
  How, living still, among the dead she dwelled,
  Because she lived in him whose life she won,
  And her blood beat in his beneath the sun,
  They reasoned: 'When the bitter Stygian wave
  The sweetness of love's kisses cannot lave,
  When the pale flood of Lethe washes not
  From mortal mind one high immortal thought,
  Akin to us the earthly creature grows,
  Since nature suffers only what it knows.
  If she whom we to this grey desert banned
  Still dreams she treads with him the sunlit land
  That for his sake she left without a tear,
  Set wide the gates--her being is not here.'

  "So ruled the gods; but thou, that sought'st to give
  Thy life for love, yet for thyself wouldst live.
  They know not for their kin; but back to earth
  Give, pitying, one that is of mortal birth."

  Humbled the Harper heard, and turned away,
  Mounting alone to the empoverished day;
  Yet, as he left the Stygian shades behind,
  He heard the cordage on the harbour wind,
  Saw the blue smoke above the homestead trees,
  And in his hidden heart was glad of these.



  LEAGUERED in fire
  The wild black promontories of the coast extend
  Their savage silhouettes;
  The sun in universal carnage sets,
  And, halting higher,
  The motionless storm-clouds mass their sullen threats,
  Like an advancing mob in sword-points penned,
  That, balked, yet stands at bay.
  Mid-zenith hangs the fascinated day
  In wind-lustrated hollows crystalline,
  A wan Valkyrie whose wide pinions shine
  Across the ensanguined ruins of the fray,
  And in her hand swings high o'erhead,
  Above the waste of war,
  The silver torch-light of the evening star
  Wherewith to search the faces of the dead.


  Lagooned in gold,
  Seem not those jetty promontories rather
  The outposts of some ancient land forlorn,
  Uncomforted of morn,
  Where old oblivions gather,
  The melancholy unconsoling fold
  Of all things that go utterly to death
  And mix no more, no more
  With life's perpetually awakening breath?
  Shall Time not ferry me to such a shore,
  Over such sailless seas,
  To walk with hope's slain importunities
  In miserable marriage? Nay, shall not
  All things be there forgot,
  Save the sea's golden barrier and the black
  Close-crouching promontories?
  Dead to all shames, forgotten of all glories,
  Shall I not wander there, a shadow's shade,
  A spectre self-destroyed,
  So purged of all remembrance and sucked back
  Into the primal void,
  That should we on that shore phantasmal meet
  I should not know the coming of your feet?


  NOW the high holocaust of hours is done,
  And all the west empurpled with their death,
  How swift oblivion drinks the fallen sun,
  How little while the dusk remembereth!

  Though some there were, proud hours that marched in mail,
  And took the morning on auspicious crest,
  Crying to fortune "Back, for I prevail!"--
  Yet now they lie disfeatured with the rest;

  And some that stole so soft on destiny
  Methought they had surprised her to a smile;
  But these fled frozen when she turned to see,
  And moaned and muttered through my heart awhile.

  But now the day is emptied of them all,
  And night absorbs their life-blood at a draught;
  And so my life lies, as the gods let fall
  An empty cup from which their lips have quaffed.

  Yet see--night is not . . . by translucent ways,
  Up the grey void of autumn afternoon
  Steals a mild crescent, charioted in haze,
  And all the air is merciful as June.

  The lake is a forgotten streak of day
  That trembles through the hemlocks' darkling bars,
  And still, my heart, still some divine delay
  Upon the threshold holds the earliest stars.

  O pale equivocal hour, whose suppliant feet
  Haunt the mute reaches of the sleeping wind,
  Art thou a watcher stealing to entreat
  Prayer and sepulture for thy fallen kind?

  Poor plaintive waif of a predestined race,
  Their ruin gapes for thee. Why linger here?
  Go hence in silence. Veil thine orphaned face,
  Lest I should look on it and call it dear.

  For if I love thee thou wilt sooner die;
  Some sudden ruin will plunge upon thy head,
  Midnight will fall from the revengeful sky
  And hurl thee down among thy shuddering dead.

  Avert thine eyes. Lapse softly from my sight,
  Call not my name, nor heed if thine I crave,
  So shalt thou sink through mitigated night
  And bathe thee in the all-effacing wave.

  But upward still thy perilous footsteps fare
  Along a high-hung heaven drenched in light,
  Dilating on a tide of crystal air
  That floods the dark hills to their utmost height.

  Strange hour, is this thy waning face that leans
  Out of mid-heaven and makes my soul its glass?
  What victory is imaged there? What means
  Thy tarrying smile? Oh, veil thy lips and pass.

  Nay . . . pause and let me name thee! For I see,
  O with what flooding ecstasy of light,
  Strange hour that wilt not loose thy hold on me,
  Thou'rt not day's latest, but the first of night!

  And after thee the gold-foot stars come thick,
  From hand to hand they toss the flying fire,
  Till all the zenith with their dance is quick
  About the wheeling music of the Lyre.

  Dread hour that lead'st the immemorial round,
  With lifted torch revealing one by one
  The thronging splendours that the day held bound,
  And how each blue abyss enshrines its sun--

  Be thou the image of a thought that fares
  Forth from itself, and flings its ray ahead,
  Leaping the barriers of ephemeral cares,
  To where our lives are but the ages' tread,

  And let this year be, not the last of youth,
  But first--like thee!--of some new train of hours,
  If more remote from hope, yet nearer truth,
  And kin to the unpetitionable powers.



  A THIN moon faints in the sky o'erhead,
  And dumb in the churchyard lie the dead.
  Walk we not, Sweet, by garden ways,
  Where the late rose hangs and the phlox delays,
  But forth of the gate and down the road,
  Past the church and the yews, to their dim abode.
  For it's turn of the year and All Souls' night,
  When the dead can hear and the dead have sight.


  Fear not that sound like wind in the trees:
  It is only their call that comes on the breeze;
  Fear not the shudder that seems to pass:
  It is only the tread of their feet on the grass;
  Fear not the drip of the bough as you stoop:
  It is only the touch of their hands that grope--
  For the year's on the turn and it's All Souls' night,
  When the dead can yearn and the dead can smite.


  And where should a man bring his sweet to woo
  But here, where such hundreds were lovers too?
  Where lie the dead lips that thirst to kiss,
  The empty hands that their fellows miss,
  Where the maid and her lover, from sere to green,
  Sleep bed by bed, with the worm between?
  For it's turn of the year and All Souls' night,
  When the dead can hear and the dead have sight.


  And now they rise and walk in the cold,
  Let us warm their blood and give youth to the old.
  Let them see us and hear us, and say: "Ah, thus
  In the prime of the year it went with us!"
  Till their lips drawn close, and so long unkist,
  Forget they are mist that mingles with mist!
  For the year's on the turn, and it's All Souls' night,
  When the dead can burn and the dead can smite.


  Till they say, as they hear us--poor dead, poor dead!--
  "Just an hour of this, and our age-long bed--
  Just a thrill of the old remembered pains
  To kindle a flame in our frozen veins,
  A touch, and a sight, and a floating apart,
  As the chill of dawn strikes each phantom heart--
  For it's turn of the year and All Souls' night,
  When the dead can hear and the dead have sight."


  And where should the living feel alive
  But here in this wan white humming hive,
  As the moon wastes down, and the dawn turns cold,
  And one by one they creep back to the fold?
  And where should a man hold his mate and say:
  "One more, one more, ere we go their way"?
  For the year's on the turn, and it's All Souls' night,
  When the living can learn by the churchyard light.


  And how should we break faith who have seen
  Those dead lips plight with the mist between,
  And how forget, who have seen how soon
  They lie thus chambered and cold to the moon?
  How scorn, how hate, how strive, wee too,
  Who must do so soon as those others do?
  For it's All Souls' night, and break of the day,
  And behold, with the light the dead are away. . .


  _ALL so grave and shining see they come_
  _From the blissful ranks of the forgiven,_
  _Though so distant wheels the nearest crystal dome,_
  _And the spheres are seven._

  Are you in such haste to come to earth,
  Shining ones, the Wonder on your brow,
  To the low poor places of your birth,
  And the day that must be darkness now?

  Does the heart still crave the spot it yearned on
  In the grey and mortal years,
  The pure flame the smoky hearth it burned on,
  The clear eye its tears?

  Was there, in the narrow range of living,
  After all the wider scope?
  In the old old rapture of forgiving,
  In the long long flight of hope?

  Come you, from free sweep across the spaces,
  To the irksome bounds of mortal law,
  From the all-embracing Vision, to some face's
  Look that never saw?

  Never we, imprisoned here, had sought you,
  Lured you with the ancient bait of pain,
  Down the silver current of the light-years brought you
  To the beaten round again--

  Is it you, perchance, who ache to strain us
  Dumbly to the dim transfigured breast,
  Or with tragic gesture would detain us
  From the age-long search for rest?

  Is the labour then more glorious than the laurel,
  The learning than the conquered thought?
  Is the meed of men the righteous quarrel,
  Not the justice wrought?

  Long ago we guessed it, faithful ghosts,
  Proudly chose the present for our scene,
  And sent out indomitable hosts
  Day by day to widen our demesne.

  Sit you by our hearth-stone, lone immortals,
  Share again the bitter wine of life!
  Well we know, beyond the peaceful portals
  There is nothing better than our strife,

  Nought more thrilling than the cry that calls us,
  Spent and stumbling, to the conflict vain,
  After each disaster that befalls us
  Nerves us for a sterner strain.

  And, when flood or foeman shakes the sleeper
  In his moment's lapse from pain,
  Bids us fold our tents, and flee our kin, and deeper
  Drive into the wilderness again.


  BEFORE the clepsydra had bound the days
  Man tethered Change to his fixed star, and said:
  "The elder races, that long since are dead,
  Marched by that light; it swerves not from its base
  Though all the worlds about it wax and fade."

  When Egypt saw it, fast in reeling spheres,
  Her Pyramids shaft-centred on its ray
  She reared and said: "Long as this star holds sway
  In uninvaded ether, shall the years
  Revere my monuments--" and went her way.

  The Pyramids abide; but through the shaft
  That held the polar pivot, eye to eye,
  Look now--blank nothingness! As though Change laughed
  At man's presumption and his puny craft,
  The star has slipped its leash and roams the sky.

  Yet could the immemorial piles be swung
  A skyey hair's-breadth from their rooted base,
  Back to the central anchorage of space,
  Ah, then again, as when the race was young,
  Should they behold the beacon of the race!

  Of old, men said: "The Truth is there: we rear
  Our faith full-centred on it. It was known
  Thus of the elders who foreran us here,
  Mapped out its circuit in the shifting sphere,
  And found it, 'mid mutation, fixed alone."

  Change laughs again, again the sky is cold,
  And down that fissure now no star-beam glides.
  Yet they whose sweep of vision grows not old
  Still at the central point of space behold
  Another pole-star: for the Truth abides.


  THOUGH life should come
  With all its marshalled honours, trump and drum,
  To proffer you the captaincy of some
  Resounding exploit, that shall fill
  Man's pulses with commemorative thrill,
  And be a banner to far battle days
  For truths unrisen upon untrod ways,
  What would your answer be,
  O heart once brave?
  _Seek otherwhere; for me,_
  _I watch beside a grave._

  Though to some shining festival of thought
  The sages call you from steep citadel
  Of bastioned argument, whose rampart gained
  Yields the pure vision passionately sought,
  In dreams known well,
  But never yet in wakefulness attained,
  How should you answer to their summons, save:
  _I watch beside a grave?_

  Though Beauty, from her fane within the soul
  Of fire-tongued seers descending,
  Or from the dream-lit temples of the past
  With feet immortal wending,
  Illuminate grief's antre swart and vast
  With half-veiled face that promises the whole
  To him who holds her fast,
  What answer could you give?
  _Sight of one face I crave,_
  _One only while I live;_
  _Woo elsewhere; for I watch beside a grave._

  Though love of the one heart that loves you best,
  A storm-tossed messenger,
  Should beat its wings for shelter in your breast,
  Where clung its last year's nest,
  The nest you built together and made fast
  Lest envious winds should stir,
  And winged each delicate thought to minister
  With sweetness far-amassed
  To the young dreams within--
  What answer could it win?
  _The nest was whelmed in sorrow's rising wave,_
  _Nor could I reach one drowning dream to save;_
  _I watch beside a grave._


  AGE after age the fruit of knowledge falls
  To ashes on men's lips;
  Love fails, faith sickens, like a dying tree
  Life sheds its dreams that no new spring recalls;
  The longed-for ships
  Come empty home or founder on the deep,
  And eyes first lose their tears and then their sleep.

  So weary a world it lies, forlorn of day,
  And yet not wholly dark,
  Since evermore some soul that missed the mark
  Calls back to those agrope
  In the mad maze of hope,
  "Courage, my brothers--I have found the way!"

  The day is lost? What then?
  What though the straggling rear-guard of the fight
  Be whelmed in fear and night,
  And the flying scouts proclaim
  That death has gripped the van--
  Ever the heart of man
  Cheers on the hearts of men!

  _"It hurts not!"_ dying cried the Roman wife;
  And one by one
  The leaders in the strife
  Fall on the blade of failure and exclaim:
  "The day is won!"


  _HUNTERS, where does Hope nest?_
  Not in the half-oped breast,
  Nor the young rose,
  Nor April sunrise--those
  With a quick wing she brushes,
  The wide world through,
  Greets with the throat of thrushes,
  Fades from as fast as dew.

  But, would you spy her sleeping,
  Cradled warm,
  Look in the breast of weeping,
  The tree stript by storm;
  But, would you bind her fast,
  Yours at last,
  Bed-mate and lover,
  Gain the last headland bare
  That the cold tides cover,
  There may you capture her, there,
  Where the sea gives to the ground
  Only the drift of the drowned.
  Yet, if she slips you, once found,
  Push to her uttermost lair
  In the low house of despair.
  There will she watch by your head,
  Sing to you till you be dead,
  Then, with your child in her breast,
  In another heart build a new nest.


  WHEN you and I, like all things kind or cruel,
  The garnered days and light evasive hours,
  Are gone again to be a part of flowers
  And tears and tides, in life's divine renewal,

  If some grey eve to certain eyes should wear
  A deeper radiance than mere light can give,
  Some silent page abruptly flush and live,
  May it not be that you and I are there?


  AH, from the niggard tree of Time
  How quickly fall the hours!
  It needs no touch of wind or rime
  To loose such facile flowers.

  Drift of the dead year's harvesting,
  They clog to-morrow's way,
  Yet serve to shelter growths of spring
  Beneath their warm decay,

  Or, blent by pious hands with rare
  Sweet savours of content,
  Surprise the soul's December air
  With June's forgotten scent.


  ON a sheer peak of joy we meet;
  Below us hums the abyss;
  Death either way allures our feet
  If we take one step amiss.

  One moment let us drink the blue
  Transcendent air together--
  Then down where the same old work's to do
  In the same dull daily weather.

  We may not wait . . . yet look below!
  How part? On this keen ridge
  But one may pass. They call you--go!
  My life shall be your bridge.

Note.--Vesalius, the great anatomist, studied at Louvain and Paris,
and was called by Venice to the chair of surgery in the University
of Padua. He was one of the first physiologists to dissect the human
body, and his great work "The Structure of the Human Body" was an
open attack on the physiology of Galen. The book excited such
violent opposition, not only in the Church but in the University,
that in a fit of discouragement he burned his remaining manuscripts
and accepted the post of physician at the Court of Charles V., and
afterward of his son, Philip II, of Spain. This closed his life of
free enquiry, for the Inquisition forbade all scientific research,
and the dissection of corpses was prohibited in Spain. Vesalius led
for many years the life of the rich and successful court physician,
but regrets for his past were never wholly extinguished, and in 1561
they were roused afresh by the reading of an anatomical treatise by
Gabriel Fallopius, his successor in the chair at Padua. From that
moment life in Spain became intolerable to Vesalius, and in 1563 he
set out for the East. Tradition reports that this journey was a
penance to which the Church condemned him for having opened the body
of a woman before she was actually dead; but more probably Vesalius,
sick of his long servitude, made the pilgrimage a pretext to escape
from Spain.

Fallopius had meanwhile died, and the Venetian Senate is said to
have offered Vesalius his old chair; but on the way home from
Jerusalem he was seized with illness, and died at Zante in 1564.

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