Upon a Dying Lady


                              Her Courtesy
WITH the old kindness, the old distinguished grace    
She lies, her lovely piteous head amid dull red hair    
Propped upon pillows, rouge on the pallor of her face.    
She would not have us sad because she is lying there,    
And when she meets our gaze her eyes are laughter-lit,        
Her speech a wicked tale that we may vie with her    
Matching our broken-hearted wit against her wit,    
Thinking of saints and of Petronius Arbiter.    


                  Certain Artists bring her Dolls and Drawings
Bring where our Beauty lies    
A new modelled doll, or drawing,  
With a friend’s or an enemy’s    
Features, or maybe showing    
Her features when a tress    
Of dull red hair was flowing    
Over some silken dress    
Cut in the Turkish fashion,    
Or it may be like a boy’s.    
We have given the world our passion    
We have naught for death but toys.    


                    She turns the Dolls’ Faces to the Wall
Because to-day is some religious festival    
They had a priest say Mass, and even the Japanese,    
Heel up and weight on toe, must face the wall    
—Pedant in passion, learned in old courtesies,    
Vehement and witty she had seemed—; the Venetian lady  
Who had seemed to glide to some intrigue in her red shoes,    
Her domino, her panniered skirt copied from Longhi;    
The meditative critic; all are on their toes,    
Even our Beauty with her Turkish trousers on.    
Because the priest must have like every dog his day  
Or keep us all awake with baying at the moon,    
We and our dolls being but the world were best away.    


                             The End of Day
She is playing like a child    
And penance is the play,    
Fantastical and wild    
Because the end of day    
Shows her that some one soon    
Will come from the house, and say—    
Though play is but half-done—    
‘Come in and leave the play.’—    


                                   Her Race
She has not grown uncivil    
As narrow natures would    
And called the pleasures evil    
Happier days thought good;    
She knows herself a woman    
No red and white of a face,    
Or rank, raised from a common    
Unreckonable race;    
And how should her heart fail her    
Or sickness break her will    
With her dead brother’s valour    
For an example still.    


                              Her Courage
When her soul flies to the predestined dancing-place    
(I have no speech but symbol, the pagan speech I made    
Amid the dreams of youth) let her come face to face,    
While wondering still to be a shade, with Grania’s shade    
All but the perils of the woodland flight forgot    
That made her Dermuid dear, and some old cardinal    
Pacing with half-closed eyelids in a sunny spot    
Who had murmured of Giorgione at his latest breath—    
Aye and Achilles, Timor, Babar, Barhaim, all    
Who have lived in joy and laughed into the face of Death.    


     Her Friends bring her a Christmas Tree
Pardon, great enemy,    
Without an angry thought    
We’ve carried in our tree,    
And here and there have bought    
Till all the boughs are gay,    
And she may look from the bed    
On pretty things that may    
Please a fantastic head.    
Give her a little grace,    
What if a laughing eye    
Have looked into your face—    
It is about to die.

The Wild Swans at Coole. 1919.


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