The Last Covenant
If ever had a covenant been sought,
If ever truth had been like night sat up with
As one house in a city may till dawn
With sleepless lamp eke out the day before—
But the war that was, and again was,
Never did it lapse, never was there peace,
A vigil sworn to peace, peace only.
Never was there not, in hearts, on tongues,
A protest of to-morrows,
According to the desire of the heart,
And to the will of the tongue.
There were never covenants:
The covenants which are told of were but trials.
There have been trials but never covenants.
Man is a fretful man, truth is a patient goal,
An end which waits all ending.
Between fretfulness and patience have been trials.
Races have been run and won,
Triumphs foretold, and triumphs celebrated.
But never between man and truth
Has been less strife than a kiss’s strife;
Never has man more than loved;
Never has he not, fretful, torn the embrace,
Never rested but he rose,
Never covenanted but he bargained.
And each new covenant made the other old;
And old was each new covenant,
By that it was a trial,
Truth-magic of the moment,
A mortal winning-post exalted,
Dressed in the winner’s garments
And, man-like scarecrow,
Hailed in the wooden name of God.
There has been much mist always.
A day often is named fair.
But never clouds lack, though soft to see,
Where to-morrow’s passions huddle,
And which to-morrow will make weather of,
Even the natural temper of a day.
Between death and death hovers the course of man.
Much mist attends his time,
Banks of obscurity ensphere his place.
His world has been a fitful veering,
Paling and blush of troth and impulse,
Pleasure and resolve.
He has scored shadowy vantages on air,
Mounted among the ruins of self
The weary trophies of intransigence.
These are not immortalities, nor monuments,
But rotting gages, limp where thrown,
Relics of dreamt victories.
For truth is no historian,
To touch the random scene
With probability’s enchantment.
She is the muse that serves herself,
An eye that strays not after passing sights,
An enemy not lightly brought to battle,
A friend not lightly given drink,
Primed to the banquet’s need of company—
No friend at reach of chance
Or love at distance of bold lover’s legs,
Neared by mercurial familiarities:
But in the selfless thought a thought
Most far, yet as man’s own
By selflessness, by covenant
Of peace eventual—one sense
The words which importune
And the words which dispose.
And those pledges
Which between man and heaven held
By rapt contrivance, stumblings, stutterings,
And the visions of wan, rheumy eyes?
And those infatuated ordinances
Scratched on the stubborn tablets of persuasion?
Those promises of multiple remissions,
Mercies like days,
A flow of timeless time?
Has nothing yet been everlasting,
Nothing yet locked from forfeit,
Certain beyond faith, logic or conjecture?
Nothing yet: it was all trial,
Man’s private humour of things unplain.
Heaven was the mist, thoughts left unthought,
Blind scheming, unvoiced secrecies.
So they who plot against a king enthroned
Do reverence to a ghost-king:
Their king’s a something born of whispers,
Sanction of craven charters,
Whose signature’s their own.
From where the power so to continue
In more days, more semblances?
Is truth then to be parried
With the instruments of time,
Taunted with prematurities
A future ever future?
Whose the power,
If man has power to proclaim,
‘Here is state, and this the rule,’
And there take stand, and that make master?
It is a borrowed power,
If not returned is taken away;
And the end, death,
As in a foreign country,
Not as the fortunate bring travel home
To native recognition and embrace.
Roses are buds, and beautiful,
One petal leaning toward adventure.
Roses are full, all petals forward,
Beauty and power indistinguishable.
Roses are blown, startled with life,
Death young in their faces.
Shall they die?
Then comes the halt, and recumbence, and failing.
But none says, ‘A rose is dead.’
But men die: it is said, it is seen.
For a man is a long, late adventure;
His budding is a purpose,
His fullness more purpose,
His blowing a renewal,
His death a cramped spilling
Of rash measures and miles.
To the roses no tears:
Which flee before the race is called.
And to man no mercy but his will:
That he has had his will, and is done.
The mercy of truth—it is to be truth.
She has bestowed power and will take back power,
There will be dead men, and there will be truth.
And with truth there will be truth:
Voices like truth’s voice,
Power surrendered, home-keeping,
Memories of lives that read death-strange
In language new-familiar.
When! Who! Be it never, it is now:
The trials are waning hazard all,
By waning hazard clears the constant.
And be there none to count,
Yet is the count entire,
Yet is truth.
Be there none, yet are there many.
Be there none, truth is many—
Hers the voices covenanting.
Be there many, truth is one—
Theirs the voices, hers the concord.
Was all silence then, before: her silence?
All was silence and your silence-breaking,
Making of mock-covenants, mock-peace.
Did no god speak then,
When you were prophesied a scattered number,
Starry, or as the sands lie hoarded,
Each the other’s miser?
It was a god of stars and sands.
Are you not men?
Truth’s treaty is a covenant with men.
What is man?
It is that which is less than truth.
And what is that which is less than man?
It is that which lifts to fall,
Abashed to be, better content to be not.
And what is that which is more than man?
Nor yet is truth?
It is divinity,
Man-monster of self-fright
Uplifted to self-fascination,
To cast the guardian shadow, pride.
And how shall man, that is less than truth,
Endure into truth’s always, self-outlasting?
Has not a man a mind?
A mind is a way to be with truth.
It is a power asked, and a power granted,
And when delivered up again
Is vested in a covenant of power
By which all is made changeless
That power could not change,
That power taught desistance.
And this is power: to remain.
And what remains?
What now keeps covenant,
What last things have attested a last covenant?
Truth remains, by which a world remains.
The same world?
And was that a world?
What were its excellences, dignities,
But that, for every jewel found rare,
A prattle spread,
Of jealous baubles claiming kinship—
And which its cousins in confusion were?
There remains a world,
As, after clamour’s obstinate exhaustion,
A sobered murmur hangs.
And in that world?
The count is homely:
These are not nameless multitudes.
If they were nice in pleasure
And scrupulous in praise,
The pleasure was a whim of the time,
As the time was young;
And the praise was a boast of the time,
As the time was old.
There were times and times,
And no time young but old also,
And no time old but young also.
They who delighted were the children of themselves,
And they who judged were the parents of themselves:
The pleasure was a mischief,
The praise a rebuke.
All were divided between wildness and wiseness;
And none was himself.
For man is no child of himself
And no parent of himself.
Man asks himself and is given himself,
But the giver is not man.
Man is a time only
When himself his flesh and spirit is,
Created and creator,
And in every time a wildness and a wiseness,
Worse than he is, and better—
His comedies all vice,
His tragedies all horror of vice,
His truth a desperation of extremes.
Is the sweet thing then a sweet lie?
And the good thing then a sour lie?
There shall be sweet things which are true things
And good things which are sweet things—
When time on time has cooled
The madness which is self,
When the sane season comes
That muffles greedy joy
And shames sagacity to falter.
There shall be a world,
And it shall be so, and its things so,
In being world entire,
Nor such seizure of truth, or such—
Time’s empty grasp.
You shall have:
By that your having shows
Small in your hand,
And the hand known for small.
Thus is the sweet possession true,
And the holding of it good.
You shall have delight in these furnishings;
And it shall be well beyond delightful—
You shall know it to be well.
But what sights, tastes, sounds,
What fed and fragrance?
Often where it was and was not well
Delightful and not delightful,
In those places sometimes a world,
As often chaos of crossed trials—
Have you not halted, as between two moments,
And there been mindful,
As a man dead and not dead,
Dying and yet living,
Of a standstill swiftness:
That nothing was not nothing?
To see, and yet it was not common sight,
Nor blindness? A scarcest sight,
Yet, as a painted picture,
More visible than naked spectacle?
Such are these furnishings Sifted from gross variety,
Time’s stinking wealth—
The perishable marvels which bedeck
The dream-bazaars of fain exaggeration.
What wish is left
When appetites have their deceit—
By foods that flattered taste, but fed not,
Swallowed as names of better things?
What wish is left, and what contenting?
There is left the wish and its contenting.
There has vanished, with that tiring,
The succession of things mutable,
By which the wish grows lasting
And the things not sooner tasted still to taste.
And must these be proved?
Ticketed with legends that they are so?
Let the wish speak
And claim the loath contenting
Which turned from fickleness.
You shall leave those places,
Each a camp raised in a shifting wilderness;
And no camp stayed its wilderness,
But wandered with it, into failing distance.
You shall reach this place.
You shall prophesy: ‘I have arrived here
And will discover to myself what is here.’
But not because of you,
That you shall have better, know better,
Than you had, than you knew,
Is truth that delight, that truth,
That lengthened age
Past death’s abrupt meridian—
The temporal habit put away
Like drudging error.
And not because of her,
That she, debated myth,
May to herself be justified
And hold a sudden mirror to herself,
Exclaiming, ‘This was I!’
She is no cause to herself,
Being not other then—
Though toiled in hydra-myth¬
Than now she will be, is;
No miracle of mist born,
No mist that into sheerness turns,
Same, same was she
As she is and is to be:
Last safety against nothingness
Where trials of number, power,
Are stopped from fall impetuous
To downward triumph,
Abyss of lone eternities.
There her surveillance,
And herself the common treasure—
That which is, and cannot fail to be,
Ultimate something, living thread
By which the cloth of being,
Though an ancient rag,
Moulders not utterly.
And thus she at the last is,
And thus first was she,
Who in those ageing futures was
As present doom prorogued in hearsay.
Not because of you, not because of her, T
hat you had need, that she had need,
But that toward this far verge
The far surmises, ships of roving chance:
The way is over sullen depths,
Round angry headlands,
Listing past ghostly settlements
(Coasts of the dogged dead),
And nowhere making port.
The way is onward,
And travel has one end,
This unitary somewhere.
And if they come not?
If they have perished early, all,
Bequeathing the discovery to itself?
Then is this still a place eventual,
To itself a goal,
Relic of outworn visions,
Unseen, seen of itself,
And if they know not?
Then is she still herself,
Nor has complaint of desolation.
For she has need neither of lovers
Nor of a populace,
Nor to be adored nor hailed—
As if truth flesh were, or a tyranny.
She has no need but of herself,
That truth be truth, nor less:
Revealment has no need
But of identicality.
And never was truth less, except as man,
By furious dispute of oneness,
Made quarrelsome variety to seem
One’s littling into lesserness of one,
And lesserness a greatness,
Over this seeming she now rises.
Venus, they say, so rose.
But shameful, to be loved, divided,
Fed to the mathematic hounds
Whose pack increased of her,
Made whelpish worlds to howl profusion.
This was her dreaming:
Her sleep they gave a turbid waking,
And called it day, and all that happened real.
But it happened not, it was not rising:
Thus they desired,
And were cursed with passion’s stolen images,
Which to the thievish touch dissolve.
Against those louring weathers she rises now.
And the mist passes:
It was but sulky fabrication.
And if you know not,
If with the mist you pass?
And if you come not,
If she rises solitary?
With whom full covenant,
What windy host puffs out totality?
And know you not, or know you,
And come you not, or come you,
There is binding and accounting,
There is oneness, and the sign
Truth shall not yield to mist again.
Cloudy prediction shall not dim again
The sparkling end: which sparkles now as source.
And though you come not, yet you come.
In that she so gave power,
The given power must own its springhead
Though you like hasty rivers rush
Toward lightless seas of ancient self.
Choose, therefore, to be now, or then.
AUSPICE OF JEWELS
They have connived at those jewelled fascinations
That to our hands and arms and ears
And heads and necks and feet
And all the winding stalk
Extended the mute spell of the face.
They have endowed the whole of us
With such a solemn gleaming
As in the dark of flesh-love
But the face at first did have.
We are studded with wide brilliance
As the world with towns and cities—
The travelling look builds capitals
Where the evasive eye may rest
Safe from the too immediate lodgement.
Obscure and bright these forms
Which as the women of their lingering thought
In slow translucence we have worn.
And the silent given glitter locks us
In a not false unplainness:
Have we ourselves been sure
What steady countenance to turn them?
Until now—when this passionate neglect
Of theirs, and our twinkling reluctance,
Are like the reader and the book
Whose fingers and whose pages have confided
But whose sight and sense
Meet in a chilly time of strangeness;
And it is once more early, anxious,
And so late, it is intolerably the same
Not speaking coruscation
That both we and they made endless, dream-long,
Lest be cruel to so much love
The closer shine of waking,
And what be said sound colder
Than the ghastly love-lisp.
Until now—when to go jewelled
We must despoil the drowsy masquerade
Where gloom of silk and gold
And glossy dazed adornments
Kept safe from flagrant realness
The forgeries of ourselves we were—
When to be alive as love feigned us
We must steal death and its wan splendours
From the women of their sighs we were.
For we are now otherwise luminous.
The light which was spent in jewels
Has performed upon the face
A gradual eclipse of recognition.
We have passed from plaintive visibility
Into total rareness,
And from this reunion of ourselves and them
Under the snuffed lantern of time
Comes an astonished flash like truth
Or the unseen-unheard entrance of someone
Whom eyes and ears in their dotage
Have forgotten for dead or lost.
(And hurrying towards distracted glory,
Gemmed lady-pageants, bells on their hearts,
By restless knights attended
Whose maudlin plumes and pommels
Urge the adventure past return.)
MEMORIES OF MORTALITIES
My Mother and My Birth
My mother was a snake, but warm:
In her a welling heart, spite unfrozen.
Hating, she loved.
Coiling to choke, she kissed.
And men were done then
Slowing in same doom-pause,
Same morrow of old sun.
They were about their deaths then—
They were worn, then, men,
To scant remainders of themselves,
And their kinds were fatal:
As comes the flowering-day
When seedlings take their names
And are the final things—
Which in their labelled promise
Seemed the first giant garden
Where beauty is such tropic horror
That death to make fright’s suddenness
And self-sensation is not needful.
It being then such lateness
Of world, death-season,
The cold snake to its melting came—
She was Contempt of Time,
That Spirit which at Origin
Bittered against the taste false-sweet
Of Future, on her lightning tongue
Already poison and corrupted Past.
This was my mother,
Who, when the mortal lag took haste
And death became contemporary,
Turned fond, and loved the flesh despised—
As ghouls the living love,
Their griefs claiming, adoring their disease.
Hers was the paradox I chose
To have heretic body of:
I, Spirit which at End
Greets remnant Now, to make
Beginning, in this prompt decline,
Of death’s all-soon respited day,
Which, dawning infinite from death
Like night from night, encompasses
Entirety in its utter light:
This Self of Subsequence
To Time personally structured,
Touched, touching, minded, minding,
I, smalled laterness than Time,
My double-tongued snake-mother’s singler meaning.
And it was idiot nature,
There to be babe, outfrowning from unborn,
And there to suckle swooning,
Giddy with dreadful newness of myself,
Clutching the stranger-breast
As shipwrecked orphan chooses
One stranger from the rest for friend,
By logic of confusion and by need
Of privacy against the many.
So fallible that nature:
For, being, I was none of her,
And she, delivered of me, held
No backward life of mine.
That union in material magic—
Her larger-than-herself, untrue extreme,
With my so smaller-than-self leastness¬
Had magic’s aftermath,
As if it had not been,
And she to snakehood’s tears again,
And I to opposite sense of death—
Who yet an early flesh could have
Because Contempt of Time, relenting
On Time’s sickness of time,
Grew time-like, stayed death’s full succession.
For, in this mock-beneficence,
Regret; aged Nothingness, took change
And was dissolving Everything—
By whose sophistry of flesh with spirit Twilight-same,
I argued me a body,
A flesh-prelude to myself,
With ancestry in snake-slough cast
Like silence from loud dumbness.
Birth, body, is by darkness,
And mine by that opacity
Which, being death’s late dawn,
Looms mystery-bright at truth-verge.
This night-time that I wage,
My temporal person, prophet of myself
In lazy mouth’s futurities,
Must live, precede me mortally,
That I inherit of myself
By refutation of those semblances
Which liker, liker, are less like
To ultimate me as I remember
Oh, how not-like all to this survival
Of myself, this very-me made last
Of strange approximation to myself
In eager hesitancies—
Lest quickness of me be too instant,
And I but the unproven echo
Of dispersed original.
Therefore such quickness as makes life,
The stuttering slow grammaring of self
That death with memoried seeming crowns.
And were I otherwise myself
Than in a near-mistaken mask’s
Gradual fading into true-face,
Then were I no fit face to welcome
Gradual Now familiarly to death,
No visible pied voice to mingle
Natural with garish hearing,
No idiom of life-translation
Leading Time to after-dwelling,
No almost-lie to warrant truth by,
No long event of me by which
To contradict eventfulness—
World-being, human condition,
Stolen grace, outrage unfinal:
What farthest Next is End,
Composure, whole Cessation?
Nearer and nearer Next, till Now,
The measure over-fine, impossible,
Cut to the moment which is life and death
In one unlivable solution.
Then comes pure death, the grace compelled,
Duration cleansed of day-change.
In such rhythm of nearness, nextness, nowness,
From present arrestation borne a motion
Motionless toward present progress,
Thus I in fellowed dying walked
To Subsequence—taking the numerous path
That Time had greatly narrowed to,
Arriving there as at a home
General to all who dare be so undone,
Save for mortality remembered.
My Father and My Childhood
As childhood is to fairies, fancies,
Briefness of thought, and of heart
Fast change from hot to cool—
A flickering purpose, wild, then weak,
First passion, then a fear and pouting
Of clumsy fingers told, and spent
In clumsy shadows, petulances
Spread in swollen tear-mist:
By such uncertain tides
I lived those doubtful years a child—
When to be live was half-felt sting
Of destiny, and half-stirred sleep of chance.
That was the time of tales—
Rising of mind to fragmentary hours
And fleshward fall by night
To scarce roused sloth of self.
For which I took a fox to father.
From many grinning tales he came
Sorrowed to that lonely burrow
Where the snake my mother left me
Cruelly to find what world I might
To history in, to get my name of.
There came the fox my father,
Between the tales to ponder, speak
The gruff philosophies of foxes:
‘All is mistrust and mischief,
Bestiality and bestial comfort.
Life is a threadbare fiction—
Large the holes and thin the patches.
The gainer is the loser;
For to gain is to gain wisdom,
And wisdom’s riches are the monies
In which poverty is counted—
To know how poor, how less than full
The gaping treasuries of truth,
Where’s lack, what’s niggard, which the fattened lie.’
Oh, famished fox-wit
Hunger stanched with taste of hunger,
Shammed meals and cunning feints
And wily shifts to make one morrow more
Of failing fortune, duplication
Sour of sweets remembered sour.
Forth we went, this paternality
In careworn foxhood scrupulous
To teach the public pomp and private woes
Of social nature, crossed estate
Where reason’s loud with nonsense
And nonsense soft with truth—
And I, droll pertinacity
To turn the random child-head round
In sphering wonder-habit
And step new-footed fervour
On whatever ground like books lay
To my learning docile, garrulous,
A world of self-blind pages,
Staring to be read.
Whether the misery more those tales
Through town and village scampering
With beggar-cry, to operatic heavens
From hoarse house-tops venting
Weather-vane conclusions, jangled morals,
Spasmed glees and glooms and thunders—
Or that from town to village countrywide
Homeless we stalked the straggling world,
Pursuing laws of change and sameness
To their momentary finish in
Equivocation’s false repose—
Whether the plight more ours,
My father’s, in his fox-despair
Driving that unlaughed laughter to hard grief,
A bigot brooding, fortitude
Of losses and mis-hoping,
And mine, in restive after-hope
Protracting death’s impulsion of mere death
Till might be death-exceeding courage,
Perchance a love or loves to overreach
Time’s mete of forwardness
And break with me the life-fast
Or whether theirs more sorry burden,
That they built to heights and stretches
Direly not sufficing to be that
They climbed to, walked on, boasted
Sight-substantial, likely, thinkable,
Were countered in their caution
By stumblings, crumblings, mysteries
And mishaps disaccording
With their miserly assurance—
We did not make division
Between the world’s calamitous revolving
And our sore travel with it
On roads toward starved renewal curved.
One bounden omen then the whole,
Community of presages
Not yet in strict dissemblance parted:
My mother’s tears afall like leaves
The wind takes, not the earth,
Being upon the branch already dust;
My father’s dour world-worrying,
The fabled fox into humaneness come
With stealthy nose and cynic tread
But smile less proud than anciently
When Time was less the common theme
And more the learned axiom;
The world’s tossed mind, a ghost-sea
In dying deluge breaking
On all the secret shores of thought
Risen against Time’s drowned horizon;
And I my living variance
From livingness, of death-kind
Live protagonist, whose mouth’s to-day
With morrows folded in from morrows
Hung speechlessly enwrapped.
And was it childhood, then,
From snake to fox’s patronage,
And tortured idling, twisted course
Between the hither-thither stagger
Of the universal doom-day?
But was not childhood ever thus?
A premonition trembling distant
On lips of language shy,
Fast futures there acrowd
And quieted with story-book retard—
Even as I those troubled times of father
To story took and, parrying conclusion,
My fair curls shadowed among tales,
Made Imminence a dream-hush
Whose vocal waking slept inside my own.
Sickness and Schooling
The later griping, when we suffer mind-woes
This was once lesser pain of flesh:
‘It hurts,’ we cried, ‘it seems to hurt.
Some something loves me not,
I am not loved—and where to fly
And what if not myself to be?
Is there a better I than this
Which Teacher Pain would not so pinch?’
We toss in hot self-inquisition.
It is our bed, the sweat and shivering
Are greatly ours, the Doctor’s smile
Means that the world expects this very me
To be myself against what others choose:
The world is many, we are many,
And none the other loves so well
That to be lovable is to be loved.
And Nurse reads on: Jack scrambles toward the top.
I cannot scream ‘Don’t go!’
The little Mermaid starts to float to heaven.
‘I won’t! I won’t!’ My legs keep sinking. And then I sleep.
Nurse does not really care.
I care, I wake up well.
he lasting woes return the heart
To early sickness—oh, to be ill as then
And wake up well.
But the heart finds an empty schoolroom,
No child to be sent home,
No feverish bedside to embrace
The lonely nightmare—
It is no nightmare, but a realness
Like a name and face perhaps oneself.
And the bed is cold.
And the heart is many dreams by day
Which sleep instructs us of:
We wake up wiser but not well,
Not having fallen ill. Yesterday
We were not ill, to-day
We are but older in those woes
By which we have grown kind to pain,
Feeling it not, since we are many
And it must be so. We may not grieve
That life is much and numerous—
Since we live, and must be many.
We have learnt to know and to be known,
And no more ask for love.
Grief is a soft decorum now
Of usedness to love-lack.
The world is broken into knowledges,
And every part an undisputed woe is:
We dare not grieve, lest something fall away
And with it take ourselves.
Thus we make fast the world
And each a charge of numbers lays
Upon the haughty child each was
Once when the heart did nearly close
Against ordeal of numbers.
Oh, we have learnt.
Not one has never been to school,
Not come away a tearless devil
Whom the world has won to membership
In cordial hellishness.
Not one has ever found
The learning of gregarious profusion
For just so many years not stead of wisdom,
Not dear to hungry mind, consumable
For just so many years
Till wisdom was, and worldliness
Became the shadow of unjoy:
Through which our joy had need to pass
To reach the shining thoughts—
As heaven is a sight withheld,
Erratic among clouds,
If the eyes have not first dwelt
Thickly on what’s near to see,
Hidden the rarer visions dark in time,
There to be sobered and attain
Numbered appearance with the common things
That also wait their hour of light.
We have been to school.
The world is many, we have learnt.
Neither together nor alone live we.
It is a ragged union,
As insecure as close.
We have learnt to do little, be little,
And to preserve intenser self
For a last excellence of world
That may not be, or cannot.
I have been to school, as all.
I was apprenticed to my time
And in the craft of contemporaneity
Grew accurate, and by the rule
Of then-and-now I babbled
The abrupt opinion, shuffled
Between what was and is
Like any nonchalant of taught experience.
‘Know!’ they said
And I knew.
The child grew girl of current kind.
I was obedient to my world,
I learnt to know the frown from the pursed smile,
I won the prizes which are won
By future citizens, trained dogs of wisdom—
A plaster Dante and a leather Browning
And, at the high degree of slavishness,
That stare of dire approval
Which follows good behaviour to its grave.
Having no mirror of my own,
Being by nature superstitious
Of what’s mine and not,
I had not looked to claim
A featured someone for myself.
But the world pressed a mirror on my shyness.
‘Not shy,’ to the no one in that mirror
I not self-recognized protested:
Not sly, but that not claimed by my own mirror—
Which I had not yet—
The seemly schoolroom countenance
Glassed like a wretched anyone
In the great overcast reflection
For just so many years my world.
I had been old.
Oh, hateful wizened youth,
Those just so many years
Of feigned astuteness, false incognito.
For it was not a guise of me,
It was a world without me,
As if I came into a room of strangers
And found myself not there,
And was a stranger,
By the law of courtesy which governs
Foreign presence, sudden stranding
In a place where one remains
About to go, about to go.
Did I fall ill again at last,
That I am now younger than then?
And have the little mirror which is mine
And make in it an image which I greet
Without a shudder, no, with even joy?
A joy of being as the first time myself
And reckless what my world decides—
Whether I am co-native or a trespasser
From the dread death-wrapt province
On live existence bent?
I fell forgetful.
Having been taught to suffer,
To be one among the many,
To go like leper in a world of lepers,
I became expert in equivocation,
Safe in my outer ways from being overheard
In candid converse with myself.
‘I cannot now,’ I said, ‘offend.
I have the civil marks, my story must
Stand in the books next theirs.
What will they write of me?’
I fell forgetful, I fell curious.
What will they write of me?
They wrote nothing different, of course.
I saw that I should have to go back
And write my story myself.
But not to school.
At school we learnt to write nothing different.
But not to childhood,
Not to be ill, requiring of the world
A love of me it could not have,
Too made of many to allow
More than the passing love for each.
I should have to go back.
I must find somewhere to go back to
Like a life to live.
I fell forgetful.
I had learnt to be silent
And yet to be.
I had learnt how the world speaks.
I fell forgetful of speaking.
But had I continued to say nothing,
Nothing different, I should have died:
They would have written nothing different.
So I began to live.
It was outrageous,
I made mortal mistakes,
I did not mean to live so mortally.
But something must be written about me,
And not by them.
So I began those mistold confidences
Which now read like profanity of self
To my internal eye
And which my critic hand erases
As the story grows too different to speak of
In the way the world speaks.
BE GRAVE, WOMAN
Be grave, woman for love
Still hungering as gardens
For rain though flowerless
What perfume now to rise
From weary expectation.
Be not wild to love,
Poor witch of mysteries
Whose golden age thy body’s
Alchemy aburn was
Unto haggard ember.
Beauty’s flesh to phantom
And come but devils of
Chill omen to adore
The perforce chaste idolon.
Be grave, woman, to greet
The kiss, the clasp, the shudder which
Rage of thee from crafty
Lust unrolls—and think
These are thy dead to grieve on
And thyself the death in whom
Love must disaster and
Be long ago in ruin-sweet
Story, on the sense to ponder
Thou alone, stark mind.
THE NEED TO CONFIDE
The need to confide
Which Christ had
And every bird to bird
Though secretless their frantic code—
Shall I like meteor speed?
Flared martyr to companionhood
Streaking towards some Siberia of love,
There to fall stony, for the books to say:
‘These homeless stars upon arrival turn
Instantly cool, are earth.
The danger to ourselves is less than theirs
Of fierce extinguishment
Before precipitant despair
Gains grave among us.
Seldom in daily midst the fevered bolt
Seeks catastrophic bosoming.
Sometimes we hear .
But the damage has been done
Either of curious old
Or at foreign distance.
The monuments are geographical.’
Or shall I wait—
As the locked mouth of destiny
Opens at time’s caprice?
Meanwhile mute dotard of itself?
My need to confide,
My friend man,
Is not my mouth’s way of stealth
Nor my heart’s need of nakedness.
It is my need for myself, man,
To be talking with it—
After these silences in which, man,
I with you made lingering consort,
The exchange being as between eyes
And, like the look that travels lover-round,
A drifting circuit, track of softest phrase
Worn garrulous with what we did not say.
For so to say was passion’s nothing:
It was the love of seeming, man, to love.
And this is love:
To stare the wish of love
Across dissolving word-touch.
We shall not ever love by love.
Yours, man, was but the language of the wish.
I pledged the wish with you.
Then were you not there;
And I a talisman of speech
Whose need your wish but
That did pale as magic when
The evocation stands up real.
The need to confide;
For myself, to be talking with it;
To talk with it, man;
As you love-meant, nor for love could;
To be two, need and need’s other,
And to know of these, man,
The other-me slackened
In myriad desire’s dumb telling,
In the widespread trysting which knit
Never more than a yore-day of presage—
The need to confide,
As night to a night
That is morning turned late
By the twinkling of shadow which shine,
Abhorrence coeval of blurred intermittence:
O need to be day-same¬
This flushed double dark
Which I join to itself
DIVESTMENT OF BEAUTY
She, she and she and she—
Which of these is not lovely?
In her long robe of glamour now
And her beauty like a ribbon tied
The wisdom of her head round?
To call these ‘women’
Is homage of the eye:
Such sights to greet as natural,
Such beings to proclaim
Companion to expectance.
But were they now who take
This gaudy franchise from
The accolade of stilted vision
Their lady-swaddlings to unwrap
And shed the timorous scales of nakedness—
It were a loathsome spectacle, you think?
Eventual entrails of deity
Worshipful eye offending?
It were the sign, man,
To pluck the loathsome eye,
Forswear the imbecile
Theology of loveliness,
Be no more doctor in antiquities—
Chimeras of the future
In archaic daze embalmed—
And grow to later youth,
Felling the patriarchal leer
That it lie reft of all obscenities
While she and she, she, she, disclose
The recondite familiar to your candour.
NO MORE THAN IS
We have all resigned ourselves,
Because of what we have,
To what we have not.
We have each made peace
With his extravagance
And are each content
With the penury we knew at first.
The rest is a giant we loved
Before we grew up
And thought to be large as
Because growth like an hour
Waxed daylong to yearlong
Without threat of surfeit
Or cessation of clock.
Then we were small.
The giant turned nonsensical.
We abhorred the gibberish of it
As it stumbled alien and incredible
Along the ragged margin of proportion.
We no longer twined
Magnitude with heart’s bound.
Our hearts grew small.
Time has no other way than increase,
But we are shrunken
As defeat reduces
From surly swell
Into a laced accustomedness.
We have none prospered
In the rhapsodic vigours
Which infinity supplies
To our exhaustion
At the circling round of age
To continuity again
Of growing older.
We have grown older,
But let progression wither
Into the ancient dwarf,
Which stubborn to delirium
Draws in the skein of greed
And makes a knotted prime
Of gianthood averted.
We are then as we were,
And forgive ourselves
This meeting in a lesser state
Than vows of last reunion meant.
Some, scowling, think it is a fault
In us, who lay the giant
In so soon a grave
Lest abjuration stink too loud Of early vehemence.
Some have not noticed
That we are become
These miniatures of fortune—
Truly, there is no need for all to look
Into the moderating mirror.
And some, delighting even
In monstrous probability’s depletion,
Forget they are the characters
Of this impoverished drama
And stand like wags of pathos
Watching their own funeral wind
Amidst the quaint irreverence
Of business faces and traffic rules.
But we who feel the forced recoil
From perchance brimming madness,
Gasping the required universe
In serene desperation—
We are the slavish masters
It is we who exacted
Transcendence from chance,
And we who exact now
The measure’s gross ebb.
We are profoundly dashed
By the commonplaceness
Of the universal result
And profoundly stirred T
o be constrained to own
Reality for ourselves.
FRIENDSHIP ON VISIT
Our names had to each other been two rumours:
Yours of a lengthy daring, quick
To brave but the more genial dangers,
And mine of head like heart,
A way of passion with slow human numbers
To make them go like death’s unwilling escort
Boldly into regions not their own.
And thus for months of letters, whose same greeting
Below the faceless text grew lost
In such a plural not-quite-meeting
Until you thought to come
And risk what hurt a common air and eating
Might do to that benevolence between us
Which mutual distance phrased perhaps too fine.
The necessary quorum of suspicions
Having been marshalled to declare
Mistrust of halt communications
(Words crippled to the page)
And pose a new agenda, live with questions
No truth but nearness of the eye might answer—
We put our langauge to the trial of looks
And stood like thieves of friendship, caught in strangeness
By the corporeal array
Which honesty had called to witness
How foreign was our flesh.
Both left the court then, under doom of shyness,
Seeking in time an arbiter to sample
Our dreamt acquaintance and pronounce it real.
For several timid weeks we wandered, slackly,
Through talk’s uncounted stops and hours,
Not sure we moved at all, so gently
Did we construe, our minds
At mincing pace, lest, challenging too harshly
The verdict of this slow, humane November,
We be found phantom in our comrade-state.
Then came December and the Christmas shadow.
You had to be at home for that.
Both feared: would roaring Christmas swallow
Our night-like colloquies,
Deliver us to next year’s bleak tomorrow?
Yet must the picture be a talk-lit darkness,
Of flickering instances, for so it was.
Loyally we rejected more resplendence
Than fitted such careers as ours
Engaged to lift truth’s quiet brilliance
And meant to glow not flash.
Certain mild poems of yours gave an assurance
Of ardencies that had no need of rousing;
By urgent poems of mine we could waste time.
The fury rumour lent me I think faded.
You learned I had no witch’s art
Of freak terrain where changelings, goaded,
Made my caprice their own.
The place I kept was also yours, appointed
By you for your enduringness, that sometimes
You might dwell after what you knew was past.
And the but cool-impassioned poet-person
I’d heard you for went flying too.
Your fervours were not faint—though chosen
To be few, were large.
I like, in the discreet, a bold discretion,
And you, with zeal of word, a silent spirit.
This makes us friends for any time of year.
The hastening years fall slow
And we too pause.
Anxious the years, because
An end makes dead,
But calmer we, we know
That all the private years remain unsped.
Die with the public years,
O monster joy!
That by the Christian toy
And deathless tree
Hath chased thy human tears
Like drops of time and too repeatedly.
Be pale, thou annual ghost!
Whose Christmas heir
We are, in hiding care
From death’s shrewd eye.
Ours is a longer boast—
We frolic less, not fearing soon to die.
Against the Mass of Christ—
When bleats the world
In manger-family curled—
This more coherent tryst,
Not altogether heedless of the date.
WISHING MORE DEAR
Can this finding your presence dear,
And also wishing mine found dear,
And hoarding under courtesy
Fancied minutiae of affection—
Can this be made somewhat of lust
That, clamorous for loving signs,
My heart so piously disowns
Thought of the usual embraces?
The morning’s memory of lust
Is bashful and the naked dream
Clothed with denial in its telling.
What lewd unspeakable confession
Holds up the honesty between us
Like dream which better had been told,
That, risking candour’s horrid blush,
I greet you with too fond a look?
THE REASONS OF EACH
The reason of the saint that he is saintly,
And of the hero that to him
Glory the mirror and the beauty;
And of the brigand that to prowl abhorred
Makes him renowned unto himself
And dear the evil name;
Of girls like evening angels
From the mass of heaven fluttering
To earth in wanton whispers—
That they invite their flesh to loose
All yet unbaptized terrors on them
And will tomorrow change the virgin glance
For the long wandering gaze;
The reason of the dark one that his heart
For love of hell is empty,
And that the empty maze consoles
In that the bare heart is
Of heaven the augury
As of hell;
The reasons of each are lone,
And lone the fate of each.
To private death-ear will they tell
Why they have done so.
Such were the reasons of the lives they lived.
Then they are dead,
And the cause was themselves.
Each to himself is the cause of himself.
These are the agencies of freedom Which necessity compels,
As birds are flown from earth
By that earth utters no command
Of fixity, but waits on motion
To consume itself, and stillness
To be earth of earth, ingenerate
Cohesion without cause.
For they are uncaused, the minds
Which differ not in sense.
They are the mind which saves
Sense to itself
Against interpretation’s waste;
They are the sense dispartable
Which senses cannot change.
The reasons, then, of this one, that one,
That they unlike are this one, that one—
This is as the telling of beads.
The chain hangs round the neck of lamentation—
They are lost.
Or as to watch the sun’s purposeful clouds
Mingle with moonlight and be nothing.
The brow of unanimity
Perplexes as each goes his unlike way.
But soon the vagrant thought is out of sight.
To go is short,
Though slow the shadow trailing after
Which the backward look a reason names.
PLIGHTED TO SHAME
The failure to go far enough
When the intention was a promise
Never to stop before the reaching of
Death either or a perfect end—
Wayside such beauties and such lapses,
Such gods and flowers, cities, nations;
And the achievement’s name,
Though spoken with a loving certainty,
Evokes no other truth than Tiredness.
For, forget not that you have promised,
By the book of flesh sworn oaths
And been admitted by your body’s word
Into life, the first and last trying-place.
You are pledged to do or to die.
And if, between doing or dying,
A partial comfort rises up like refuge
From hard interminable course,
So builds itself a perjuring world.
And this must pass. Division into bones,
And finer crumbling, as in the faithful woods
A fertile mantle is of what the trees shed—
Until, after the dark enrichment
Of the earth of hope with ruin-mould,
Intention has death’s consequence
And your memory is instructed,
By a benignant pang of unreproach,
What your designs and your promises were.
WE ARE THE RESURRECTION
We are now about to die the death of endeavour.
We have lain down on the old weary-bed
And composed our limbs and faces
To a picture once we saw we fancy
In a church or schoolroom (but it hangs
Unpainted on the wall of heaven,
We shall never look like that,
Heaven went as we got up that first time,
Mistrusting the young sleep of not being)
Of an angel copied out of sleep
By a shaded hand, scribbling the dawn
With night-stroke: we would now be not,
Having outlived our sleeps and wakings,
Being wakeful now with a will not to do.
We shall not do nor sleep nor be not.
We shall lie and think rapidly of death—
‘Nothing to do today, because we are dead’—
And have sun enough in what we have done
By which to get up and be what we have been.
We shall get up and think slowly
Of what we were and what we do not do.
We were not yet used to the world we are,
We became ourselves, but did not long look.
This is the learning of the picture in our eyes
Which hung before us like a too-near sight
Made future to the miles of memory
We loved to range, perpetuating
The strangeness of those.
We are now about to live the life we have lived.
We have got up upon the floor of time
And composed our limbs and faces
To the picture rising up with us
Out of invisible ages of endeavour
To postpone the moment of looking.
We are about to rescue ourselves from eternity
With a picture-magnet surely irresistible,
Since it is now later than eternity
Whose picture of us on the wall of heaven
From angel-blankness has enlivened
To be a mirror: which, though we deny ourselves
In minor’s punctuality insists
The posthumous reflection.
THE WAGES OF ELOQUENCE
Wherefore the praise, the pause
Of nearly unbelieving exclamation
If one is sight-sweet in our eyes
And one a taste of revelation
To our understanding’s pious palate?
What less to common witness
Can sincerity provide
Than these earthly examples
How the swell of universal pride
Is with our social heart incorporate?
Or think we never then to hail,
Save in chimerical apostrophe,
The subjects of our chronic fervours:
Think we then never, none, to see
Eye-wonted what we most have affirmed?
It is a sorry rhetoric
That thus pairs the note of tribute
With the marvelling look and mind,
And calls the recognition mute
Which cannot gasp.
And we are sorry swains of parlance
If but the metaphor with ghostly face
Invites the generous word
And all must go in rational disgrace
Whom verity has made familiar.
ON A NEW GENERATION
What may be born of the anxious union
Between perplexed man and irresolute woman
Is only, by this fertile speculation,
The either animal whose destiny
Differs from hers or his
By only the so many forepledged years
Of advance in irresolution or perplexity.
Yet the new girl more shines with herself,
And latest boy has a light in his head.
Not unlikely they will speak to each other
In a peculiar way and forget nature,
Then to fall quiet like a house no more haunted.
And in such silence may enough centuries fade
For all the loud births to be eloquently unmade.
HOW NOW WE TALK
If now is not the time more
Of love to talk, or heaven or
Whatever moot adventure
Was boast of language heretofore,
This is not that we are so dead
Or dumb, or the words so aged
Which we have, and our need
Like desire in need disenchanted,
Or that to the talk we return
Which we spoke when concern
Was but for night’s next and next morn,
And little more thought we to learn.
We are not now in such ecstasy
Because we speak more sincerely
Of those things we were drawn by
To this now naked felicity:
Because now we are done with proposing,
And because language now is disposing
Between all our affirming and disputing
To a verbal niceness of having and losing—
Because then we talked while we moved
And held hope by hope proved
And prated wisdom while we but loved
And were everyway more proud than behooved
Such mixed purpose in though fine dress
Over its unfrank nakedness
And such a maundering bliss
Wrapping such mute distress—
Because now fortune’s self has grown plain
As when the traveller in the fabulous domain
Beholds for arduous ore the coin
That had been pocket-loose in his greedy brain.
Naked now are the words of anticipation,
And stilled the heaving of invention
By the hush of truth in communion
With the very priests of fiction
Who first wrote the words, and without fear
For the final sense, or that truth might hear,
And who now must make meaning with care
Lest the words with the words interfere.
For what we now talk of is all true
Or all false, since all is words, no doing to do
Or prospect to wage or more going to go
Or grief to be old or delight to be new.
We must keep faith now with what we say
And every coxcomb ghost of fancy lay,
Forbearing from the tales which cloy
The ears of time and drive the future away.
And all that we have and all that we have not
We may know by mere saying like an idiot
With a gift of swallowing in his throat
Which marks false from true soon as cold from hot.
For we are now quiet of mind thus,
As of limb and longing, that felicitous
Cannot but be the spoken use
Which of life we make, because perilous
Were it now to be less precise,
To see earth through a glass of paradise,
When only the present is left to promise
And for air the breath of our words must suffice.
Unarguably there are spirits, ghosts, witches,
Devils and spells and charms and portents.
We need not our minds furnish with crotchets
Or have the mediaeval nightmare
To be sensible that we sometimes see and feel
What the eye does not see and the heart does not pulse.
No one is so methodical in time
That not a moment may drift off alone
And when restored to its hour be found
Stammering affairs he knows not for his.
And as a moment from the clock-moored hour strays,
So does the world escape from itself
And lie partly disposed where it is not.
We suffer this fitful absence as we should,
Locking the doors at night, calling the house complete
In its homely numbers of souls and beds.
But our sleep is loud with unanswered knocks,
And tomorrow our head is full of strangers,
And there is something we hope to read in the papers
Without knowing what or expecting to find it.
Over every life-size feature of fact
Hangs a larger shadow of doubt.
Being used to so much hunger with our substance,
We have mapped it widely around ourselves
Like a sacred frontier to content.
Sufficiency floats in an ether of lack
And with nothingness is our world’s whole eked out.
But unarguably there are persons, events,
Thoughts and powers that reason surpass
And bigotry’s name change to paradox.
BECAUSE OF CLOTHES
Without dressmakers to connect
The good-will of the body
With the purpose of the head,
We should be two worlds
Instead of a world and its shadow
The head is one world
And the body is another—
The same, but somewhat slower
And more dazed and earlier,
The divergence being corrected
There is an odour of Christ
In the cloth: below the chin
No harm is meant. Even, immune
From capital test, wisdom flowers
Out of the shaded breast, and the thighs
The union of matter with mind
By the method of raiment
Destroys not our nakedness
Nor muffles the bell of thought.
Merely the moment to its dumb hour
Inner is the glow of knowledge
And outer is the gloom of appearance.
But putting on the cloak and cap
With only the hands and the face showing,
We turn the gloom in and the glow forth
Wherefore, by the neutral grace
Of the needle, we possess our triumphs
Together with our defeats
In a single balanced couplement:
We pause between sense and foolishness,
A LETTER TO ANY FRIEND
Dear friend, a letter not yet written,
Never to be written, now I come to answer:
Later than never is this punctuality
Fallen between us like friendship’s knife,
Bringing our minds close enough to cut.
I now know what you might have written
Had there been time to say the thing you meant:
That it could not be—a perfect friendship
Could not be. For it has not been,
Neither between you and me, nor me and them.
Agreed: an ill-matched correspondence
Entwines us each with each, and all with all.
Nor is there time to say the thing we mean:
That better matching cannot be.
There is no time—we dare not risk regret
Lest breed a general infection
And follow general death—a mutuality
Of mourning, nothing unwept for live.
This is no pedant tragedy we bear,
As if a pallid masque toward mock-interment.
From the beginning it has been
A breathing muse, and flushed with strangeness.
Thus it began, and thus, in strangeness,
Shall it at the end be not all ending,
After the courtesies and loving efforts
Have clarified the final gesture:
It could not, cannot, will not be.
Then faces mix and move cloud-like
Into sightless skyhood, unrememberable.
And sightless too of recognition
Spreads the once-familiar life-world.
There we are each astray, escorted by
Populous, ever-recent forgetfulness.
Hugely haunts the many-faced myth:
We believe we have loved, are united
In this cloudy evidence of past misunion.
We have a faith, and therefore continue
To be uncertain, to be near, far and near,
To deny that the old trysts and pledges
Were altogether a word of false hearts.
And, dear friend, what shall we complain of?
I am content that it was, is, no better, no worse,
That we are come back to original loneness
From which diverse love made blind scatter
To the four and four quarters of vision:
That we are come back, and, as before,
Dwell indissoluble and alien
In a universe of variance
Where all are one and many
By wide community of friendship failed of.
AFTER SO MUCH LOSS
After so much loss—
Seeming of gain,
Seeming of loss—
Subsides the swell of indignation
To the usual rhythm of the year.
The coward primroses are up,
We contract their profuse mildness.
Women with yet a few springs to live
Clutch them in suppliant bouquets
On the way to relatives,
Who, no, do not begrudge
This postponement of funerals.
And, oh, how never tired, and tired,
The world of primroses, how spring
The bended spirit fascinates
With promise of revival,
Leaving more honest summer to proclaim
That this is all—a brighter disappointment—
Time has to give to an implacable
Persuasion of things lost, wrongly.
Is it to wonder, then,
That we defy the unsuspecting moment,
Release our legs from the year’s music,
And, to the reckless strum of hate,
Dance—grinding from primroses the tears
They never of themselves would have shed?
None dances whom no hate stirs,
Who has not lost and loathed the loss,
Who does not feel deprived.
Slyest rebellion of the feet,
The chaste and tremulous disport
Of children, limbs in passionless wave—
None dances whom no hate stirs,
Or shall not stir.
As sure as primrosed spring betides,
After so much loss,
The hate will out, the dance be on,
And many of their rage fall down.
It is easy as spring to yield to the year,
And easy as dance to break with the year.
But to go with the year in partition
Between seeming loss, seeming gain,
That is the difficult decorum.
Nor are the primroses unwelcome.
Remember kissing, haste of embrace,
The then too swimming voyage everywhere—
And so bent on return, all’s still to see
And learn of: oh, the luxurious futures
We have tasted tastelessly,
Blunting the acute lips with love,
The like desire of another
To be newly baptized in the fresh flood
Of the Unknown.
Round us the flagging flies piqued dully:
Our moments given holiday to fret
On whiling wing, stupid of time
As we of who we were in this soft act
Before the liquid mirror
It was a wilful dark,
Sight put to large confusion
Because we would not credit
The littleness of our fond eyes.
So we have loved more greatly than seen.
Shall we not love again,
In this reduced revelation apprised
Of what was never there?
And the long lonely arms that stretch
From the back of the mind,
And the short lying legs that declare
Miles of prospective moments
To our still unventured step—
Shall these and all the loving parts
Be dead, reliques of frowardness?
Shall mouths not open but to speak not,
But in refusal to ourselves
Of outer comfort?
The love subsequent to love,
Less than the premature desire
Though than love not less,
The rampant years indeed belies.
Death-small is love—when vital senses
At last acquire the delicacy of death,
When love’s wrought space becomes
A fine result of liberal measurement.
This remnant morsel has the sweetness
Of a first taste.
Remember kissing: did lips truly touch?
Or what were lips, if touching?
And what the love, if we loved?
If it was lips and loving, what were we?
Let us not think of that.
To read the greying story backwards
Brings tears of youth from eyes already dry—
A loss of eyes and sight, such moisture.
Let us not look,
Who in the aged chapters have
An obligation to death dawning
Of not pretending yet to have lived.
THE WHY OF THE WIND
We have often considered the wind,
The changing whys of the wind.
Of other weather we do not so wonder.
These are changes we know.
Our own health is not otherwise.
We wake up with a shiver,
Go to bed with a fever:
These are the turns by which nature persists,
By which, whether ailing or well,
We variably live,
Such mixed we, and such variable world.
It is the very rule of thriving
To be thus one day, and thus the next.
We do not wonder.
When the cold comes we shut the window.
That is winter, and we understand.
Does our own blood not do the same,
Now freeze, now flame within us,
According to the rhythmic-fickle climates
Of our lives with ourselves?
But when the wind springs like a toothless hound
And we are not even savaged,
Only as if upbraided for we know not what
And cannot answer—
What is there to do, if not to understand?
And this we cannot,
Though when the wind is loose
Our minds go gasping wind-infected
To our mother hearts,
Seeking in whys of blood
The logic of this massacre of thought.
When the wind runs we run with it.
We cannot understand because we are not
When the wind takes our minds.
These are lapses like a hate of earth.
We stand as nowhere,
Blow from discontinuance to discontinuance,
Then flee to what we are
And accuse our sober nature
Of wild desertion of itself,
And ask the reason as a traitor might
Beg from the king a why of treason.
We must learn better
What we are and are not.
We are not the wind.
We are not every vagrant mood that tempts
Our minds to giddy homelessness.
We must distinguish better
Between ourselves and strangers.
There is much that we are not.
There is much that is not.
There is much that we have not to be.
We surrender to the enormous wind
Against our learned littleness,
But keep returning wailing
‘Why did I do this?’
The Bible and the other books—
The books, beginning with the Bible,
Ending with the Bible which the Bible
In its fear of words, the word, was not:
These courages and volubilities
Adorn the speech of the world
And populate the minds of the world,
But hearts are fugitive and dumb.
In hearts and houses silence and old fear
Wall us apart, though in the flowing streets
Our language boasts the universal bond.
We do not love ourselves.
We do not love the word, the words.
To what shall I exhort you?
If it be love, you’ll fly to bed again
And emulate the beast in that dead language,
Crying the name of your mate, which the beast could not.
If it be books, you’ll read one, borrow one,
Or, bolder yet, go write one.
To such efforts of mind or flesh
You need no exhortation.
Why do I soften to exhort
Where I scorn?
I do not scorn.
I do not exhort.
This brings you bitterly
Farewell from Hope, my sweeter twin.
More frail, she died, recently though.
Forgive my’ grief’s division,
Between her and you.
It seems to me you died then too.
Farewell from Hope to you,
Farewell perhaps from you to you.
Much has departed and will yet depart,
But I shall stay like doting grief
Among the crowded absences
And to the last lone living word
Mean ‘we’ when ‘I’ upon my page
Throbs in immense solitude
Between each hollow house and the nations’ noise.
I exhort myself.
A little less of it, I think,
Would cool the anger in my grief.
To better faith in book-faith?
Leave me to my unimploring lines.
They are not lachrymose,
Need not the ecclesiastic kerchief
Nor the refreshing vinegar of pride
The persecuted love to wet their lips with.
I exhort myself merely
To continue with me.
It is a cruel career,
But one at least must not depart,
And I am happy in
Superior ways of suffering,
So that I do not suffer,
I do not exhort you to know.
Even, I exhort you to go
If staying seems more valedictory—
The Bible and the other books beneath your arms,
Safe in your reading from all knowledge-harms.
THE CYCLE OF INDUSTRY
At the hour when to-day’s effort changes
Into to-morrow’s tedious stranger,
We parry the prospective boredom
With elbows deaf upon the cafe-table.
And to our uncompleted course we say
(In so many drinks and lapses of conscience)
Haughtily, as to a novice in time,
‘This is an evening.’
Then to the less strategic idleness
Of sleep and its compelled remissions—
What, dreaming, do we not forswear
Of yesterday’s consecutive intent?
Even Slug Memory becomes an outsider
When, loath to attain, we stanch
The laborious infatuation
Of the past with the future.
And we wake to breakfast, not to the day
Which stalks our reluctant bedside
In vicarious zeal of continuity.
We wake to the habit of coffee
Descended to us in infinite leisure
From the first morning after the first evening
On which we learnt to divide ourselves
Laggardly from all tyrant liege-selves away.
To a casual nicety we shall now perform
Certain acts of neighbourly compunction
Which regard for our fellow-dawdlers dictates—
It were ungallant not to seem to stir
In such invisible progress-making.
Then, by eternity’s grace, we shall sit down
To fill our cups with the eternal yawn
Whose to-night’s taste is to-morrow enough.
OF ALL THE WORLD
Of the birds which in wing-voice raise speech
To an unloving gossip whose shrillness
Seems true of us (since so our conscience
Whistles when we forget we can speak,
Confess the self-hating shudder and spite
Near to our kindness in word-hollowed rooms)—
None knows a word to say.
Of the birds, of all shrewd flying converse,
Of all scraping and scolding in grasses, on branches,
All opinion and pity like grave-chatter round us
Whose lives have grown still with the thought
There are yet to be said the first greetings,
We are not yet made known nor perfected
In spoken possession of earth-fate—
Of the cries and the comments of beak-minds,
Of the wings which by impulse of wind-sense
Make demur at the distance of blindness,
Of the wind that refuses consent
In tongueless upbraiding of sight,
And the thunder whose noise is its knowledge—
Not a phrase to the verbal ear comes.
Of all roaring and bleating we nurture
In the animal lap of locution,
And all waters which tumble, rocks tremble,
Of the leaves with their verge-of-speech seeming,
Of the flowers like anciently breathed
Protestations grown dumb-habitual—
None speaks but who speaks.
Of clock-accents and wheels unremitting,
Determined prolix unabatement,
The world-fame to ourselves that we spread;
Dinning our pride with rattle of pride—
Of all notes in commemorative veil
Interlaced, opaque musics, live shroud—
Not a letter of speech sounds.
We have need of conversing; and talk.
But of talking the measure is small
Of truth to the word-heirs bequeathed.
We inherit a poverty—language—
By which to declare: this the fortune
Reserved, drossless coin of ourselves.
But of all the world, few so inherit.
Of all the world, few inherit themselves,
Few have waited, succeeded their noising,
Not been lost among stridulous turns
Of time-page, afar from silence’s path.
Who approach now, to speak, and of all the world?
And what’s said so late, close between them?
The words are readable in their clear faces.
I am not ashamed of this.
And be you not ashamed of this.
It is not glorious,
But neither loathsome.
We are beings whom to meet
Is what prognostication taught:
Familiar to the touch of self
By many wounds, though healed,
And simple to the eye of time
By the disappearance of the scars.
Nothing is happening: rightly sees
The present impassive look.
Rightly our memory stings
With an incredible aliveness:
Long ago and not long ago
We were committing those outrages
Which breed the heroic title
And privately make aghast.
It has become less horrible to be.
The loss of splendour was the loss of fright—
Gigantic steps in the dark,
An advancing as toward pain that made it pain
When senses shrieked encounter.
Widely we groped, as if brave;
Closing on something—that was love,
By accident of night inflicted
And borne like fate, tragically
To explore as if an empty universe
And have the shield of solitude pierced
By the existence of another!
It has grown less foolish to be.
We knew it would become as it is.
Fate was but the ringing in our ears
Of a resolution of deafness
Against the shock of hearing ourselves speak;
And pain, the lie of astonishment
That being should be so much—
We knew it was not over-much,
Not more than what beings needed
Minutely to spell being.
Oh, simpering self-awe,
The pretence of never having meant this!
Let us not mock our own sincerity.
Who has forgotten how we first began
To take ourselves to pieces?
A NEED FOR HELL
Let there be hell again!—
That virtue thought to do without,
Confusing goodness with rash plenty.
The evil have a right to live
In the freedom conferred on fools.
But give them back their hell,
And may it be the home of fools as well.
There is not enough of the good things
To go round among so many.
The virtuous persuaded virtue
To be a providence to all
And, for a fairer name,
To stop hell’s meats and harvests,
Nourishing the fat foreigners herself.
They have indeed been nourished,
They gleam with flesh as richly as before;
While virtue’s own, for hospitality,
Renounce the democratic board
That once a table was of friends.
Meals to the foul, and scraps to the fools—
The sign of virtue is to starve.
Therefore let there be hell again.
Virtue cannot herself and those maintain.
DECLINE OF PROPHECY
That which once overbent the turn of chance,
So that it could be prophesied,
By knowledge of the behaviour of metals
And of the patience of a twisted coil,
When, newly, would the wiry course
Spring straight and the next unavoidable thing
Be at last permitted to happen—
Such means of idleness no more are ours.
We may no longer stand aside
And, extracting from the thread of event
A question-mark, gird actuality
With soft anticipation:
We may be slow no longer
To the awaiting stroke of circumstance.
We, and the time-reserved fulfilment
Of our given, taken, uneffected meaning,
Have, by the enigmatic path of time,
Come into knowledge with an innocence
That knits our minds to our occasions
Of a silent sudden—the befalling
And the thought of it together fall
And the heart-stir is the tremble of the scene
As an eye flutters with the bird watched.
Yet, who can help the glance, the thought aside,
Sometimes, when, the hour seeming shallow
Because its surface holds its depth,
Invention prowls like prey along its edge,
Tempting to be scooped in and mixed with the tale?
I even, to whom the law of instantness
And all-fraught present is a pulse of mind,
Have known myself, yesterday even,
To write—it may have been—a letter to a friend
By conjecture a friend, and to discuss,
In the distracted way of letters, likelihoods
Outside the provision of the complete to-day.
Or, learning of books lately arrived
At the discretion of print and a price
Of austere insignificance,
Perhaps a sign of chastened fancy,
Have relented, sat by the hearth of time
Reading and nodding assent and objection,
Shedding the clock-tear, and the door half-open.
Did refinger with slavish habit of hand
The last and last newspaper, throw my eye
To the lionish landscape of advent,
Then snatch them from dayglare to nightglow as if—
All looking being now moon-mild,
Sunny astonishment abandoned
For the nimbler heed which exclaims not.
Or, when a neighbour’s turkey flew the fence
Into my farther garden and the cats
Studied the weakness of the enemy
At battle-quiet, have paused to calculate
The omen in the omen,
Though well I knew the implements extinct—
What may the cats and turkeys of us augur
That we do not more newly now pronounce
From the eventual rostrum of ourselves?
It is a craven modesty, to greet
With old surprise the consequence unfurled.
This was a daring falter once
When, cheats of time, we choked hereafter back.
But now time wilts, prophecy cheats ourselves.
THE FORGIVEN PAST
That once which pained to think of,
Like a promise to oneself not kept
Nor keepable, now is grown mild.
The thistle-patch of memory
Claims our confiding touch;
The naked spurs do not draw blood,
Yielding to stoic pressure
With awkward flexibility.
We are glad it happened so
Which long seemed traitorous to hope,
False to the destined Otherwise;
Since by those failures-of-the-time
We learned the skill of failure, time—
Waiting to hold the seal of truth
With a less eager hand,
Sparing the authentic signature
For the most prudent sanctions,
Lest the wax and ink of faith be used
Before to hope’s reverses
Succeed the just realities,
And we be spent of welcome
Save for a withered smile.
The transformation of old grief
Into a present grace of mind
Among the early shadows which
The present light inhabit,
As the portentous universe
Now upon earth descends
Timidly, in nostalgic bands
Of elemental trials and errors:
This is how truth is groved,
With wayside nights where sleeping
We wake to tell what once seemed cruel
As dream-dim—in the dream
As plain and sure as then,
In telling no less dark than doubtful.
This is how pleasure relives history,
Like accusation that at last
Settling unrancorous on lies
Gives kinder names to them—
When truth is so familiar
That the false no more than strange is,
Nor wondrous evil strange
But of a beggar’s right to tenderness
Whom once in robes of certainty
We stood upon illusion’s stage
And then, to expiate our self-deceit,
Sent forth in honesty’s ill rags.
WHEN LOVE BECOMES WORDS
The yet undone, become the unwritten
By the activity of others
And the immobile pen of ourselves
Lifted, in postponed readiness,
Over the yet unsmooth paper of time—
Themes of the writing-table now,
All those implicit projects
By our minds rescued from enactment,
That lost literature which only death reads.
And we expect works of one another
Of exceeding not so much loveliness
Or fame among our physical sighs
As quietness, eventful
Not beyond thought, which moves unstrangely,
Without the historic sword-flash.
And I shall say to you, ‘There is needed now
A poem upon love, to forget the kiss by
And be more love than kiss to the lips.’
Or, failing your heart’s talkativeness,
I shall write this spoken kiss myself,
Imprinting it on the mouth of time
Perhaps too finally, but slowly,
Since execution now is prudent
With the reflective sleep the tongue takes
Between thought and said.
Thus, at last, to instruct ourselves
In the nothing we are now doing,
These unnatural days of inaction,
By telling the thing in a natural tone.
We must be brave:
Daring the sedentary future
With no other hope of passion than words,
And finding what we feel in what we think,
And knowing the rebated sentiment
For the wiser age of a once foolish deed.
As to say, where I once might have risen,
Bent to kiss like a blind wind searching
For a firm mouth to discover its own,
I now sit sociably in the chair of love,
Happy to have you or someone facing
At the distance bought by the lean of my head;
And then, if I may, go to my other room
And write of a matter touching all matters
With a compact pressure of room
Crowding the world between my elbows;
Further, to bed, and soft,
To let the night conclude, my lips still open,
That a kiss has been, or other thing to dream.
The night was formerly the chronicler,
Whispering lewd rumours to the morning.
But now the story of the evening
Is the very smile of supper and after,
Is not infant to the nurse Romance,
Is the late hour at which I or you
May have written or read perhaps even this.
Sometimes we shall declare falsely,
Young in an earlier story-sense
Impossible at the reduced hour of words.
But however we linger against exactness,
Enlarging the page by so much error
From the necessities of chance survived,
We cannot long mistake ourselves,
Being quit now of those gestures
Which made the world a tale elastic,
Of no held resemblance to our purpose.
For we have meant, and mean, but one
Consensus of experience,
Notwithstanding the difference in our names
And that we have seemed to be born
Each to a changing plot and loss
Of feeling (though our earth it is)
At home in such a timeward place.
We cannot now but match our words
With a united nod of recognition—
We had not, hitherto, heard ourselves speak
For the garrulous vigour and furore
Of the too lively loves as they clattered
Like too many letters from our hasty lips.
It is difficult to remember
That we are doing nothing,
Are to do nothing, wish to do nothing.
From a spurious cloud of disappointment
We must extract the sincere drop of relief
Corresponding to the tear in our thoughts
That we have no reason to shed.
We are happy.
These engagements of the mind,
Unproductive of the impulse to kiss,
Ring to the heart like love essential,
Safe from theatric curiosity
Which once directed our desires
To an end of gaudy shame and flourish,
So that we played these doleful parts
Abandoned between fright and pomp.
There is now little to see
And yet little to hide.
The writing of ‘I love you’
Contains the love if not entirely
At least with lovingness enough
To make the rest a shadow round us
Immaculately of shade
Not love’s hallucinations substanced.
It is truer to the heart, we know now,
To say out than to secrete the bold alarm,
Flushed with timidity’s surprises,
That looms between the courage to love
And the habit of groping for results.
The results came first, our language
Bears the scars of them: we cannot
Speak of love but the lines lisp
With the too memorable accent,
Endearing what, instead of love, we love-did.
First come the omens, then the thing we mean.
We did not mean the gasp or hotness;
This is no cooling, stifling back
The bannered cry love waved before us once.
That was a doubt, and a persuasion—
By the means of believing, with doubt’s art,
What we were, in our stubbornness, least sure of.
There is less to tell of later
But more to say.
There are, in truth, no words left for the kiss.
We have ourselves to talk of;
And the passing characters we were—
Nervous of time on the excitable stage—
Surrender to their lasting authors
That we may study, still alive,
What love or utterance shall preserve us
From that other literature
We fast exerted to perpetuate
The mortal chatter of appearance.
Think not that I am stern
To banish now the kiss, ancient,
Or how our hands or cheeks may brush
When our thoughts have a love and a stir
Short of writable and a grace
Of not altogether verbal promptness.
To be loving is to lift the pen
And use it both, and the advance
From dumb resolve to the delight
Of finding ourselves not merely fluent
But ligatured in the embracing words
Is by the metaphor of love,
And still a cause of kiss among us,
Though kiss we do not—or so knowingly,
The taste is lost in the taste of the thought.
Let us not think, in being so protested
To the later language and condition,
That we have ceased to love.
We have ceased only to become—and are.
Few the perplexities, the intervals
Allowed us of shy hazard:
We could not if we would be rash again,
Take the dim loitering way
And stumble on till reason like a horse
Stood champing fear at the long backward turn,
And we the sorry rider, new to the mount,
Old to the fugitive manner.
But dalliance still rules our hearts
In the name of conscience.
We raise our eyes
From the immediate manuscript
To find a startled present blinking the past
With sight disfigured and a brow reproachful,
Pointing the look of time toward memory
As if we had erased the relics
In order to have something to write on.
And we leave off, for the length of conscience,
Discerning in the petulant mist
The wronged face of someone we know,
Hungry to be saved from rancour of us.
And we love: we separate the features
From the fading and compose of them
A likeness to the one that did not wait
And should have waited, learned to wait.
We raise our eyes to greet ourselves
With a conviction that none is absent
Or none should be, from the domestic script of words
That reads out welcome to all who we are.
And then to words again
After—was it—a kiss or exclamation
Between face and face too sudden to record.
Our love being now a span of mind
Whose bridge not the droll body is
Striding the waters of disunion
With sulky grin and groaning valour,
We can make love miraculous
As joining thought with thought and a next,
Which is done not by crossing over
But by knowing the words for what we mean.
We forbear to move, it seeming to us now
More like ourselves to keep the written watch
And let the reach of love surround us
With the warm accusation of being poets.
This is the poem of a month within a year
Within a world within an atmosphere
Grown black from that we see not.
We do not see.
The atmosphere is dense with devils.
The world is empty from the expulsion of these.
The year: such spectacles the blind wear.
The month: as eyes in night are holes,
So is the month an abstract-organ.
And vision now a thing of thinking,
The thirsty eyes from damp brain drinking.
I shall tell a story.
Once (since here I lay the curse of fiction,
Which is the curse of thought’s constriction
To once, and not again)
Within a month within a year within a world
Within an atmosphere incredible
Because sight loathes it, will not see it,
We are like shuddering angels locked
Within a desert heaven within an earth
Made populous by sin’s expulsion.
Once: O believe it not
That this we live is so!
Already is the month’s recoil a long-ago.
The story with the pained eye passes
Into time’s museum of darkness,
Where what has been to staring horror
Protests its innocence: it is not,
Nor ever was it, sight and the heart
Make strange mistakes of seeing and believing.
And so the gasping month within the tangled year
Within the tearing world
Within the torn atmosphere
Stops breathing, seeing, dying:
Another month upon the shelf appears,
The days like book-enamoured fingers
Prepare to reach.
Sight and the heart their new mistakes beseech.
Here ends the story.
The poem takes the story away.
We have left nor a month nor its least cruel day.
Nor the envelope without the envelope
Without the envelope within.
This is the poem.
Are we so naked then of life,
Stripped to the death?
Is this the promised core of us?
Come closer, let us not shudder so, shiver.
We are not ill, nor dead—nor uncovered
In the lost shame of ordeal.
There is something so good in this
That, despite worry, hope, and no letter,
I scarcely dare let myself wish for better.
Without millions of pennies and millions of men
Or nations of miles or five bolts of satin
Or six reams of fame to describe it upon
Or sixteen old castles to flag the news from
Or sixty new offices and their telephones—
Yet the business is done,
The great war is won,
The world has been made to know.
That it lies and denies
Or wears woe in disguise
Of its knowing, its joy so to know—
This is such pride as battalions of fire have
When a single cool drop quells the challenging blaze:
Of the drop not a sign, there’s but reek of embers.
Thus smoulders the world, spitting hate of its baptism.
The last sparks tell not of healing, of cooling.
There is no news of knowledge in the newspapers.
Impregnable screens of vision have been raised
To protect the embattled minds from themselves.
A full peace has been visited now on the world,
But the voices of time do not mention it.
Nor think I to disturb
So much noise, nor to curb
So much fleeing from quiet’s event.
Like a love that is loved
In a heart stiffly gloved
Against loveless responding event:
Though the face of the world with dim pain is contorted
As if the embrace were a forfended curse,
And the gift shall demand no more thanking than this,
Yet knowledge has been given, and knowledge taken.
Whether to weep or smile that truth conquers in secret?
IN THE BEGINNING
That was not the genesis:
This is the genesis.
That was the impregnation
Of the Mother by her children-to-be
Who in the fluster of forebeing
Cried out in voiceless voice:
‘We are the Father!’
Then, voice of voice: ‘I am the Father’s Son!’
To these it seemed long,
Counting from fathers to sons
To father still unborn.
Week on week they have said: ‘In seven days!’
The Mother has just begun to count
Her nine days of wonder.
She pauses upon the seventh—
Late on the seventh day is born her daughter.
In the first seven days of the Mother
Her sons are; they implore a Father,
They befoul their birth-places
And would be justified in this.
Late on the seventh day is born the daughter.
‘Be you,’ the Mother says, ‘to them as father.
Absolve them of their flesh:
Do you wear flesh, and find goodness in it.’
The last two days are to the daughter.
She is the Mother become sisterly
To be to the brother-sons as father.
‘You have endured a week of you,’ she praises.
The seventh eve is therefore celebration.
Heavenly to-morrows lamp the night,
And every man’s a universal favourite,
And none’s a beggar because all are.
On the eighth day blind-spun spaces
Between man and man close in.
The universe of each and each has passed.
The daughter does not need to shout to be heard.
She opens the heads of her brothers
And lets out the aeroplanes.
‘Now,’ she says, ‘you will be able to think better.’
But their hearts still pump wildness into them.
Then a storm: love-ladies fly
Like empty leaves curled bodily.
From what trees fallen?
What infant gardens in the minds of men?
Then she encourages them to die
As many deaths they fear.
The physician-gods withdraw.
‘Illness comes not to the dead.’
Together all inspect the cups, the pencils,
The watches, matches, knives they have,
Some are from Tuesday’s country, some from Friday’s,
But nothing there from either Sunday.
Which so belabours their week’s memories,
They sleep, and to the ninth day wake
In all-forgetful curiosity:
Amazed that they exist.
The daughter of the Mother tells a story.
They gape: can that have been?
Fair episodes they seem to recognize;
The evil part they execrate.
And so the ninth day sets,
Not seriate with an elder tenth
But usher to a younger first,
DOOM IN BLOOM
Now flower the oldest seeds.
The secret of the root no more
Keeps jealous distance from the air.
The dark intent, so lothfully ascending,
At last to resolution grows;
The glance of long reluctance shows.
Weakly we write upon
The closing surface of oblivion.
Our faith in earth, in nether sameness,
Hurries to take the separate colour.
And leaning on the faded air
We flaunt ourselves against despair.
Gruesomely joined in hate
Of unlike efflorescence,
We were a cruel compacted silence
From which unlovable centuries sprang.
But time has knit so hard a crust
That speak and differ now we must—
Or be in pride encased
Until the living way has ceased
And only death comes to occur.
Though half our zeal but fair is,
Spells but an earth’s variety,
Hope makes a stronger half to beauty
When from the deep bed torn
Of ultimate misgiving
An auspice of like peril to bring.
The lone defiance blossoms failure,
But risk of all by all beguiles
Fate’s wreckage into similar smiles.
SEIZURE OF THE WORLD
You picked up little, had small need,
When hands alone were used once—
And little good was all good.
Then you put on the gloves of chance,
And much was momently enjoyed
At fearsome covered distance.
Latterly you have employed
Long handles of desire
And many a swift persuasion pulled
Out of the travelling fire
By bounteous error fuelled
And spiteful fancy lit.
But groping greed is at last lulled
When hands their skill of lies remit—
And fingers stem closely from brain,
Tight on the plentitudes of pain
That from the reach of heart remain.
NOTHING SO FAR
Nothing so far but moonlight
Where the mind is;
Nothing in that place, this hold,
Only their faceless shadows to announce
Perhaps they come—
Nor even do they know
Whereto they cast them.
Yet here, all that remains
When each has been the universe:
No universe, but each, or nothing.
Here is the future swell curved round
To all that was.
What were we, then,
Before the being of ourselves began?
Nothing so far but strangeness
Where the moments of the mind return.
Nearly, the place was lost
In that we went to stranger places.
Nothing so far but nearly
The long familiar pang
Of never having gone;
And words below a whisper which
If tended as the graves of live men should be
May bring their names and faces home.
It makes a loving promise to itself,
Womanly, that there
More presences are promised
Than by the difficult light appear.
Nothing appears but moonlight’s morning—
By which to count were as to strew
The look of day with last night’s rid of moths.
What shall the feast be called this year
That long a merry holy name had
But now comes nameless to its time?
‘Jesus is born!’ Undated moment
To close the vanished year, uncounted,
Of those who live in denial of death.
Then, having not lived because not died,
They say (next year), ‘Christ died but did not!’
Then, Christmas: Jesus succeeds Jehovah.
Until the Christian art, that changed
The eternal Semite frown
Into a coloured yearly smile,
Cannot but paint the looming voice
Under the smile, behind the frown:
There hangs the word for this year’s birth-feast.
We read what seemed too terrible for sound,
Year upon year, in seeming endless
Thund’rous unrelenting death—’THE END !’
But soft the word: shaped on sealed lips
For utterance on our many own
According to the smile each can
When death has killed the corpse of time—
Even to the Merry Christmas grin
That gave the Happy New Year ghost.
How shall the feast be called?
Who dare be after Jesus now
And meet Jehovah’s honest face
As the dark substance of their own,
By whose forbidding look to form
The permitted smiles of transgression?
Who dare no more to rise now,
From heaven’s ages to float down
With feet of Jew, folding the Cross
Into a compact miracle—
Outstretching souls returning
For birth at last, the escaped END?
Jehovah was continent to madness;
Christ’s Father, loving to foolishness.
But the same man were they, by Jesus.
And one the Woman and the Virgin—
Who in immaculate parturition
Bestowed a natal death at birth
On whom the Woman could not smile on
As names of peace between Herself
And that suspicious Angry Man.
The original smile is Hers—
Which, smiled in slow discretion,
He took for frowning: and so frowned.
These things are not yet tellable
In the tone of long-ago I would wish:
Christmas again confounds my mouth.
I speak as if in recent knowledge.
Perhaps that is right: the tale is young,
Though the matter old. Christmas still!
Less merry, but Jesus still the cause:
He was born—signing his name
To a tale by us to be written.
Less deathly: as the signature becomes
Our own, and crucifying hazard
Foreshortens to the death-trimmed END.