Alan Seeger had only a short life. He was an idealist with, some might say, an unrealistically romantic view of death. He wrote a poem, which has become his most famous piece of work, called I Have a Rendezvous with Death. We will never know if he really and truly believed these words at the time that he wrote it but one has to assume that he did. There is a certain eerie coincidence in the fact that this poem was a favourite of John F Kennedy. His wife Jackie memorised it word for word. It’s an intriguing thought but maybe President Kennedy also had a similar premonition to that of Seeger regarding an early death.
Alan Seeger Bio
Seeger was born in June 1888 in New York and he lived here and on Staten Island for the first ten years of his life. When he was 12 the family moved to Mexico and it is said that the two years spent there influenced his future style of poetry. On his return to the States he was able to attend a number of elite preparatory schools before being admitted to Harvard. A fellow student there was the famous writer T S Elliott. He set down his early poetry while here and also wrote for the in-house magazine “Harvard Monthly”.
Following graduation in 1910 he took up residence in the trendy Greenwich Village area of New York and, without any urgent need to take up paid employment, spent his time writing poetry and being the “Bohemian man about town”. He enjoyed some early French influence from frequent visits to Mlles. Petitpas’ boarding house where there were frequent soirées for the benefit of the artistic fraternity of the city, including the father of the famous Irish poet W B Yeats.
Perhaps Alan Seeger new the end was close at hand and, on the 4th July 1916, he was shot several times in a machine gun burst of fire. He was 28 years old.
Alan Seeger pomes (Part 02)
All That’s Not Love . . .
All that’s not love is the dearth of my days,
The leaves of the volume with rubric unwrit,
The temple in times without prayer, without praise,
The altar unset and the candle unlit.
Let me survive not the lovable sway
Of early desire, nor see when it goes
The courts of Life’s abbey in ivied decay,
Whence sometime sweet anthems and incense arose.
The delicate hues of its sevenfold rings
The rainbow outlives not; their yellow and blue
The butterfly sees not dissolve from his wings,
But even with their beauty life fades from them too.
No more would I linger past Love’s ardent bounds
Nor live for aught else but the joy that it craves,
That, burden and essence of all that surrounds,
Is the song in the wind and the smile on the waves.
Ariosto. Orlando Furioso, Canto X, 91-99
Ruggiero, to amaze the British host,
And wake more wonder in their wondering ranks,
The bridle of his winged courser loosed,
And clapped his spurs into the creature’s flanks;
High in the air, even to the topmost banks
Of crudded cloud, uprose the flying horse,
And now above the Welsh, and now the Manx,
And now across the sea he shaped his course,
Till gleaming far below lay Erin’s emerald shores.
There round Hibernia’s fabled realm he coasted,
Where the old saint had left the holy cave,
Sought for the famous virtue that it boasted
To purge the sinful visitor and save.
Thence back returning over land and wave,
Ruggiero came where the blue currents flow,
The shores of Lesser Brittany to lave,
And, looking down while sailing to and fro,
He saw Angelica chained to the rock below.
‘Twas on the Island of Complaint — well named,
For there to that inhospitable shore,
A savage people, cruel and untamed,
Brought the rich prize of many a hateful war.
To feed a monster that bestead them sore,
They of fair ladies those that loveliest shone,
Of tender maidens they the tenderest bore,
And, drowned in tears and making piteous moan,
Left for that ravening beast, chained on the rocks alone.
Thither transported by enchanter’s art,
Angelica from dreams most innocent
(As the tale mentioned in another part)
Awoke, the victim for that sad event.
Beauty so rare, nor birth so excellent,
Nor tears that make sweet Beauty lovelier still,
Could turn that people from their harsh intent.
Alas, what temper is conceived so ill
But, Pity moving not, Love’s soft enthralment will?
On the cold granite at the ocean’s rim
These folk had chained her fast and gone their way;
Fresh in the softness of each delicate limb
The pity of their bruising violence lay.
Over her beauty, from the eye of day
To hide its pleading charms, no veil was thrown.
Only the fragments of the salt sea-spray
Rose from the churning of the waves, wind-blown,
To dash upon a whiteness creamier than their own.
Carved out of candid marble without flaw,
Or alabaster blemishless and rare,
Ruggiero might have fancied what he saw,
For statue-like it seemed, and fastened there
By craft of cunningest artificer;
Save in the wistful eyes Ruggiero thought
A teardrop gleamed, and with the rippling hair
The ocean breezes played as if they sought
In its loose depths to hide that which her hand might not.
Pity and wonder and awakening love
Strove in the bosom of the Moorish Knight.
Down from his soaring in the skies above
He urged the tenor of his courser’s flight.
Fairer with every foot of lessening height
Shone the sweet prisoner. With tightening reins
He drew more nigh, and gently as he might:
“O lady, worthy only of the chains
With which his bounden slaves the God of Love constrains,
“And least for this or any ill designed,
Oh, what unnatural and perverted race
Could the sweet flesh with flushing stricture bind,
And leave to suffer in this cold embrace
That the warm arms so hunger to replace?”
Into the damsel’s cheeks such color flew
As by the alchemy of ancient days
If whitest ivory should take the hue
Of coral where it blooms deep in the liquid blue.
Nor yet so tightly drawn the cruel chains
Clasped the slim ankles and the wounded hands,
But with soft, cringing attitudes in vain
She strove to shield her from that ardent glance.
So, clinging to the walls of some old manse,
The rose-vine strives to shield her tender flowers,
When the rude wind, as autumn weeks advance,
Beats on the walls and whirls about the towers
And spills at every blast her pride in piteous showers.
And first for choking sobs she might not speak,
And then, “Alas!” she cried, “ah, woe is me!”
And more had said in accents faint and weak,
Pleading for succor and sweet liberty.
But hark! across the wide ways of the sea
Rose of a sudden such a fierce affray
That any but the brave had turned to flee.
Ruggiero, turning, looked. To his dismay,
Lo, where the monster came to claim his quivering prey!
Broceliande! in the perilous beauty of silence and menacing shade,
Thou art set on the shores of the sea down the haze
of horizons untravelled, unscanned.
Untroubled, untouched with the woes of this world
are the moon-marshalled hosts that invade
Only at dusk, when lavender clouds in the orient twilight disband,
Vanishing where all the blue afternoon they have drifted in solemn parade,
Sometimes a whisper comes down on the wind from the valleys of Fairyland —-
Sometimes an echo most mournful and faint like the horn of a huntsman strayed,
Faint and forlorn, half drowned in the murmur of foliage fitfully fanned,
Breathes in a burden of nameless regret till I startle,
disturbed and affrayed:
Broceliande. . .
Do You Remember Once . . .
The night we wandered off under the third moon’s rays
And, leaving far behind bright streets and busy places,
Stood where the Seine flowed down between its quiet quais?The city’s voice was hushed; the placid, lustrous waters
Mirrored the walls across where orange windows burned.
Out of the starry south provoking rumors brought us
Far promise of the spring already northward turned.
And breast drew near to breast, and round its soft desire
My arm uncertain stole and clung there unrepelled.
I thought that nevermore my heart would hover nigher
To the last flower of bliss that Nature’s garden held.
There, in your beauty’s sweet abandonment to pleasure,
The mute, half-open lips and tender, wondering eyes,
I saw embodied first smile back on me the treasure
Long sought across the seas and back of summer skies.
Dear face, when courted Death shall claim my limbs and find them
Laid in some desert place, alone or where the tides
Of war’s tumultuous waves on the wet sands behind them
Leave rifts of gasping life when their red flood subsides,
Out of the past’s remote delirious abysses
Shine forth once more as then you shone, — beloved head,
Laid back in ecstasy between our blinding kisses,
Transfigured with the bliss of being so coveted.
And my sick arms will part, and though hot fever sear it,
My mouth will curve again with the old, tender flame.
And darkness will come down, still finding in my spirit
The dream of your brief love, and on my lips your name.
You loved me on that moonlit night long since.
You were my queen and I the charming prince
Elected from a world of mortal men.
You loved me once. . . . What pity was it, then,
You loved not Love. . . . Deep in the emerald west,
Like a returning caravel caressed
By breezes that load all the ambient airs
With clinging fragrance of the bales it bears
From harbors where the caravans come down,
I see over the roof-tops of the town
The new moon back again, but shall not see
The joy that once it had in store for me,
Nor know again the voice upon the stair,
The little studio in the candle-glare,
And all that makes in word and touch and glance
The bliss of the first nights of a romance
When will to love and be beloved casts out
The want to question or the will to doubt.
You loved me once. . . . Under the western seas
The pale moon settles and the Pleiades.
The firelight sinks; outside the night-winds moan —
The hour advances, and I sleep alone.
Farewell, dear heart, enough of vain despairing!
If I have erred I plead but one excuse —
The jewel were a lesser joy in wearing
That cost a lesser agony to lose.
I had not bid for beautifuller hours
Had I not found the door so near unsealed,
Nor hoped, had you not filled my arms with flowers,
For that one flower that bloomed too far afield.
If I have wept, it was because, forsaken,
I felt perhaps more poignantly than some
The blank eternity from which we waken
And all the blank eternity to come.
And I betrayed how sweet a thing and tender
(In the regret with which my lip was curled)
Seemed in its tragic, momentary splendor
My transit through the beauty of the world.
In that fair capital where Pleasure, crowned
Amidst her myriad courtiers, riots and rules,
I too have been a suitor. Radiant eyes
Were my life’s warmth and sunshine, outspread arms
My gilded deep horizons. I rejoiced
In yielding to all amorous influence
And multiple impulsion of the flesh,
To feel within my being surge and sway
The force that all the stars acknowledge too.
Amid the nebulous humanity
Where I an atom crawled and cleaved and sundered,
I saw a million motions, but one law;
And from the city’s splendor to my eyes
The vapors passed and there was nought but Love,
A ferment turbulent, intensely fair,
Where Beauty beckoned and where Strength pursued.
There was a time when I thought much of Fame,
And laid the golden edifice to be
That in the clear light of eternity
Should fitly house the glory of my name.
But swifter than my fingers pushed their plan,
Over the fair foundation scarce begun,
While I with lovers dallied in the sun,
The ivy clambered and the rose-vine ran.
And now, too late to see my vision, rise,
In place of golden pinnacles and towers,
Only some sunny mounds of leaves and flowers,
Only beloved of birds and butterflies.
My friends were duped, my favorers deceived;
But sometimes, musing sorrowfully there,
That flowered wreck has seemed to me so fair
I scarce regret the temple unachieved.
For there were nights . . . my love to him whose brow
Has glistened with the spoils of nights like those,
Home turning as a conqueror turns home,
What time green dawn down every street uprears
Arches of triumph! He has drained as well
Joy’s perfumed bowl and cried as I have cried:
Be Fame their mistress whom Love passes by.
This only matters: from some flowery bed,
Laden with sweetness like a homing bee,
If one have known what bliss it is to come,
Bearing on hands and breast and laughing lips
The fragrance of his youth’s dear rose. To him
The hills have bared their treasure, the far clouds
Unveiled the vision that o’er summer seas
Drew on his thirsting arms. This last thing known,
He can court danger, laugh at perilous odds,
And, pillowed on a memory so sweet,
Unto oblivious eternity
Without regret yield his victorious soul,
The blessed pilgrim of a vow fulfilled.
What is Success? Out of the endless ore
Of deep desire to coin the utmost gold
Of passionate memory; to have lived so well
That the fifth moon, when it swims up once more
Through orchard boughs where mating orioles build
And apple flowers unfold,
Find not of that dear need that all things tell
The heart unburdened nor the arms unfilled.
O Love, whereof my boyhood was the dream,
My youth the beautiful novitiate,
Life was so slight a thing and thou so great,
How could I make thee less than all-supreme!
In thy sweet transports not alone I thought
Mingled the twain that panted breast to breast.
The sun and stars throbbed with them; they were caught
Into the pulse of Nature and possessed
By the same light that consecrates it so.
Love! — ’tis the payment of the debt we owe
The beauty of the world, and whensoe’er
In silks and perfume and unloosened hair
The loveliness of lovers, face to face,
Lies folded in the adorable embrace,
Doubt not as of a perfect sacrifice
That soul partakes whose inspiration fills
The springtime and the depth of summer skies,
The rainbow and the clouds behind the hills,
That excellence in earth and air and sea
That makes things as they are the real divinity.
Introduction and Conclusion of a Long Poem
I have gone sometimes by the gates of Death
And stood beside the cavern through whose doors
Enter the voyagers into the unseen.
From that dread threshold only, gazing back,
Have eyes in swift illumination seen
Life utterly revealed, and guessed therein
What things were vital and what things were vain.
Know then, like a vast ocean from my feet
Spreading away into the morning sky,
I saw unrolled my vanished days, and, lo,
Oblivion like a morning mist obscured
Toils, trials, ambitions, agitations, ease,
And like green isles, sun-kissed, with sweet perfume
Loading the airs blown back from that dim gulf,
Gleamed only through the all-involving haze
The hours when we have loved and been beloved.
Therefore, sweet friends, as often as by Love
You rise absorbed into the harmony
Of planets singing round magnetic suns,
Let not propriety nor prejudice
Nor the precepts of jealous age deny
What Sense so incontestably affirms;
Cling to the blessed moment and drink deep
Of the sweet cup it tends, as there alone
Were that which makes life worth the pain to live.
What is so fair as lovers in their joy
That dies in sleep, their sleep that wakes in joy?
Caressing arms are their light pillows. They
That like lost stars have wandered hitherto
Lonesome and lightless through the universe,
Now glow transfired at Nature’s flaming core;
They are the centre; constellated heaven
Is the embroidered panoply spread round
Their bridal, and the music of the spheres
Rocks them in hushed epithalamium.
. . . . .
I know that there are those whose idle tongues
Blaspheme the beauty of the world that was
So wondrous and so worshipful to me.
I call them those that, in the palace where
Down perfumed halls the Sleeping Beauty lay,
Wandered without the secret or the key.
I know that there are those, of gentler heart,
Broken by grief or by deception bowed,
Who in some realm beyond the grave conceive
The bliss they found not here; but, as for me,
In the soft fibres of the tender flesh
I saw potentialities of Joy
Ten thousand lifetimes could not use. Dear Earth,
In this dark month when deep as morning dew
On thy maternal breast shall fall the blood
Of those that were thy loveliest and thy best,
If it be fate that mine shall mix with theirs,
Hear this my natural prayer, for, purified
By that Lethean agony and clad
In more resplendent powers, I ask nought else
Than reincarnate to retrace my path,
Be born again of woman, walk once more
Through Childhood’s fragrant, flowery wonderland
And, entered in the golden realm of Youth,
Fare still a pilgrim toward the copious joys
I savored here yet scarce began to sip;
Yea, with the comrades that I loved so well
Resume the banquet we had scarce begun
When in the street we heard the clarion-call
And each man sprang to arms — ay, even myself
Who loved sweet Youth too truly not to share
Its pain no less than its delight. If prayers
Are to be prayed, lo, here is mine! Be this
My resurrection, this my recompense!
Like the full moon out of a perfumed sea
Thine image from the waves of blissful sound
Rose and thy sudden light illumined me.And in the country, leaf and flower and air
Would alter and the eternal shape emerge;
Because they spoke of thee the fields seemed fair,
And Joy to wait at the horizon’s verge.
The little cloud-gaps in the east that filled
Gray afternoons with bits of tenderest blue
Were windows in a palace pearly-silled
That thy voluptuous traits came glimmering through.
And in the city, dominant desire
For which men toil within its prison-bars,
I watched thy white feet moving in the mire
And thy white forehead hid among the stars.
Mystical, feminine, provoking, nude,
Radiant there with rosy arms outspread,
Sum of fulfillment, sovereign attitude,
Sensual with laughing lips and thrown-back head,
Draped in the rainbow on the summer hills,
Hidden in sea-mist down the hot coast-line,
Couched on the clouds that fiery sunset fills,
Blessed, remote, impersonal, divine;
The gold all color and grace are folded o’er,
The warmth all beauty and tenderness embower, —
Thou quiverest at Nature’s perfumed core,
The pistil of a myriad-petalled flower.
Round thee revolves, illimitably wide,
The world’s desire, as stars around their pole.
Round thee all earthly loveliness beside
Is but the radiate, infinite aureole.
Thou art the poem on the cosmic page —
In rubric written on its golden ground —
That Nature paints her flowers and foliage
And rich-illumined commentary round.
Thou art the rose that the world’s smiles and tears
Hover about like butterflies and bees.
Thou art the theme the music of the spheres
Echoes in endless, variant harmonies.
Thou art the idol in the altar-niche
Faced by Love’s congregated worshippers,
Thou art the holy sacrament round which
The vast cathedral is the universe.
Thou art the secret in the crystal where,
For the last light upon the mystery Man,
In his lone tower and ultimate despair,
Searched the gray-bearded Zoroastrian.
And soft and warm as in the magic sphere,
Deep-orbed as in its erubescent fire,
So in my heart thine image would appear,
Curled round with the red flames of my desire.
A shell surprised our post one day
And killed a comrade at my side.
My heart was sick to see the way
He suffered as he died.
I dug about the place he fell,
And found, no bigger than my thumb,
A fragment of the splintered shell
In warm aluminum.
I melted it, and made a mould,
And poured it in the opening,
And worked it, when the cast was cold,
Into a shapely ring.
And when my ring was smooth and bright,
Holding it on a rounded stick,
For seal, I bade a Turco write
Maktoob in Arabic.
Maktoob! “‘Tis written!” . . . So they think,
These children of the desert, who
From its immense expanses drink
Some of its grandeur too.
Within the book of Destiny,
Whose leaves are time, whose cover, space,
The day when you shall cease to be,
The hour, the mode, the place,
Are marked, they say; and you shall not
By taking thought or using wit
Alter that certain fate one jot,
Postpone or conjure it.
Learn to drive fear, then, from your heart.
If you must perish, know, O man,
‘Tis an inevitable part
Of the predestined plan.
And, seeing that through the ebon door
Once only you may pass, and meet
Of those that have gone through before
The mighty, the elite — —
Guard that not bowed nor blanched with fear
You enter, but serene, erect,
As you would wish most to appear
To those you most respect.
So die as though your funeral
Ushered you through the doors that led
Into a stately banquet hall
Where heroes banqueted;
And it shall all depend therein
Whether you come as slave or lord,
If they acclaim you as their kin
Or spurn you from their board.
So, when the order comes: “Attack!”
And the assaulting wave deploys,
And the heart trembles to look back
On life and all its joys;
Or in a ditch that they seem near
To find, and round your shallow trough
Drop the big shells that you can hear
Coming a half mile off;
When, not to hear, some try to talk,
And some to clean their guns, or sing,
And some dig deeper in the chalk — –
I look upon my ring:
And nerves relax that were most tense,
And Death comes whistling down unheard,
As I consider all the sense
Held in that mystic word.
And it brings, quieting like balm
My heart whose flutterings have ceased,
The resignation and the calm
And wisdom of the East.
On the Cliffs, Newport
Tonight a shimmer of gold lies mantled o’er
Smooth lovely Ocean. Through the lustrous gloom
A savor steals from linden trees in bloom
And gardens ranged at many a palace door.
Proud walls rise here, and, where the moonbeams pour
Their pale enchantment down the dim coast-line,
Terrace and lawn, trim hedge and flowering vine,
Crown with fair culture all the sounding shore.
How sweet, to such a place, on such a night,
From halls with beauty and festival a-glare,
To come distract and, stretched on the cool turf,
Yield to some fond, improbable delight,
While the moon, reddening, sinks, and all the air
Sighs with the muffled tumult of the surf!
I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air–
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.
It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath–
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.
God knows ’twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear . . .
But I’ve a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.
Down the strait vistas where a city street
Fades in pale dust and vaporous distances,
Stained with far fumes the light grows less and less
And the sky reddens round the day’s retreat.
Now out of orient chambers, cool and sweet,
Like Nature’s pure lustration, Dusk comes down.
Now the lamps brighten and the quickening town
Rings with the trample of returning feet.
And Pleasure, risen from her own warm mould
Sunk all the drowsy and unloved daylight
In layers of odorous softness, Paphian girls
Cover with gauze, with satin, and with pearls,
Crown, and about her spangly vestments fold
The ermine of the empire of the Night.
Her courts are by the flux of flaming ways,
Between the rivers and the illumined sky
Whose fervid depths reverberate from on high
Fierce lustres mingled in a fiery haze.
They mark it inland; blithe and fair of face
Her suitors follow, guessing by the glare
Beyond the hilltops in the evening air
How bright the cressets at her portals blaze.
On the pure fronts Defeat ere many a day
Falls like the soot and dirt on city-snow;
There hopes deferred lie sunk in piteous seams.
Her paths are disillusion and decay,
With ruins piled and unapparent woe,
The graves of Beauty and the wreck of dreams.
White angels hung in converse and sweet choir,
Teaching in summer clouds his thought to stray, —
In cloud and far horizon to desire.
His life was nursed in beauty, like the stream
Born of clear showers and the mountain dew,
Close under snow-clad summits where they gleam
Forever pure against heaven’s orient blue.
Within the city’s shades he walked at last.
Faint and more faint in sad recessional
Down the dim corridors of Time outworn,
A chorus ebbed from that forsaken past,
A hymn of glories fled beyond recall
With the lost heights and splendor of life’s morn.
Up at his attic sill the South wind came
And days of sun and storm but never peace.
Along the town’s tumultuous arteries
He heard the heart-throbs of a sentient frame:
Each night the whistles in the bay, the same
Whirl of incessant wheels and clanging cars:
For smoke that half obscured, the circling stars
Burnt like his youth with but a sickly flame.
Up to his attic came the city cries —
The throes with which her iron sinews heave —
And yet forever behind prison doors
Welled in his heart and trembled in his eyes
The light that hangs on desert hills at eve
And tints the sea on solitary shores…
A tide of beauty with returning May
Floods the fair city; from warm pavements fume
Odors endeared; down avenues in bloom
The chestnut-trees with phallic spires are gay.
Over the terrace flows the thronged cafe;
The boulevards are streams of hurrying sound;
And through the streets, like veins when they abound,
The lust for pleasure throbs itself away.
Here let me live, here let me still pursue
Phantoms of bliss that beckon and recede, —
Thy strange allurements, City that I love,
Maze of romance, where I have followed too
The dream Youth treasures of its dearest need
And stars beyond thy towers bring tidings of.
Give me the treble of thy horns and hoofs,
The ponderous undertones of ‘bus and tram,
A garret and a glimpse across the roofs
Of clouds blown eastward over Notre Dame,
The glad-eyed streets and radiant gatherings
Where I drank deep the bliss of being young,
The strife and sweet potential flux of things
I sought Youth’s dream of happiness among!
It walks here aureoled with the city-light,
Forever through the myriad-featured mass
Flaunting not far its fugitive embrace, —
Heard sometimes in a song across the night,
Caught in a perfume from the crowds that pass,
And when love yields to love seen face to face.
Whose stations Beauty’s bright examples are,
As of a silken city famed afar
Over the sands for wealth and holy ground,
Came the report of one — a woman crowned
With all perfection, blemishless and high,
As the full moon amid the moonlit sky,
With the world’s praise and wonder clad around.
And I who held this notion of success:
To leave no form of Nature’s loveliness
Unworshipped, if glad eyes have access there, —
Beyond all earthly bounds have made my goal
To find where that sweet shrine is and extol
The hand that triumphed in a work so fair.
Oft as by chance, a little while apart
The pall of empty, loveless hours withdrawn,
Sweet Beauty, opening on the impoverished heart,
Beams like the jewel on the breast of dawn:
Not though high heaven should rend would deeper awe
Fill me than penetrates my spirit thus,
Nor all those signs the Patmian prophet saw
Seem a new heaven and earth so marvelous;
But, clad thenceforth in iridescent dyes,
The fair world glistens, and in after days
The memory of kind lips and laughing eyes
Lives in my step and lightens all my face, —
So they who found the Earthly Paradise
Still breathed, returned, of that sweet, joyful place.
Amid the florid multitude her face
Was like the full moon seen behind the lace
Of orchard boughs where clouded blossoms part
When Spring shines in the world and in the heart.
As the full-moon-beams to the ferny floor
Of summer woods through flower and foliage pour,
So to my being’s innermost recess
Flooded the light of so much loveliness;
She held as in a vase of priceless ware
The wine that over arid ways and bare
My youth was the pathetic thirsting for,
And where she moved the veil of Nature grew
Diaphanous and that radiance mantled through
Which, when I see, I tremble and adore.
A splendor, flamelike, born to be pursued,
With palms extent for amorous charity
And eyes incensed with love for all they see,
A wonder more to be adored than wooed,
On whom the grace of conscious womanhood
Adorning every little thing she does
Sits like enchantment, making glorious
A careless pose, a casual attitude;
Around her lovely shoulders mantle-wise
Hath come the realm of those old fabulous queens
Whose storied loves are Art’s rich heritage,
To keep alive in this our latter age
That force that moving through sweet Beauty’s means
Lifts up Man’s soul to towering enterprise.
When among creatures fair of countenance
Love comes enformed in such proud character,
So far as other beauty yields to her,
So far the breast with fiercer longing pants;
I bless the spot, and hour, and circumstance,
That wed desire to a thing so high,
And say, Glad soul, rejoice, for thou and I
Of bliss unpaired are made participants;
Hence have come ardent thoughts and waking dreams
That, feeding Fancy from so sweet a cup,
Leave it no lust for gross imaginings.
Through her the woman’s perfect beauty gleams
That while it gazes lifts the spirit up
To that high source from which all beauty springs
Like as a dryad, from her native bole
Coming at dusk, when the dim stars emerge,
To a slow river at whose silent verge
Tall poplars tremble and deep grasses roll,
Come thou no less and, kneeling in a shoal
Of the freaked flag and meadow buttercup,
Bend till thine image from the pool beam up
Arched with blue heaven like an aureole.
See how adorable in fancy then
Lives the fair face it mirrors even so,
O thou whose beauty moving among men
Is like the wind’s way on the woods below,
Filling all nature where its pathway lies
With arms that supplicate and trembling sighs.
I fancied, while you stood conversing there,
Superb, in every attitude a queen,
Her ermine thus Boadicea bare,
So moved amid the multitude Faustine.
My life, whose whole religion Beauty is,
Be charged with sin if ever before yours
A lesser feeling crossed my mind than his
Who owning grandeur marvels and adores.
Nay, rather in my dream-world’s ivory tower
I made your image the high pearly sill,
And mounting there in many a wistful hour,
Burdened with love, I trembled and was still,
Seeing discovered from that azure height
Remote, untrod horizons of delight.
IT may be for the world of weeds and tares
And dearth in Nature of sweet Beauty’s rose
That oft as Fortune from ten thousand shows
One from the train of Love’s true courtiers
Straightway on him who gazes, unawares,
Deep wonder seizes and swift trembling grows,
Reft by that sight of purpose and repose,
Hardly its weight his fainting breast upbears.
Then on the soul from some ancestral place
Floods back remembrance of its heavenly birth,
When, in the light of that serener sphere,
It saw ideal beauty face to face
That through the forms of this our meaner Earth
Shines with a beam less steadfast and less clear.
Above the ruin of God’s holy place,
Where man-forsaken lay the bleeding rood,
Whose hands, when men had craved substantial food,
Gave not, nor folded when they cried, Embrace,
I saw exalted in the latter days
Her whom west winds with natal foam bedewed,
Wafted toward Cyprus, lily-breasted, nude,
Standing with arms out-stretched and flower-like face.
And, sick with all those centuries of tears
Shed in the penance for factitious woe,
Once more I saw the nations at her feet,
For Love shone in their eyes, and in their ears
Come unto me, Love beckoned them, for lo!
The breast your lips abjured is still as sweet.
Sonnet XVI: Who shall Invoke her
Who shall invoke her, who shall be her priest,
With single rites the common debt to pay?
On some green headland fronting to the East
Our fairest boy shall kneel at break of day.
Naked, uplifting in a laden tray
New milk and honey and sweet-tinctured wine,
Not without twigs of clustering apple-spray
To wreath a garland for Our Lady’s shrine.
The morning planet poised above the sea
Shall drop sweet influence through her drowsing lid;
Dew-drenched, his delicate virginity
Shall scarce disturb the flowers he kneels amid,
That, waked so lightly, shall lift up their eyes,
Cushion his knees, and nod between his thighs.
Thou wert sometime the garden of a king.
The birds have sought a lovelier place to sing.
The flowers are few. It was not so of old.
It was not thus when hand in hand there strolled
Through arbors perfumed with undying Spring
Bare bodies beautiful, brown, glistening,
Decked with green plumes and rings of yellow gold.
Do you suppose the herdsman sometimes hears
Vague echoes borne beneath the moon’s pale ray
From those old, old, far-off, forgotten years?
Who knows? Here where his ancient kings held sway
He stands. Their names are strangers to his ears.
Even their memory has passed away.
The Deserted Garden-
Where from a sunny, mountain-girdled plain
With tinted walls a space on either hand
And fed by many an olive-darkened lane
The high-road mounts, and thence a silver band
Through vineyard slopes above and rolling grain,
Winds off to that dim corner of the skies
Where behind sunset hills a stately city lies.
Here, among trees whose overhanging shade
Strews petals on the little droves below,
Pattering townward in the morning weighed
With greens from many an upland garden-row,
Runs an old wall; long centuries have frayed
Its scalloped edge, and passers to and fro
Heard never from beyond its crumbling height
Sweet laughter ring at noon or plaintive song at night.
But here where little lizards bask and blink
The tendrils of the trumpet-vine have run,
At whose red bells the humming bird to drink
Stops oft before his garden feast is done;
And rose-geraniums, with that tender pink
That cloud-banks borrow from the setting sun,
Have covered part of this old wall, entwined
With fair plumbago, blue as evening heavens behind.
And crowning other parts the wild white rose
Rivals the honey-suckle with the bees.
Above the old abandoned orchard shows
And all within beneath the dense-set trees,
Tall and luxuriant the rank grass grows,
That settled in its wavy depth one sees
Grass melt in leaves, the mossy trunks between,
Down fading avenues of implicated green;
Wherein no lack of flowers the verdurous night
With stars and pearly nebula o’erlay;
Azalea-boughs half rosy and half white
Shine through the green and clustering apple-spray,
Such as the fairy-queen before her knight
Waved in old story, luring him away
Where round lost isles Hesperian billows break
Or towers loom up beneath the clear, translucent lake;
And under the deep grass blue hare-bells hide,
And myrtle plots with dew-fall ever wet,
Gay tiger-lilies flammulate and pied,
Sometime on pathway borders neatly set,
Now blossom through the brake on either side,
Where heliotrope and weedy mignonette,
With vines in bloom and flower-bearing trees,
Mingle their incense all to swell the perfumed breeze,
That sprung like Hermes from his natal cave
In some blue rampart of the curving West,
Comes up the valleys where green cornfields wave,
Ravels the cloud about the mountain crest,
Breathes on the lake till gentle ripples pave
Its placid floor; at length a long-loved guest,
He steals across this plot of pleasant ground,
Waking the vocal leaves to a sweet vernal sound.
Here many a day right gladly have I sped,
Content amid the wavy plumes to lie,
And through the woven branches overhead
Watch the white, ever-wandering clouds go by,
And soaring birds make their dissolving bed
Far in the azure depths of summer sky,
Or nearer that small huntsman of the air,
The fly-catcher, dart nimbly from his leafy lair;
Pillowed at case to hear the merry tune
Of mating warblers in the boughs above
And shrill cicadas whom the hottest noon
Keeps not from drowsy song; the mourning dove
Pours down the murmuring grove his plaintive croon
That like the voice of visionary love
Oft have I risen to seek through this green maze
(Even as my feet thread now the great world’s garden-ways);
And, parting tangled bushes as I passed
Down beechen allies beautiful and dim,
Perhaps by some deep-shaded pool at last
My feet would pause, where goldfish poise and swim,
And snowy callas’ velvet cups are massed
Around the mossy, fern-encircled brim.
Here, then, that magic summoning would cease,
Or sound far off again among the orchard trees.
And here where the blanched lilies of the vale
And violets and yellow star-flowers teem,
And pink and purple hyacinths exhale
Their heavy fume, once more to drowse and dream
My head would sink, from many an olden tale
Drawing imagination’s fervid theme,
Or haply peopling this enchanting spot
Only with fair creations of fantastic thought.
For oft I think, in years long since gone by,
That gentle hearts dwelt here and gentle hands
Stored all this bowery bliss to beautify
The paradise of some unsung romance;
Here, safe from all except the loved one’s eye,
‘Tis sweet to think white limbs were wont to glance,
Well pleased to wanton like the flowers and share
Their simple loveliness with the enamored air.
Thrice dear to them whose votive fingers decked
The altars of First Love were these green ways,
These lawns and verdurous brakes forever flecked
With the warm sunshine of midsummer days;
Oft where the long straight allies intersect
And marble seats surround the open space,
Where a tiled pool and sculptured fountain stand,
Hath Evening found them seated, silent, hand in hand.
When twilight deepened, in the gathering shade
Beneath that old titanic cypress row,
Whose sombre vault and towering colonnade
Dwarfed the enfolded forms that moved below,
Oft with close steps these happy lovers strayed,
Till down its darkening aisle the sunset glow
Grew less and patterning the garden floor
Faint flakes of filtering moonlight mantled more and more.
And the strange tempest that a touch imparts
Through the mid fibre of the molten frame,
When the sweet flesh in early youth asserts
Its heyday verve and little hints enflame,
Disturbed them as they walked; from their full hearts
Welled the soft word, and many a tender name
Strove on their lips as breast to breast they strained
And the deep joy they drank seemed never, never drained.
Love’s soul that is the depth of starry skies
Set in the splendor of one upturned face
To beam adorably through half-closed eyes;
Love’s body where the breadth of summer days
And all the beauty earth and air comprise
Come to the compass of an arm’s embrace,
To burn a moment on impassioned lips
And yield intemperate joy to quivering finger-tips,
They knew; and here where morning-glories cling
Round carven forms of carefullest artifice,
They made a bower where every outward thing
Should comment on the cause of their own bliss;
With flowers of liveliest hue encompassing
That flower that the beloved body is
That rose that for the banquet of Love’s bee
Has budded all the æons of past eternity.
But their choice seat was where the garden wall,
Crowning a little summit, far and near,
Looks over tufted treetops onto all
The pleasant outer country; rising here
From rustling foliage where cuckoos call
On summer evenings, stands a belvedere,
Buff-hued, of antique plaster, overrun
With flowering vines and weatherworn by rain and sun.
Still round the turrets of this antique tower
The bougainvillea hangs a crimson crown,
Wistaria-vines and clematis in flower,
Wreathing the lower surface further down,
Hide the old plaster in a very shower
Of motley blossoms like a broidered gown.
Outside, ascending from the garden grove,
A crumbling stairway winds to the one room above.
And whoso mounts by this dismantled stair
Finds the old pleasure-hall, long disarrayed,
Brick-tiled and raftered, and the walls foursquare
Ringed all about with a twofold arcade.
Backward dense branches intercept the glare
Of afternoon with eucalyptus shade;
Eastward the level valley-plains expand,
Sweet as a queen’s survey of her own Fairyland.
For through that frame the ivied arches make,
Wide tracts of sunny midland charm the eye,
Frequent with hamlet grove, and lucent lake
Where the blue hills’ inverted contours lie;
Far to the east where billowy mountains break
In surf of snow against a sapphire sky,
Huge thunderheads loom up behind the ranges,
Changing from gold to pink as deepening sunset changes;
And over plain and far sierra spread
The fulgent rays of fading afternoon,
Showing each utmost peak and watershed
All clarified, each tassel and festoon
Of floating cloud embroidered overhead,
Like lotus-leaves on bluest waters strewn,
Flushing with rose, while all breathes fresh and free
In peace and amplitude and bland tranquillity.
Dear were such evenings to this gentle pair;
Love’s tide that launched on with a blast too strong
Sweeps toward the foaming reef, the hidden snare,
Baffling with fond illusion’s siren-song,
Too faint, on idle shoals, to linger there
Far from Youth’s glowing dream, bore them along,
With purple sail and steered by seraph hands
To isles resplendent in the sunset of romance.
And out of this old house a flowery fane,
A bridal bower, a pearly pleasure-dome,
They built, and furnished it with gold and grain,
And bade all spirits of beauty hither come,
And wingéd Love to enter with his train
And bless their pillow, and in this his home
Make them his priests as Hero was of yore
In her sweet girlhood by the blue Dardanian shore.
Tree-ferns, therefore, and potted palms they brought,
Tripods and urns in rare and curious taste,
Polychrome chests and cabinets inwrought
With pearl and ivory etched and interlaced;
Pendant brocades with massive braid were caught,
And chain-slung, oriental lamps so placed
To light the lounger on some low divan,
Sunken in swelling down and silks from Hindustan.
And there was spread, upon the ample floors,
Work of the Levantine’s laborious loom,
Such as by Euxine or Ionian shores
Carpets the dim seraglio’s scented gloom.
Each morn renewed, the garden’s flowery stores
Blushed in fair vases, ochre and peach-bloom,
And little birds through wicker doors left wide
Flew in to trill a space from the green world outside.
And there was many a dainty attitude,
Bronze and eburnean. All but disarrayed,
Here in eternal doubt sweet Psyche stood
Fain of the bath’s delight, yet still afraid
Lest aught in that palatial solitude
Lurked of most menace to a helpless maid.
Therefore forever faltering she stands,
Nor yet the last loose fold slips rippling from her hands.
Close by upon a beryl column, clad
In the fresh flower of adolescent grace,
They set the dear Bithynian shepherd lad,
The nude Antinous. That gentle face,
Forever beautiful, forever sad,
Shows but one aspect, moon-like, to our gaze,
Yet Fancy pictures how those lips could smile
At revelries in Rome, and banquets on the Nile.
And there were shapes of Beauty myriads more,
Clustering their rosy bridal bed around,
Whose scented breadth a silken fabric wore
Broidered with peacock hues on creamiest ground,
Fit to have graced the barge that Cydnus bore
Or Venus’ bed in her enchanted mound,
While pillows swelled in stuffs of Orient dyes,
All broidered with strange fruits and birds of Paradise.
‘Twas such a bower as Youth has visions of,
Thither with one fair spirit to retire,
Lie upon rose-leaves, sleep and wake with Love
And feast on kisses to the heart’s desire;
Where by a casement opening on a grove,
Wide to the wood-winds and the sweet birds’ choir,
A girl might stand and gaze into green boughs,
Like Credhe at the window of her golden house.
Or most like Vivien, the enchanting fay,
Where with her friend, in the strange tower they planned,
She lies and dreams eternity away,
Above the treetops in Broceliande,
Sometimes at twilight when the woods are gray
And wolf-packs howl far out across the lande,
Waking to love, while up behind the trees
The large midsummer moon lifts-even so loved these.
For here, their pleasure was to come and sit
Oft when the sun sloped midway to the west,
Watching with sweet enjoyment interknit
The long light slant across the green earth’s breast,
And clouds upon the ranges opposite,
Rolled up into a gleaming thundercrest,
Topple and break and fall in purple rain,
And mist of summer showers trail out across the plain.
Whereon the shafts of ardent light, far-flung
Across the luminous azure overhead,
Ofttimes in arcs of transient beauty hung
The fragmentary rainbow’s green and red.
Joy it was here to love and to be young,
To watch the sun sink to his western bed,
And streaming back out of their flaming core
The vesperal aurora’s glorious banners soar.
Tinging each altitude of heaven in turn,
Those fiery rays would sweep. The cumuli
That peeped above the mountain-tops would burn
Carmine a space; the cirrus-whorls on high,
More delicate than sprays of maiden fern,
Streak with pale rose the peacock-breasted sky,
Then blanch. As water-lilies fold at night,
Sank back into themselves those plumes of fervid light.
And they would watch the first faint stars appear,
The blue East blend with the blue hills below,
As lovers when their shuddering bliss draws near
Into one pulse of fluid rapture grow.
New fragrance on the freshening atmosphere
Would steal with evening, and the sunset glow
Draw deeper down into the wondrous west
Round vales of Proserpine and islands of the blest.
So dusk would come and mingle lake and shore,
The snow-peaks fade to frosty, opaline,
To pearl the doméd clouds the mountains bore,
Where late the sun’s effulgent fire had been
Showing as darkness deepened more and more
The incandescent lightnings flare within,
And Night that furls the lily in the glen
And twines impatient arms would fall, and then—and then . . .
Sometimes the peasant, coming late from town
With empty panniers on his little drove
Past the old lookout when the Northern Crown
Glittered with Cygnus through the scented grove,
Would hear soft noise of lute-strings wafted down
And voices singing through the leaves above
Those songs that well from the warm heart that woos
At balconies in Merida or Vera Cruz.
And he would pause under the garden wall,
Caught in the spell of that voluptuous strain,
With all the sultry South in it, and all
Its importunity of love and pain;
And he would wait till the last passionate fall
Died on the night, and all was still again.
Then to his upland village wander home,
Marvelling whence that flood of elfin song might come.
O lyre that Love’s white holy hands caress,
Youth, from thy bosom welled their passionate lays
Sweet opportunity for happiness
So brief, so passing beautiful—O days,
When to the heart’s divine indulgences
All earth in smiling ministration pays
Thine was the source whose plenitude, past over,
What prize shall rest to pluck, what secret to discover!
The wake of color that follows her when May
Walks on the hills loose-haired and daisy-crowned,
The deep horizons of a summer’s day,
Fair cities, and the pleasures that abound
Where music calls, and crowds in bright array
Gather by night to find and to be found;
What were these worth or all delightful things
Without thine eyes to read their true interpretings!
For thee the mountains open glorious gates,
To thee white arms put out from orient skies,
Earth, like a jewelled bride for one she waits,
Decks but to be delicious in thine eyes,
Thou guest of honor for one day, whose fêtes
Eternity has travailed to devise;
Ah, grace them well in the brief hour they last!
Another’s turn prepares, another follows fast.
Yet not without one fond memorial
Let my sun set who found the world so fair!
Frail verse, when Time the singer’s coronal
Has rent, and stripped the rose-leaves from his hair,
Be thou my tablet on the temple wall!
Among the pious testimonials there,
Witness how sweetly on my heart as well
The miracles of dawn and starry evening fell!
Speak of one then who had the lust to feel,
And, from the hues that far horizons take,
And cloud and sunset, drank the wild appeal,
Too deep to live for aught but life’s sweet sake,
Whose only motive was the will to kneel
Where Beauty’s purest benediction spake,
Who only coveted what grove and field
And sunshine and green Earth and tender arms could yield—
A nympholept, through pleasant days and drear
Seeking his faultless adolescent dream,
A pilgrim down the paths that disappear
In mist and rainbows on the world’s extreme,
A helpless voyager who all too near
The mouth of Life’s fair flower-bordered stream,
Clutched at Love’s single respite in his need
More than the drowning swimmer clutches at a reed—
That coming one whose feet in other days
Shall bleed like mine for ever having, more
Than any purpose, felt the need to praise
And seek the angelic image to adore,
In love with Love, its wonderful, sweet ways
Counting what most makes life worth living for,
That so some relic may be his to see
How I loved these things too and they were dear to me.
I sometimes think a conscious happiness
Mantles through all the rose’s sentient vine
When summer winds with myriad calyces
Of bloom its clambering height incarnadine;
I sometimes think that cleaving lips, no less,
And limbs that crowned desires at length entwine
Are nerves through which that being drinks delight,
Whose frame is the green Earth robed round with day and night.
And such were theirs: the traveller without,
Pausing at night under the orchard trees,
Wondered and crossed himself in holy doubt,
For through their song and in the murmuring breeze
It seemed angelic choirs were all about
Mingling in universal harmonies,
As though, responsive to the chords they woke,
All Nature into sweet epithalamium broke.
And still they think a spirit haunts the place:
‘Tis said, when Night has drawn her jewelled pall
And through the branches twinkling fireflies trace
Their mimic constellations, if it fall
That one should see the moon rise through the lace
Of blossomy boughs above the garden wall,
That surely would he take great ill thereof
And famish in a fit of unexpressive love.
But this I know not, for what time the wain
Was loosened and the lily’s petal furled,
Then I would rise, climb the old wall again,
And pausing look forth on the sundown world,
Scan the wide reaches of the wondrous plain,
The hamlet sites where settling smoke lay curled,
The poplar-bordered roads, and far away
Fair snowpeaks colored with the sun’s last ray.
Waves of faint sound would pulsate from afar
Faint song and preludes of the summer night;
Deep in the cloudless west the evening star
Hung ‘twixt the orange and the emerald light;
From the dark vale where shades crepuscular
Dimmed the old grove-girt belfry glimmering white,
Throbbing, as gentlest breezes rose or fell,
Came the sweet invocation of the evening bell.
There was a boy — not above childish fears —
With steps that faltered now and straining ears,
Timid, irresolute, yet dauntless still,
Who one bright dawn, when each remotest hill
Stood sharp and clear in Heaven’s unclouded blue
And all Earth shimmered with fresh-beaded dew,
Risen in the first beams of the gladdening sun,
Walked up into the mountains. One by one
Each towering trunk beneath his sturdy stride
Fell back, and ever wider and more wide
The boundless prospect opened. Long he strayed,
From dawn till the last trace of slanting shade
Had vanished from the canyons, and, dismayed
At that far length to which his path had led,
He paused — at such a height where overhead
The clouds hung close, the air came thin and chill,
And all was hushed and calm and very still,
Save, from abysmal gorges, where the sound
Of tumbling waters rose, and all around
The pines, by those keen upper currents blown,
Muttered in multitudinous monotone.
Here, with the wind in lovely locks laid bare,
With arms oft raised in dedicative prayer,
Lost in mute rapture and adoring wonder,
He stood, till the far noise of noontide thunder,
Rolled down upon the muffled harmonies
Of wind and waterfall and whispering trees,
Made loneliness more lone. Some Panic fear
Would seize him then, as they who seemed to hear
In Tracian valleys or Thessalian woods
The god’s hallooing wake the leafy solitudes;
I think it was the same: some piercing sense
Of Deity’s pervasive immanence,
The Life that visible Nature doth indwell
Grown great and near and all but palpable . . .
He might not linger, but with winged strides
Like one pursued, fled down the mountain-sides —
Down the long ridge that edged the steep ravine,
By glade and flowery lawn and upland green,
And never paused nor felt assured again
But where the grassy foothills opened. Then,
While shadows lengthened on the plain below
And the sun vanished and the sunset-glow
Looked back upon the world with fervid eye
Through the barred windows of the western sky,
Homeward he fared, while many a look behind
Showed the receding ranges dim-outlined,
Highland and hollow where his path had lain,
Veiled in deep purple of the mountain rain.
- Alan Seeger pomes (Part 01)
- Justify the title of the poem “Holding Hands” For Class Six
- William Blake Poems
- Theme for English B BY LANGSTON HUGHES
- Charles dickens quotes
- Father of English Literature, Prose, Poetry, Novel, Drama