To E. Fitzgerald: Tiresias

OLD FITZ, who from your suburb grange,
    Where once I tarried for a while,
    Glance at the wheeling orb of change,
    And greet it with a kindly smile;
    Whom yet I see as there you sit
    Beneath your sheltering garden-tree,
    And watch your doves about you flit,
    And plant on shoulder, hand, and knee,
    Or on your head their rosy feet,
    As if they knew your diet spares
    Whatever moved in that full sheet
    Let down to Peter at his prayers;
    Who live on milk and meal and grass;
    And once for ten long weeks I tried
    Your table of Pythagoras,
   —And seem’d at first “a thing enskied,”
    As Shakespeare has it, airy-light
    To float above the ways of men,
    Then fell from that half-spiritual height
    Chill’d, till I tasted flesh again
    One night when earth was winter-b]ack,
    And all the heavens flash’d in frost;
    And on me, half-asleep, came back
    That wholesome heat the blood had lost,
    And set me climbing icy capes
    And glaciers, over which there roll’d
    To meet me long-arm’d vines with grapes
    Of Eshcol hugeness– for the cold
    Without, and warmth within me, wrought
    To mould the dream; but none can say
    That Lenten fare makes Lenten thought
    Who reads your golden Eastern lay,
    Than which I know no version done
    In English more divinely well;
    A planet equal to the sun
    Which cast it, that large infidel
    Your Omar, and your Omar drew
    Full-handed plaudits from our best
    In modern letters, and from two,
    Old friends outvaluing all the rest,
    Two voices heard on earth no more;
    But we old friends are still alive,
    And I am nearing seventy-four,
    While you have touch’d at seventy-five,
    And so I send a birthday line
    Of greeting; and my son, who dipt
    In some forgotten book of mine
    With sallow scraps of manuscript,
    And dating many a year ago,
    Has hit on this, which you will take,
    My Fitz, and welcome, as I know,
    Less for its own than for the sake
    Of one recalling gracious times,
    When, in our younger London days,
    You found some merit in my rhymes,
    And I more pleasure in your praise.
         I WISH I were as in the years of old
         While yet the blessed daylight made itself
         Ruddy thro’ both the roofs of sight, and woke
         These eyes, now dull, but then so keen to seek
         The meanings ambush’d under all they saw,
         The flight of birds, the flame of sacrifice,
         What omens may foreshadow fate to man
         And woman, and the secret of the Gods.
         My son, the Gods, despite of human prayer,
         Are slower to forgive than human kings.
         The great God Ares burns in anger still
         Against the guiltless heirs of him from Tyre
         Our Cadmus, out of whom thou art, who found
         Beside the springs of Dirce, smote, and still’d
         Thro’ all its folds the multitudinous beast
         The dragon, which our trembling fathers call’d
         The God’s own son.
              A tale, that told to me,
         When but thine age, by age as winter-white
         As mine is now, amazed, but made me yearn
         For larger glimpses of that more than man
         Which rolls the heavens, and lifts and lays the deep,
         Yet loves and hates with mortal hates and loves,
         And moves unseen among the ways of men.
         Then, in my wanderings all the lands that lie
         Subjected to the Heliconian ridge
         Have heard this footstep fall, altho’ my wont
         Was more to scale the highest of the heights
         With some strange hope to see the nearer God.
         One naked peak‹the sister of the Sun
         Would climb from out the dark, and linger there
         To silver all the valleys with her shafts‹
         There once, but long ago, five-fold thy term
         Of years, I lay; the winds were dead for heat–
         The noonday crag made the hand burn; and sick
         For shadow‹not one bush was near‹I rose
         Following a torrent till its myriad falls
         Found silence in the hollows underneath.
         There in a secret olive-glade I saw
         Pallas Athene climbing from the bath
         In anger; yet one glittering foot disturb’d
         The lucid well; one snowy knee was prest
         Against the margin flowers; a dreadful light
         Came from her golden hair, her golden helm
         And all her golden armor on the grass,
         And from her virgin breast, and virgin eyes
         Remaining fixt on mine, till mine grew dark
         For ever, and I heard a voice that said
         “Henceforth be blind, for thou hast seen too much,
         And speak the truth that no man may believe.”
         Son, in the hidden world of sight that lives
         Behind this darkness, I behold her still
         Beyond all work of those who carve the stone
         Beyond all dreams of Godlike womanhood,
         Ineffable beauty, out of whom, at a glance
         And as it were, perforce, upon me flash’d
         The power of prophesying‹but to me
         No power so chain’d and coupled with the curse
         Of blindness and their unbelief who heard
         And heard not, when I spake of famine, plague
         Shrine-shattering earthquake, fire, flood, thunderbolt,
         And angers of the Gods for evil done
         And expiation lack’d‹no power on Fate
         Theirs, or mine own! for when the crowd would roar
         For blood, for war, whose issue was their doom,
         To cast wise words among the multitude
         Was fiinging fruit to lions; nor, in hours
         Of civil outbreak, when I knew the twain
         Would each waste each, and bring on both the yoke
         Of stronger states, was mine the voice to curb
         The madness of our cities and their kings.
         Who ever turn’d upon his heel to hear
         My warning that the tyranny of one
         Was prelude to the tyranny of all?
         My counsel that the tyranny of all
         Led backward to the tyranny of one?
         This power hath work’d no good to aught that lives
         And these blind hands were useless in their wars.
         O. therefore, that the unfulfill’d desire,
         The grief for ever born from griefs to be
         The boundless yearning of the prophet’s heart‹
         Could that stand forth, and like a statue, rear’d
         To some great citizen, wim all praise from all
         Who past it, saying, “That was he!”
              In vain!
         Virtue must shape itself im deed, and those
         Whom weakness or necessity have cramp’d
         Withm themselves, immerging, each, his urn
         In his own well, draws solace as he may.
         Menceceus, thou hast eyes, and I can hear
         Too plainly what full tides of onset sap
         Our seven high gates, and what a weight of war
         Rides on those ringing axlesl jingle of bits,
         Shouts, arrows, tramp of the horn-footed horse
         That grind the glebe to powder! Stony showers
         Of that ear-stunning hail of Ares crash
         Along the sounding walls. Above, below
         Shock after shock, the song-built towers and gates
         Reel, bruised and butted with the shuddering
         War-thunder of iron rams; and from within
         The city comes a murmur void of joy,
         Lest she be taken captive‹maidens, wives,
         And mothers with their babblers of the dawn,
         And oldest age in shadow from the night,
         Falling about their shrines before their Gods,
         And wailing, “Save us.”
         And they wail to thee!
         These eyeless eyes, that cannot see thine own,
         See this, that only in thy virtue lies
         The saving of our Thebes; for, yesternight,
         To me, the great God Ares, whose one bliss
         Is war and human sacrifice‹himself
         Blood-red from battle, spear and helmet tipt
         With stormy light as on a mast at sea,
         Stood out before a darkness, crying, "Thebes,
         Thy Thebes shall fall and perish, for I loathe
         The seed of Cadmus‹yet if one of these
         By his own hand‹if one of these‹"
         My son, No sound is breathed so potent to coerce,
         And to conciliate, as their names who dare
         For that sweet mother land which gave them birth
         Nobly to do, nobly to die. Their names,
         Graven on memorial columns, are a song
         Heard in the future; few, but more than wall
         And rampart, their examples reach a hand
         Far thro’ all years, and everywhere they meet
         And kindle generous purpose, and the strength
         To mould it into action pure as theirs.
         Fairer thy fate than mine, if life’s best end
         Be to end well! and thou refusing this,
         Unvenerable will thy memory be
         While men shall move the lips; but if thou dare‹
         Thou, one of these, the race of Cadmus‹then
         No stone is fitted in yon marble girth
         Whose echo shall not tongue thy glorious doom,
         Nor in this pavement but shall ring thy name
         To every hoof that clangs it, and the springs
         Of Dirce laving yonder battle-plain,
         Heard from the roofs by night, will murmur thee
         To thine own Thebes, while Thebes thro’ thee shall stand
         Firm-based with all her Gods.
              The Dragon’s cave
         Half hid, they tell me, now in flowing vines‹
         Where once he dwelt and whence he roll’d himself
         At dead of night‹thou knowest, and that smooth rock
         Before it, altar-fashion’d, where of late
         The woman-breasted Sphinx, with wings drawn back
         Folded her lion paws, and look’d to Thebes.
         There blanch the bones of whom she slew, and these
         Mixt with her own, because the fierce beast found
         A wiser than herself, and dash’d herself
         Dead in her rage; but thou art wise enough
         Tho’ young, to love thy wiser, blunt the curse
         Of Pallas, bear, and tho’ I speak the truth
         Believe I speak it, let thine own hand strike
         Thy youthful pulses into rest and quench
         The red God’s anger, fearing not to plunge
         Thy torch of life in darkness, rather thou
         Rejoicing that the sun, the moon, the stars
         Send no such light upon the ways of men
         As one great deed.
              Thither, my son, and there
         Thou, that hast never known the embrace of love
         Offer thy maiden life.
              This useless hand!
         I felt one warm tear fall upon it. Gone!
         He will achieve his greatness.
         But for me I would that I were gather’d to my rest,
         And mingled with the famous kings of old
         On whom about their ocean-islets flash
         The faces of the Gods‹the wise man’s word
         Here trampled by the populace underfoot
         There crown’d with worship and these eyes will find
         The men I knew, and watch the chariot whirl
         About the goal again, and hunters race
         The shadowy lion, and the warrior-kings
         In height and prowess more than human, strive
         Again for glory, while the golden lyre
         Is ever sounding in heroic ears
         Heroic hymns, and every way the vales
         Wind, clouded with the grateful incense-fume
         Of those who mix all odor to the Gods
         On one far height in one far-shining fire.
         “One height and one far-shining fire!”
         And while I fancied that my friend
         For this brief idyll would require
         A less diffuse and opulent end,
         And would defend his judgment well,
         If I should deem it over nice‹
         The tolling of his funeral bell
         Broke on my Pagan Paradise,
         And mixt the dream of classic times,
         And all the phantoms of the dream,
         With present grief, and made the rhymes,
         That miss’d his living welcome, seem
         Like would-be guests an hour too late,
         Who down the highway moving on
         With easy laughter find the gate
         Is bolted, and the master gone.
         Gone onto darkness, that full light
         Of friendship! past, in sleep, away
         By night, into the deeper night!
         The deeper night? A clearer day
         Than our poor twilight dawn on earth‹
         If night, what barren toil to be!
         What life, so maim’d by night, were worth
         Our living out? Not mine to me
         Remembering all the golden hours
         Now silent, and so many dead,
         And him the last; and laying flowers,
         This wreath, above his honor’d head,
         And praying that, when I from hence
         Shall fade with him into the unknown,
         My close of earth’s experience
         May prove as peaceful as his own.
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