We caught the tread of dancing feet,
We loitered down the moonlit street,
And stopped beneath the harlot’s house.
Inside, above the din and fray,
We heard the loud musicians play
The 'Treues Liebes Herz’ of Strauss.
Like strange mechanical grotesques,
Making fantastic arabesques,
The shadows raced across the blind.
We watched the ghostly dancers spin
To sound of horn and violin,
Like black leaves wheeling in the wind.
Like wire—pulled automatons,
Slim silhouetted skeletons
Went sidling through the slow quadrille,
Then took each other by the hand,
And danced a stately saraband;
Their laughter echoed thin and shrill.
Sometimes a clockwork puppet pressed
A phantom lover to her breast,
Sometimes they seemed to try to sing.
Sometimes a horrible marionette
Came out, and smoked its cigarette
Upon the steps like a live thing.
Then, turning to my love, I said,
‘The dead are dancing with the dead,
The dust is whirling with the dust.’
But she—she heard the violin,
And left my side, and entered in:
Love passed into the house of lust.
Then suddenly the tune went false,
The dancers wearied of the waltz,
The shadows ceased to wheel and whirl.
And down the long and silent street,
The dawn, with silver—sandalled feet,
Crept like a frightened girl.
Tread lightly, she is near
Under the snow,
Speak gently, she can hear
The daisies grow.
All her bright golden hair
Tarnished with rust,
She that was young and fair
Fallen to dust.
Lily-like, white as snow,
She hardly knew
She was a woman, so
Sweetly she grew.
Coffin-board, heavy stone,
Lie on her breast,
I vex my heart alone,
She is at rest.
Peace, peace, she cannot hear
Lyre or sonnet,
All my life’s buried here,
Heap earth upon it.
O well for him who lives at ease
With garnered gold in wide domain,
Nor heeds the splashing of the rain,
The crashing down of forest trees.
O well for him who ne’er hath known
The travail of the hungry years,
A father grey with grief and tears,
A mother weeping all alone.
But well for him whose foot hath trod
The weary road of toil and strife,
Yet from the sorrows of his life.
Builds ladders to be nearer God.
(To Sarah Bernhardt)
How vain and dull this common world must seem
To such a One as thou, who should’st have talked
At Florence with Mirandola, or walked
Through the cool olives of the Academe:
Thou should’st have gathered reeds from a green stream
For Goat—foot Pan’s shrill piping, and have played
With the white girls in that Phaeacian glade
Where grave Odysseus wakened from his dream.
Ah! surely once some urn of Attic clay
Held thy wan dust, and thou hast come again
Back to this common world so dull and vain,
For thou wert weary of the sunless day,
The heavy fields of scentless asphodel,
The loveless lips with which men kiss in Hell.
The little white clouds are racing over the sky,
And the fields are strewn with the gold of the flower of March,
The daffodil breaks under foot, and the tasselled larch
Sways and swings as the thrush goes hurrying by.
A delicate odour is borne on the wings of the morning breeze,
The odour of deep wet grass, and of brown new—furrowed earth,
The birds are singing for joy of the Spring’s glad birth,
Hopping from branch to branch on the rocking trees.
And all the woods are alive with the murmur and sound of Spring,
And the rose—bud breaks into pink on the climbing briar,
And the crocus—bed is a quivering moon of fire
Girdled round with the belt of an amethyst ring.
And the plane to the pine—tree is whispering some tale of love
Till it rustles with laughter and tosses its mantle of green,
And the gloom of the wych—elm’s hollow is lit with the iris sheen
Of the burnished rainbow throat and the silver breast of a dove.
See! the lark starts up from his bed in the meadow there,
Breaking the gossamer threads and the nets of dew,
And flashing adown the river, a flame of blue!
The kingfisher flies like an arrow, and wounds the air.
Out of the mid—wood’s twilight
Into the meadow’s dawn,
Ivory limbed and brown—eyed,
Flashes my Faun!
He skips through the copses singing,
And his shadow dances along,
And I know not which I should follow,
Shadow or song!
O Hunter, snare me his shadow!
O Nightingale, catch me his strain!
Else moonstruck with music and madness
I track him in vain!
HOW steep the stairs within Kings’ houses are
For exile—wearied feet as mine to tread,
And O how salt and bitter is the bread
Which falls from this Hound’s table,—better far
That I had died in the red ways of war,
Or that the gate of Florence bare my head,
Than to live thus, by all things comraded
Which seek the essence of my soul to mar.
'Curse God and die: what better hope than this?
He hath forgotten thee in all the bliss
Of his gold city, and eternal day’—
Nay peace: behind my prison’s blinded bars
I do possess what none can take away,
My love, and all the glory of the stars.
Thou knowest all; I seek in vain
What lands to till or sow with seed —
The land is black with briar and weed,
Nor cares for falling tears or rain.
Thou knowest all; I sit and wait
With blinded eyes and hands that fail,
Till the last lifting of the veil
And the first opening of the gate.
Thou knowest all; I cannot see.
I trust I shall not live in vain,
I know that we shall meet again
In some divine eternity.
OFT have we trod the vales of Castaly
And heard sweet notes of sylvan music blown
From antique reeds to common folk unknown:
And often launched our bark upon that sea
Which the nine Muses hold in empery,
And ploughed free furrows through the wave and foam,
Nor spread reluctant sail for more safe home
Till we had freighted well our argosy.
Of which despoilèd treasures these remain,
Sordello’s passion, and the honied line
Of young Endymion, lordly Tamburlaine
Driving his pampered jades, and more than these,
The seven—fold vision of the Florentine,
And grave—browed Milton’s solemn harmonies.
Christ, dost Thou live indeed? or are Thy bones
Still straitened in their rock—hewn sepulchre?
And was Thy Rising only dreamed by her
Whose love of Thee for all her sin atones?
For here the air is horrid with men’s groans,
The priests who call upon Thy name are slain,
Dost Thou not hear the bitter wail of pain
From those whose children lie upon the stones?
Come down, O Son of God! incestuous gloom
Curtains the land, and through the starless night
Over Thy Cross a Crescent moon I see!
If Thou in very truth didst burst the tomb
Come down, O Son of Man! and show Thy might
Lest Mahomet be crowned instead of Thee!
Nay, Lord, not thus! white lilies in the spring,
Sad olive—groves, or silver—breasted dove,
Teach me more clearly of Thy life and love
Than terrors of red flame and thundering.
The hillside vines dear memories of Thee bring:
A bird at evening flying to its nest
Tells me of One who had no place of rest:
I think it is of Thee the sparrows sing.
Come rather on some autumn afternoon,
When red and brown are burnished on the leaves,
And the fields echo to the gleaner’s song,
Come when the splendid fulness of the moon
Looks down upon the rows of golden sheaves,
And reap Thy harvest: we have waited long.