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Swinburne 

A SELECTION BY 
DAME EDITH SIWFIL 

A critical rt -evaluation ot Aljemon 
Charic^ Swinburne's poetry is lorn* over- 
due. Hailed by his contemporaries IP 1 860, 
when he published his tint volume of 

verse, as the "bugler" of a new age in 
poetry he became the center of a storm of 
controversy that continue^ most of his life. 
Overpraised by his friends for his "passion 
and revolt," and overcondemned by his 
enemies as a poet whose sole claim tu fame 
rested on his bizarre lift and the sound 
and fury ot hi words, it has been difficult 
to get at the essential truth of the man, 

For the last thirty years, Swinburne has 
been virtually ignored as a writer, It Is 
significant, therefore, that a famous poet 
in her introductory essay adds literary 
luminosity to a "sweet singer" of the Vic- 
torian age. 

Dame Edith Sitwcil in this anthology 
brings Swinburne's contributions to poetry 
into proper perspective. By including what 
she feels to be some of his most representa- 
tive poems -"A Ballad of Life/' "A Ballad 
of Death," "Madonna Mia," "Lines from 
Anactoria," "The Masque ot Queen Ber- 
sabe," "Atalanta in Qlydt n," "Laus Yen- 
eris," and others si te shows his mastery 
of meter and rhyme, and demonstrates that 
he has something important to say to the 
twentieth century, 

Jacket ie\ign by '\rntu Walker 



821 60-20061 

Swinburne* 

Swinburne, a selection 

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Swinburne $5*75 

Swinburne, a selection 



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SWINBURNE 



SWINBURNE 
A Selection 



COMPILED AND 

WITH AN INTRODUCTION 

BY 

Dame Edith Sitwell 





HARCOURT, BRACE AND COMPANY 

New York 



1960 by Dame Edith Sitwell 

All rights reserved. No part of this look may be reproduced in any 

form or by any mechanical means, including mimeograph and 

tape recorder, without permission in writing from the publisher. 

First American edition 



LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOG CARD NUMBER: 60-12729 
PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN 



This anthology 
is dedicated by the compiler to 

ALBERTO DE LACERDA 

who suggested the making of it 

E.S. 



Contents 



Introduction i 

A BALLAD OF LIFE 53 

A BALLAD OF DEATH 56 

LATJS VENERIS 6O 
TRANSLATIONS FROM THE FRENCH 

OF VILLON I 7<5 
TRANSLATIONS FROM THE FRENCH 

OF VILLON 2 8O 

A LEAVE-TAKING 82 

ITYLUS 84 

THE LEPER 87 

LINES FROM APRIL 93 

MADONNA MIA 94 

A BALLAD OF BURDENS 97 

ILICET 100 

LINES FROM ANACTORIA IO5 

SAPPHICS HO 

HENDECASYLLABICS 1*4 
BEFORE PARTING 



CONTENTS 

THE SUNDEW Il8 

AUGUST I2O 

THE KING'S DAUGHTER 123 

AFTER DEATH 126 

THE SEA-SWALLOWS 129 

A CHRISTMAS CAROL 132 
THE MASQUE OF QUEEN BERSABE 135 

ST DOROTHY 151 

THE TWO DREAMS 166 

THE YEAR OF LOVE ISO 

ESTRILD'S SONG 182 

TRIADS 183 

A LYKE-WAKE SONG 184 

SESTINA 185 

AVE ATQUE VALE 187 

ATALANTA IN CALYDON 195 

Index of first lines 285 



Introduction 



ALGERNON CHARLES SWINBURNE, one of the greatest 
poets England has produced, was born at 7 Chester Street, 
Grosvenor Place, at 5.0 am on the 5th April 1837. He was 
the eldest child of the forty/year/old Charles Henry Swin> 
burne, Captain, and, after his retirement, Admiral in the 
Royal Navy, and the twentyseven/year/old Lady Jane 
Swinburne, n6e Hamilton, daughter of the 3rd Earl of 
Ashburnham. 

It was a strange family for him to be born into not 
because they were aristocrats, a class which has produced, 
among others, that unsurpassable singing flame Sir Philip 
Sidney, one of the greatest lyrical poets in our language, and 
Percy Bysshe Shelley but because the interests of Swin/ 
burne's particular family were entirely absorbed by sport, 
the navy, and the army. 

Father and son were diametrically opposed in character; 
'and it is impossible to escape the conclusion', wrote Swin/ 
burne's latest biographer Mr Humphrey Hare (Swinburne, 
a Biographical Approach, H. F. and G. Witherby Ltd.), 'that 
there was a morbid antagonism between father and son'. 
The latter's childhood cannot, therefore, have been happy, 
and his early youth even less so, as his father, having been 
placed on the reserve in 1857, was, from that time onwards, 
permanently at home. 

However, the Admiral tried, as far as his nature per>- 
mitted, to be just to his son, and even went so far as to make 



INTRODUCTION 

his career as a writer possible, not only by giving him a 
small allowance, but actually by financing the publication 
of his early books. He undoubtedly did his duty, and, in 
later years, when rumours of outstanding riotous behaviour 
reached him, he would swoop down on his son in rescue/ 
raids which had a certain war/like character. 

Swinburne's life at Eton can have been no more happy 
than his home/life. For there, too, he was surrounded by 
entirely alien characters. He undoubtedly caused a good 
deal of amazement, but although other boys would watch 
him, unable to believe their eyes or ears, 'none dreamt*, 
wrote his cousin Lord Redesdale, 'of interfering with him. 
He carried with him one magic charm he was absolutely 
courageous. He did not know what fear meant/ And Sir 
George Young, one of his few friends at Eton, said 'There 
was something a little formidable about him/ 

But to counter the story of the non/hullying of Swinburne 
at school, I must recall to my readers Sir Osbert Sitwell's 
report of a conversation an old gentleman of eighty held 
with him. 'I remember well when I went to Eton/ said the 
old gentleman, 'the head boy called us together, and, point/ 
ing to a little fellow with curly red hair, said, "kick him if 
you are near enough, and if you are not near enough, throw 
a stone at him". I have often wondered what became of him. 
His name was Swinburne/ 

*In a schoolroom only approached by a sort of ladder/ 
wrote Sir Edmund Gosse, 'Swinburne's wild and glowing 
head appeared, one dark morning, very late for school, as 
if out of the floor. . . . The master in charge . . . paused to 
exclaim "Ha! Here's the rising sun at last" / 

The amazement he aroused took many forms. On one 
occasion, when the boys were sentenced to have some 
medicine inflicted on them in order to ward off colds, a 
minute creature with scarlet hair was seen dancing madly 
upon his bed. The matron (or Dame, as these are called at 



INTRODUCTION 

Eton) feared delirium. But she was reassured. 'It's only 
little Swinburne, reciting again.' 

When he was fifteen years old, 'that lad is a flame of 
fire!' one of his grandfather's visitors exclaimed, as the boy 
flashed, hatless, past the windows. 

No truer word was ever spoken. 

What would, with ordinary men, have been his life (his 
only real life was in the writing and reading of poetry) 
seems to have been spent in transports of mental excitement. 
Even as a boy he would, when reading or reciting poetry, 
flutter his hands this being, according to the specialist to 
whom the alarmed Lady Jane took him, 'the result of an 
excess of electric vitality*. 

With his (according to his cousin, afterwards Lord 
Redesdale) 'peculiar dancing step, his hair, like the Zazzera 
of the old Florentines, tossed about by the wind', he raged 
about the world, screaming with ecstasy, shrieking with 
fury, espousing causes (the latter had a bad effect on his 
poetry). 

He must, I think, excepting when writing or reading 
poems, have been acutely unhappy. But perhaps he did not 
even know this, all his blood and spirit having gone to the 
making of poetry. 

Professor Jacques Maritain, writing of Oscar Wilde in 
Art and Poetry, said, 'To put in his life, not in his work, his 

genius as an artist, nothing more absurd than this design 

It is to carry over into a flute the art of the cithera, into a 
bird the law of the snow. His life was only a useless 
phase/ 

This was not so with Swinburne. Poetry alone was his 
existence. 

This extraordinary creature, so astonishing in appearance 
(Henry Adams, in his Autobiography, described him, at 
the age of twenty/five, as resembling *in action ... a tropical 
bird, higlvcrested, long/beaked, quick moving, with rapid 



INTRODUCTION 

utterance and screams of humour, quite unlike any English 
lark or nightingale. One could hardly call him a macaw 
among owls, and yet no ordinary comparison availed*), had 
amongst the most wonderful singing/voices and hands for 
forming poetry of any poet in our language. 

I do not propose to enter into the details of this great 
poet's unhappy life, although there are moments in that life 
the thought of which I cherish such as the occasion when, 
at a house party, Swinburne read aloud *Les Noyades 9 , a 
poem not, perhaps, of the highest propriety, and also, it is 
said, 'The Leper', in the presence of the Archbishop of 
York and the short spell of rime in which he shared a 
house with Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Rossetti and 
George Meredith. 

Mr Humphrey Hare states that Dante Gabriel thought, 
at one moment, of buying an elephant which could be 
trained to clean the windows. 

I was told by a member of the Prinsep family (whose 
lives touched, very closely, the lives of the Pre/Raphaelites) 
that Rossetti did, actually, buy the elephant. One can only 
begin to speculate on the thoughts that must have passed 
through that sagacious animaTs head when, swab in trunk, 
he looked through the drawing/room window and wit' 
nessed (and heard) Swinburne flat on his back on the floor, 
arms outstretched to heaven, shrieking at the top of his 
voice, and D. G. Rossetti, in a perpendicular position 
(hands stretched downwards at his sides in denunciation), 
emitting loud bass roars. 

Life was by no means always peaceful at the house in 
Chelsea which, forming a band in order to share the 
expenses, they, and several of the Pre/Raphaelite group, 
had rented. Meredith was in the habit of preaching sermons 
to Swinburne on the subject of sobriety, and to Dante 
Gabriel on the subject of the necessity of taking exercise in 
order to reduce his figure; and William Morris, who did 



INTRODUCTION 

not live there, but was a constant visitor, was evidently 
oblivious of William Rossetti's intellectual attainments. In 
any case, when he brought round 'Sigurd' as a present to 
Dante Gabriel, the latter said, 'To be honest, Topsy, I can't 
take much interest in a chap whose father was a dragon! 5 
To which Morris replied, 'I don't see it is any worse than 
being a man whose brother is a fool !' 

Both these anecdotes were told me by Sir Edmund Gosse. 

Though Swinburne spent much of his time with the 
Pre/Raphaelites, he was of a different, and far greater, order 
of poets. Their minds were, as D. S. MacColl said of Manet 
in his Nineteenth Century Painting, 'that joyful heedless mind 
of summer, beneath, or above, thought, the intense sensation 
of life, with its lights and colours, coming and going in the 
head'. 

The Pre/Raphaelites were entirely lacking in passion. 
Although Swinburne also had 'the intense sensation of life, 
with its lights and colours, coming and going in the head', 
he was on fire with passion, was, in himself, as much a 
fire as was that brand that ended Meleager's life. But the 
brand that was Swinburne had light, did not crumble into 
ash. 

He was a supreme technician, with an unbelievable mastery 
over sound, and he was a great tragic poet. 

'Is there not', enquired Socrates (Plato: Cratylus), c an 
essence of colour and of sound as of anything else which 
may be said to be an essence 2 . . . And if anyone could 
imitate the essence of each thing in letters and syllables, 
would he not express the nature of each thing?' 

Tt is', wrote Richard Wagner in his book on Beethoven, 
*a matter of experience that, by the side of the world that 
presents itself as visible in waking as well as in dreaming, 
we are conscious of yet another world which manifests itself 
by sound ... a true world of sound by the side of a world 



INTRODUCTION 

of light, of which it may be said that it bears the same 
relation to the latter as dreaming does to waking/ 

It is with this world of sound that these notes, for the 
most part, will deal. 

'It has been experimentally demonstrated', said W. M. N. 
Sullivan (The Bases of Modem Science), 'that light exerts 
pressure on any body on which it falls. This pressure is due 
to the momentum of the moving light energy. It has, also, 
been proved that light has weight/ 

Vowels play the part of light or of darkness consonants 
that of matter having 'the most universal qualities of 
matter . . . such as gravity, cohesion, rigidity, sensitiveness 
to light*.* Consonants therefore seem, often, to be soaked 
with light or with darkness. 

Again, with regard to the relationship of consonants and 
vowels, it might, perhaps, be said that the vowels are the 
spirit, the consonants and labials the physical identity, with 
all the variations of harshness, hairiness, coldness, rough/ 
ness, smoothness, etc. (Dante wrote of words being 
'shaggy* or 'buttered*, 'combed* or 'hairy') the consonants 
therefore are 'the garment of the spirit, thus distinguished, 
marked off and announced ... to the outer world [as] the 
animal by the skin, the tree by the bark*. (Wagner : Opera 
and Drama, Vol. II, Prose Works: trans. W. A. Ellis.) 

Consonants shape ; they do not affect time as do vowels. 
Although vowels have also their place, position, depth and 
height, they do not give body. 

Francis Bacon, in Century I of his Natural History, wrote 
'Waters, in the noise they make as they run, represent to the 
air a trembling noise . . . which trembling as of water hath 
an affinity with the letter L/ 

Swinburne had a great mastery over these liquid sounds, 
witness the fourth line in the first verse of the Chorus, 
'When the hounds of spring are on winter's traces*, in 

* Schopenhauer: Tfie World as Will and Idea. 



INTRODUCTION 

Atalanta in Calydon, where, by the change to the sharp 
external and internal R's used throughout the verse, from 
the water/trembling sound of L's in 'lisp of leaves* he seems, 
actually, to reproduce the sound of rain. 

Paul Valery, in his Poets Notebook, wrote '. . . towards the 
middle of the nineteenth century, we see asserting itself in 
our literature a remarkable will to isolate Poetry once for 
all from every essence but itself. . . . Ordinary spoken Ian/ 
guage is a practical tool. It is constantly revolving immediate 
problems. Its task is fulfilled when each sentence has been 
completely abolished, annulled, and replaced by its mean/ 
ing. Comprehension is its end. But on the other hand, 
poetic usage is dominated by personal conditions, by a con/ 
scious, continuous, and sustained musical feeling. 

'Moreover, these conditions usually combine with a care/ 
ful observance of various technical conventions, whose 
effect is constantly to remind the versifier that he is not 
moving within the system of vulgar speech, but in another 
quite distinct system. 

'Here language is no longer a transitive act, an expedient. 
On the contrary it has its own value, which must remain 
intact, in spite of the operations of the intellect on its given 
propositions. Poetic language must preserve itself through 
itself, and remain the same, not to be altered by the act of 
intelligence that finds or gives it a meaning/ 

In the same work, Valery wrote 'Thought must be 
hidden in verse like the nutritive essence in fruit. It is 
nourishing but seems to be merely delicious. One perceives 
pleasure only, but one receives a substance. Enchantment, 
that is the nourishment it contains/ 

The ideal of 'isolating poetry once for all from every 
essence but itself' is found in the Pre/Raphaelites. 

But, at the same time, these men, and that far greater poet 
Swinburne, were born at a time when commonsense 



INTRODUCTION 

reigned, or rather presided over, poetry. There is no such 
commonsense to be found in Swinburne. 

Professor Jacques Maritain, writing of Plato and Poetry*, 
said *He never tires of praising mania, or that enthusiasm 
which abolishes thought. . . . And he expresses a firm 
and reasoned/out conviction . . . that commonsense is the 
greatest obstacle to poetry, and that neither concepts nor 
logic nor rational knowledge have any part in it. And not 
only the poets, but their listeners also, not only the poem, 
but also the delight, and the contact with beauty that it 
brings us, depend on an inspiration superior to reason/ 

Plato did not mean, Professor Maritain did not mean, 
and I, in quoting the latter, do not mean that thought is un/ 
necessary to poetry. What is meant is that the everyday 
commonplace life of the world is not only unnecessary, but 
fatal to great poetry. 

Not only was Swinburne born at a rime when common/ 
sense was the most admired of qualities, but also at a rime 
when a hideous insensirivity to sound (coming after the 
glories of Coleridge, Keats and Shelley) an insensirivity 
which, no doubt, was the result in part of the toil/stricken 
noises, or the wish to escape from these, of industrial 
England was the order of the day. 

This hideous insensirivity had even, indeed, preceded the 
toil/stricken era. 

At the rime when Swinburne's splendours broke upon 
the world, the public had been completely deafened by such 
'horrible and heartrending cacophonies' (to quote Saints/ 
bury on the subject, not of Burns, the author of the following 
outrage, but of Mrs Browning) as this : 

O raging fortune's withering blast 
Has laid my leaf full low! O 

* Creative Intuition in Aft and Poetry. Harvill Press. 

8 



INTRODUCTION 

O raging fortune's withering blast 

Has laid my leaf full low! O. 
My stem was fair, my bud was green, 

My blossom sweet did blow ; O 
The dew fell fresh, the sun rose mild, 

And made my branches grow; O. 
But luckless fortune's northern storms 

Laid a 9 my blossoms low, O 
But luckless fortune's northern storms 

Laid a' my blossoms low, O ! 

Let us compare this hideous rumpus with the second line 
of this stanza from *Laus Veneris*: 

Ah yet would God this flesh of mine might be 
Where air might wash and long leaves cover me. 

Where tides of grass break into foam of flowers, 
Or where the wind's feet shine along the sea. 

This, with its stretching sound of c where air' and the sound 
of long leaves', prolonging the line, could only have been 
produced by a great technician. (The assonances of Vhere 
air' are of a faintly different length.) 

So deafened were the public by Burns' singularly unfbr/ 
tunate verse, and by other horrors, that they were unhearing 
of Swinburne's transcendental music. They were willing to 
take shelter from the blasts of the meaningless, breath/ 
destroying O's used by Burns in the above verse, with the 
shrunken, teetering, wriggling, oily productions, or powder/ 
dry concoctions, the synthetic tears (every tear concealing a 
snigger), of Austin Dobson, who was Swinburne's junior 
by three years, and who was guilty of such lines as these, 
culled from an embarrassing work called 'Good/night, 
Babette'. 

B 9 



INTRODUCTION 
M. Vieuxbois 
Where have you been? 

Babette 

Why, M'sieu knows : 
April ! . . . Ville d'Avray . . . Ma'amselle Rose ! 

M. Vieuxbois 
Ah, I am old and I forget, 
Was the place growing green, Babette? 

Babette 

But of a greenness! Yes, M'sieu! 
And then the sky so blue so blue ! 
And when I dropped my immortelle 
How the birds sang ! 

(Lifting her apron to her eyes) 
This poor Ma'amselle. 

The rest of this baby/talk is just as nauseating. 

It is not surprising, therefore, that people stuffed with this 
cheap confectionery were unaware of the fire^music, the 
bird/music of Swinburne, or those lines which, as he said 
of Rossetti (but the phrase is far more applicable to his own 
poetry), are 'sinuous as water or as light, flexible and 
penetrative, delicate and rapid** 

The same hideous insensitiveness to sound prevails at 
this time. Somebody, writing of Thomas Nashe recently, 
referred to *. . . the celebrated verses with the line now 
amended to: 

"Brightness falls from the bar" * 

[Italics mine]. 

10 



INTRODUCTION 

Really! Amended by whom, may I ask? Nashe was, after 
all, a poet. Is it likely that he would have bothered to write 
down that dreary platitudes 

Also we should remember this phrase from Longinus* 
'On the Sublime', 'Beautiful words are the very and 
peculiar light of the mind*. 

The unfortunate general public must be greatly 
bewildered I 

A gentleman named Robin Skelton, for instance, writing 
admiringly of certain new proletarian versifiers, declared 
'The language they use is hard and strong as the pavements 
on which they walk, and as vigorous and direct as the 
people they live with/ 

He then quotes 

Molly Vickers 

Wets her knickers 

Georgie's father's big and black. 

Cream on Sunday, 

Milk on Monday, 

I'm the cock of all the back. 

While the public is taught to take this seriously, or such 
lines as these : 

Is it, when paper roses make us sneeze, 
A mental or a physical event? 

and while they are assured seriously by a critic, Mr F. W. 
Bateson, in a book called English Poetry, that poetry is, *in 
its essence, simply a part, in some respects a culmination, of 
the process of social living, one of those things like law 
abidingness, and politeness, voting at a General Election, 
or reading the newspaper' there is not much hope that 



II 



INTRODUCTION 

poetry as an art, the sound of poetry as an art, will reach 
them, much less be understood. 

In Under the Microscope, Swinburne spoke of c the confv 
dence with which men who have no sense whatever of 
verbal music, will pronounce judgment on the subtlest 
question relating to that form of art. A man whose ear is 
conscious of no difference between Offenbach and Beet' 
hoven does not usually stand up as a judge of instrumental 
music : but there is no ear so hirsute ... so pointed or so 
long, that its hearer will not feel himself qualified to pass 
sentence on the musical rank of any poet's verse, the relative 
range of his metrical power or skill.* 

Swinburne's great metrical powers were, during his life/ 
time, and are at this time, subjected to much abuse. 

Mr Ezra Pound, who has written more finely than any 
other poet, any other critic, of Swinburne, said 'No one else 
has made such music in English, I mean has made his kind 
of music, and it is a music which will compare with 
Chaucer's "Hide Absolam thy gilte tresses clere" or with 
any other maker you like/ 

There are two kinds of great poetry. There is that which 
M, Marcel Raymond, in De Baudelaire au Surrealisme (one 
of the most important books qC criticism written iu our 
time), called Talckimie poetique . /!" ces^rehcontres fulgurantes\de 
vocables quebranlent I'etre d'un coup comme I'ekctriate du R.eel\ 

Swinburne was a poet of* r alchimie poetise' . 

The other kind of great poet is that of which Valery 
wrote, in L* Introduction a la Methode: *Dans tout les vers 
reside une profonde note de ^existence qui dome, des qu'on I'lcoute, 
toutes les complications des conditions et des varietes de ^existence.* 

The ^existence quotidienne 9 with its complications and 
varieties we shall not find in Swinburne. 

The light by which he worked was an unappeasable fire. 

I think he suffered greatly: *I live on my death/ said 
Michelangelo (quoted by Adrian Stokes), 'and he who 

12 



INTRODUCTION 

does not know how to live on anxiety and death, let him 
come into the fire in which I am consumed/ 

His was the alchemy of the word. 

Paul Valery said, of Victor Hugo, 'Often with him the 
development of a poem is visibly deduced from a wonderful 
accident of language that has occurred in his mind*. 

Mr John Press, in his remarkable book The Fire and the 
Fountain, after speaking of the experiences of Tennyson and 
Yeats, wrote 'We begin to understand that the genesis of a 
poem may be a single word, a group of words, or even a 
particular rhythm in which no individual words are clearly 
distinguishable. Such an idea is, indeed, quite incompre^ 
hensible if we think that a poem is the translation of a 
thought or of an emotion into words, but there is a great 
deal of evidence which suggests that this process of transla/ 
tion does not always take place, and that a poem may 
unfold like a flower from the bud of a single word/ 

With Swinburne the generation was usually from a 
rhythm. 

'Let the candidate [he who would become a poet] 5 , wrote 
Mr Pound, 'fill his mind with the finest cadences he can 
discover, preferably in a foreign language, so that the mean' 
ing of the words may be less likely to divert his attention 
from the movement/ 

This statement will, of course, evoke a loud howl from 
persons who know nothing of poetry, or of the means by 
which poetry is generated. 

Mr Pound did not mean, and I, in quoting him, do not 
mean, that poetry should be devoid of sense. But just as it 
is of no use for a person, no matter how beautiful his soul 
may be, to play the piano if he has no gift for playing the 
piano, and has never troubled to learn how to do so, it is 
useless for persons to try to write poetry unless they have 
practised it technically. 

To pretend that Swinburne's poems are devoid of thought 

13 



INTRODUCTION 

is unspeakably ridiculous witness the transcendentally 
great choruses of *Atalanta in Calydon 9 and these verses 
from 'Felise', a poem not given in the body of the book 
because it was not, throughout, amongst his most perfect, 
but which contains great beauties. 



Kiss me once hard as though a flame 
Lay on my lips and made them fire ; 

The same lips now, and not the same ; 
What breath shall fill and re^inspire 
A dead desire? 

The old song sounds hollower in mine ear 
Than thin keen sounds of dead men's speech 

A noise one hears and would not hear ; 
Too strong to die, too weak to reach 
From wave to beach. 

We stand on either side the sea, 

Stretch hands, blow kisses, laugh and lean 
I toward you, you toward me ; 

But what hears either save the keen 

Grey sea between? 

A year divides us, love from love, 

Though you love now, though I loved then. 
The gulf is strait, but deep enough; 

Who shall recross, who among men 

Shall cross again? 



So this thing is, and must be so ; 
For man dies, and love also dies. 

14 



INTRODUCTION 

Though yet love's ghost moves to and fro 
The sea-green mirrors of your eyes, 
And laughs, and lies. 

Eyes coloured like a water^flower, 

And deeper than the green sea's glass ; 

Eyes that remember one sweet hour 
In vain we swore it should not pass ; 
In vain, alas ! 

Ah my Felise, if love or sin, 

If shame or fear could hold it fast, 

Should we not hold it 2 Love wears thin, 
.And they laugh well who laugh the last. 
Is it not past? 

The gods, the gods are stronger ; time 
Falls down before them, all men's knees 

Bow, all men's prayers and sorrows climb 
Like incense towards them ; yea, for these 
Are gods, Felise. 

Immortal are they, clothed with powers, 

Not to be comforted at all ; 
Lords over all the fruitless hours ; 

Too great to appease, too high to appal, 

Too far to call. 

For none shall move the most high gods, 
"Who are most sad, being cruel; none 

Shall break or take away the rods 

Wherewith they scourge us, not as one 
That smites a son. 

15 



INTRODUCTION 

By many a name of many a creed 

We have called upon them, since the sands 
Fell through time's hour-glass first, a seed 

Of life; and out of many lands 

Have we stretched hands. 



When have they heard us ? who hath known 
Their faces, climbed unto their feet, 

Felt them and found them? Laugh or groan, 
Doth heaven remurmur and repeat 
Sad sounds or sweets 



Do the stars answer? in the night 
Have ye found comfort? or by day 

Have ye seen gods ? What hope, what light, 
Falls from the farthest starriest way 
On you that pray? 



Are the skies wet because we weep 

Or fair because of any mirth? 
Cry out; they are gods ; perchance they sleep ; 

Cry; thou shalt know what prayers are worth, 

Thou dust and earth. 



O earth, thou art fair ; O dust, thou art great ; 

O laughing lips and lips that mourn, 
Pray, till ye feel the exceeding weight 

Of God's intolerable scorn, 

Not to be borne. 



'It is sometimes said', Swinburne wrote in his essay on 

16 



INTRODUCTION 

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 'that a man may have a strong and 
perfect style who has nothing to convey worth conveyance 
under cover of It. This is indeed a favourite saying of men 
who have no words in which to convey the thoughts which 
they have not, of men born dumb who express by grunts 
and cliches the inexpressible eloquence which is not in 
them, and would fain seem to labour in miscarriage of ideas 
which they have never conceived. But it remains for them 
to prove as well as assert that beauty and power of expression 
can accord with emptiness or sterility of matter, or that 
impotence of articulation must imply depth and wealth of 
thought/ 

At his best, at his greatest, Swinburne was a poet who 
produced the pure essence of poetry. 

Professor Maritain, in Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry, 
wrote*: 

'. . . it might be said, it seems to me, that that element in 
beauty which is integrity has principally to do with poetic 
intuition as objectivizing itself into the action or the theme, 
whereas that element which is radiance has principally to do 
with its native and original state. Hence it is that poetic 
intuition may happen to appear with striking radiance even 
in a poem lacking in integrity, and such splintered frag/ 
ments, transparent to the rays of being, may be enough to 
reveal the pure essence of poetry. For nothing is more 
precious than a capture on the high seas of poetry, be it 
offered in a single line : 

L'espoir luit comme un brin de paille dam I'etaUe. 

(Verlaine in 'L'espoire luit'. Sagesse) 

O thou steeled cognizance whose leap commits 
The agile precincts of the lark's return. 

(Crane in Atalanta: The Bridge) 
* Pages 134 and 135. 

17 



INTRODUCTION 

Odour of blood when Christ was slain 
Made all Platonic tolerance vain. 

(Yeats in Two Songs from a Play.) 

Professor Maritain continues : * And I shall always prefer 
a haikai [? E.S.] if it has this kind of transparency, to a 
big noisy machine deafening me with ideas/ 

Swinburne's exquisite songs are of this transparency. 
Single lines float towards us and remain in our memory. 
(Of these songs I shall write later.) But his greatest poem, 
'Atalanta in Calydon', has complete unity. The beings in 
it are phantoms from Thebes or Cyclopean cities, yet have 
tides of blood beating in their veins. But with this unity, the 
tremendous choruses mankind voicing its despair, defying 
an unhearing heaven have, as Nietzsche said of the birth 
of tragedy, 'The rapture of the Dionysian state, the annihila/ 
tion of the ordinary bounds and limits of existence*. 

The sounds, in Swinburne's most wonderful works to 
quote from Francis Bacon's Naturall History seem to be 
'Emissions of Beames from the Object seen; almost like 
Odours, save that they are more incorporeal!'. 

There are but few influences of the poetry of the past to be 
found in Swinburne. An echo of Marlowe in *St Dorothy', 
and, in such poems as *A Ballad of Life', in which he wore 
his 'golden singing^coat', there is a certain inheritance from 
that great poet Gavin Douglas witness these lines from 
Douglas's King Hart I (XLVIIILIU}: 

The courrines all of gold about the bed 
Weill stentit* was, quhair fair Dame Plesaunce lay; 
Than new Desyr, als gredie as ane gledef 
Come rinnand in, and made ane grit deray. 

* Stentit, drawn. f Glede, kite. 

18 



INTRODUCTION 

* Yeild you, madame' grene Lust culd say all sone : 
'And fairlie sail we governe you and youris, 
Our Lord King Hards will most now be done, 
Thay yet is law among the bouris/* 

The relationship is distant, but I think it exists. 

But, for the most part, he is a tragic poet. 'Walking 5 , as 
Blake said of himself (in 'Marriage of Heaven and Hell'), 
'among the fires of Hell, delighted with the enjoyments of 
genius, which to Angels look like torments and insanity', 
he had, technically, at his greatest to quote once more 
from Blake, but from a different work 'Satan's mathe/ 
matic Holiness, Length, Bredth and Heighth'. 

It was, perhaps, the flawless majesty of the poem 'Faus/ 
tine 5 in which the only variation is produced by the change 
from the bright sounds of the second syllable of 'Faustine 9 
and its absolute rhymes, and the recurring dimming dissonx 
ances of 'kiss*, 'sin*, *win', 'therein', etc. that caused, 
according to Saintsbury, a certain German critic to accuse 
Swinburne of monotony. The answer to that charge is the 
infinite variation to be found in 'Atalanta in Calydon 5 , 
where, at times, the speeches flicker to and fio like flames. 

The lack of variation in the line^endings of 'Faustine* 
give it, in part, its majesty. 

Swinburne, often as great a critic as he was a poet, wrote 
in Essays and Studies, 'Variety is a rare and high quality; 
but poets of the first order have had little or none of it, 
witness Keats and Coleridge 9 . [Shakespeare, perhaps, was 
the great exception E.S.] 

But Swinburne had great metrical variety. He had, at 
moments, what Sir Kenneth Clark, writing of Leonardo 
da Vinci's 'Leda* in his book on The Nude, called 'a 
tropical redundancy of rhythm*. This and it is very lovely 

* Bouris, chambers. 

19 



INTRODUCTION 

is to be found in such poems as 'The Two Dreams 5 . At 
other moments his rhythms were as hard, the texture as 
dark, as porphyry. An example of the latter is 'Faustine', 
which is a miracle of technique throughout, and a great 
tragic poem. 

The stanzas I am about to quote are, I think, as great as 
anything to be found in c Laus Veneris'. The poem belongs 

to the mineral kingdom, 'fexiste toujours comme le basalte 

C'est un homme ou unepiene qui commence le . . . chant ?* (Chants 
de Maldoror.} 

Stanzas from 'Faustine 3 
Ave Faustina Imperatrix, morituri te salutant. 

Lean back, and get some minutes' peace ; 

Let your head lean 
Back to the shoulder with its fleece 

Of locks, Faustine. 

The shapely silver shoulder stoops, 

Weighed over clean 
With state of splendid hair that droops 

Each side, Faustine. 

Let me go over your good gifts 

That crown you queen; 
A queen whose kingdom ebbs and shifts 

Each week, Faustine. 

Bright heavy brows well gathered up : 

White gloss and sheen ; 
Carved lips that make my lips a cup 

To drink, Faustine. 

20 



INTRODUCTION 

"Wine and rank poison, milk and blood, 

Being mixed therein 
Since first the devil threw dice with God 

For you, Faustine. 

Your naked newborn soul, their stake, 

Stood blind between; 
God said 'let him that wins her take 

And keep Faustine*. 

But this time Satan throve, no doubt ; 

Long since, I ween, 
God's part in you was battered out ; 

Long since, Faustine. 

The die rang sideways as it fell, 

Rang cracked and thin, 
Like a man's laughter heard in hell 

Far down, Faustine. 

A. shadow of laughter like a sigh, 

Dead sorrow's kin; 
So rang, thrown down, the devil's die 

That won Faustine. 

A. suckling of his breed you were, 

One hard to wean ; 
But God, who lost you, left you fair, 

"We see, Faustine. 

You have the face that suits a woman 

For her soul's screen 
The sort of beauty that's called human 

In hell, Faustine. 



INTRODUCTION 

You could do all things but be good 

Or chaste of mien ; 
And that you would not if you could, 

We know, Faustine. 

Even he who cast seven devils out 

Of Magdalene 
Could hardly do as much, I doubt, 

For you, Faustine. 

Did Satan make you to spite God ? 

Or did God mean 
To scourge with scorpions for a rod 

Our sins, Faustine 3 



Your drenched loose hands were stretched to hold 

The vine's wet green, 
Long ere they coined in Roman gold 

Your face, Faustine. 



Stray breaths of Sapphic song that blew 

Through Mitylene 
Shook the fierce quivering blood in you 

By night, Faustine. 

The shameless nameless love that makes 

Hell's iron gin 
Shut on you like a trap that breaks 

The soul, Faustine. 

22 



INTRODUCTION 

And when your veins were void and dead, 

"What ghosts unclean 
Swarmed round the straitened barren bed 

That hid Faustine 2 



sterile growths of sexless root 
Or epicine? 

What flower of kisses without fruit 
Of love, Faustine? 

What adders came to shed their coats 5 

W^hat coiled obscene 
Small serpents with soft stretching throats 

Caressed Faustine ? 



But the time came of famished hours. 

Maimed loves and mean, 
This ghastly thin^faced time of ours, 

To spoil Faustine. 

You seem a thing that hinges hold, 
A. love^machine 

With clockwork joints of supple gold- 
No more, Faustine. 

Not godless, for you serve one God, 

The Lampsacene, 
Who metes the gardens with his rod ; 

Your lord, Faustine. 



INTRODUCTION 

That clear hair heavily bound back, 

The lights wherein 
Shift from dead blue to burnt^up black ; 

Your throat, Faustine, 

Strong, heavy, throwing out the face 

And hard bright chin 
And shameful scornful lips that grace 

Their shame, Faustine. 

Curled lips, long since half kissed away, 

Still sweet and keen ; 
You'd give him poison shall we say 5 

Or what, Faustine? 

In the body of the book I have included the two superb 
translations from Villon, rather than the whole of Faustine, 
since they are less well known. 

'Whatever has black sounds, has "duende" * Manuel 
Torres, *a man of exemplary blood/culture', uttered 'this 
splendid phrase' to Frederico Garcia Lorca.* Garcia adds 
'These black sounds are the mystery, the roots that probe 
through the mire that we all know of, and do not under' 
stand, but which furnish us with whatever is sustaining in 
art.' 

The mire, perhaps, is only another word for the blood 
and this duende sounds in Faustine. 

Sometimes, although rarely, his transcendental technique 
would, in his less great poems, run away with him. And 
then his rhythms gallop, or he uses rocking-horse 
rhythms, yet at the same time, he is bound by iron fetters. 
He cannot descend from the horse until the horse is tired ; 
nor can he leave the rocking/horse until the latter comes to 
a stop of its own volition. (Werner Jaeger, in 'Paidezza*, 

* Appendices to A Poet in New York, translated by Ben Belet. Thames 
and Hudson. 

24 



INTRODUCTION 

translated by Gilbert Hignet, speaks of Prometheus in 
Aeschylus' tragedy, who is chained immovably in iron 
fetters, and who says *I am bound here in this rhythm 5 .) 
'Dolores', in my opinion a bad poem, had a rocking/horse 
for Pegasus. 

Professor Maritain said, in Art and Poetry* 'Beauty has 
not come to the end of its submission to the shameful 
ascendancy of the God Aesthetics taken as the ultimate end 
of human life. The interminable, incoercible, appalling 
laugh of Oscar Wilde consigning a man to sin [Professor 
Maritain's note c.f. Andre Gide Si le gum m mewl] still 
passes like a voluble cry over our arts. It is this that freezes 
them in their frenzy.* 

And 'Dolores' is frozen. 

Isidore Ducasse, in his Preface to his Poems, wrote 'Ouij 
je veux prodaimer le beau sur une lyre d'or, defalcation faite des 
tristesses goitreuse et des fertes stupides qui decomposed, & sa 
source, la poesie marecageuse de ce siecle*. 

Swinburne's detractors cannot be blamed for disliking 
this poem. It is not, however, *de la potsie marecageuse*, but 
hard as hell. 

He was a supreme master of rhyme. 

Walt Whitman, in his Preface to Leaves of Grass, wrote 
'the profit of rhyme is that it drops seeds of sweeter and 
more luxuriant rhyme ; and of uniformity that it conveys 
itself into its own roots in the ground out of sight. The 
rhyme and uniformity of perfect poems show the free growth 
of metrical laws, and bud from them as unerringly and 
loosely as lilacs or roses on a bush, and take shapes as com/ 
pact as the shapes of chestnuts and oranges and melons and 
pears, and shed the perfume impalpable to form 5 . 

So it is with Swinburne's finest rhymed poems. 

In his great poems, the rhythms are never superimposed, 
f Editions Poetry, London. Nicholson and Watson. 

c 25 



INTRODUCTION 

Superimposed rhythms and superimposed rhymes had an 
unfortunate effect on him, as in these lines from 'Satia Te 
Sanguine* : 

If you loved me ever so little, 
I could bear the bonds that gall, 

I could dream the bonds were brittle; 
You do not love me at all. 

This is deeply unfortunate ; and I cannot imagine how so 
great a master of verbal music could have brought himself 
to write it. 

Superimposed rhymes sounds not arising from the 
necessities of the subject produced such inferior verses as 
this, from 'Before the Mirror* (written under a picture and 
inscribed to Whistler) : 

White rose in red rose/garden 

Is not so white ; 
Snow/drops that plead for pardon 

And pine for fright 
Because the hard East blows 
Over their maiden rows 

Grow not as this face grows 

from pale to bright. 

'Snowdrops that plead for pardon' was put there because of 
the rhyme, and is just silly. Pardon from whom 5 Pardon 
for what? 

Nor, I think, did this poem convey the atmosphere of 
the picture. There is not the usual Emission of Beames* 
characteristic of all his greater poems, whether long or short. 

This poem is too corporeal. 

Arthur Symons, a great, but now almost forgotten critic, 
said that Whistler gave 'aspects of people and things on 
which a butterfly seems to have left a little of its coloured 
dust as it alights and pauses. . . . They have their brief 

26 



INTRODUCTION 

coloured life like butterflies, and with the same momen/ 
tary perfection. . . .' (Studies in Seven Arts). And he spoke 
of *A white which is the soul of a colour, caught and fixed 
there by some incalculable but precisely coloured magic. 
It ends, of course, by being the ghost of a colour . . . but all 
things end, when their particular life is over, by becoming 
the ghost of a colour/ 

In this particular poem, there is no ghost of a colour. 

Swinburne's use of female endings was frequently 
wonderful. But what are we to think of the following verse 
from *The Triumph of Time 9 2 

I shall never be friends again with roses ; 

I shall loathe sweet tunes, where a note grown strong 
Relents and recoils, and climbs and closes, 

As a wave of the sea turned back by song. 
There are sounds where the soul's delight takes fire, 
Face to face with its own desire ; 
A delight that rebels, a desire that reposes ; 

I shall hate sweet music my whole life long. 

This poem has been much admired, and has been included 
in many anthologies. I think it gives no indication of the 
greatness of this poet. It contains, however, the following 
stanza, which has a certain beauty: 

There lived a singer in France of old 
By the tideless dolorous midland sea. 

In a land of sand and ruin and gold 

There shone one woman, and none but she. 

And finding life for her love's sake fail, 

Being fain to see her, he bade set sail, 

Touched land, and saw her as life grew cold, 
And praised God, seeing ; and so died he. 

As regards line'endings, the use of the word 'roses' in the 

27 



INTRODUCTION 

plural had an unfortunate effect on his poetry, prosodically, 
as In the first four lines of *A Ballad of Dreamland' : 

I hid my heart in a nest of roses, 
Out of the sun's way, hidden apart; 

In a softer bed than the soft white snow's is, 
Under the roses I hid my heart. 

Here, not only is the poet upon his rocking/horse, but the 
sounds of 'roses' "snow's is' 'roses', put so closely together, 
give the verse a huddled, cramped feeling. 

But after the first four lines, the poem recovers itself, and 
is very beautiful. 

Why would it sleep not? why should it start, 
When never a leaf of the rose/tree stirred? 

What made sleep flutter his wings and part? 
Only the song of a secret bird. 

Lie still, I said, for the wind's wing closes, 

And rnild leaves muffle the keen sun's dart ; 
Lie still, for the wind on the warm sea dozes, 

And the wind is unquieter yet than thou art. 

Does a thought in thee still as a thorn's wound smart ? 
Does the fang still fret thee of hope deferred? 

What bids the lids of thy sleep dispart? 
Only the song of a secret bird. 

The green land's name that a charm encloses, 

It never was writ in the traveller's chart, 
And sweet on its trees as the fruit that grows is, 

It never was sold in the merchant's mart. 

The swallows of dreams through its dim fields dart, 
And sleep's are the tunes in its tree/tops heard ; 

No hound's note wakens the wildwood hart, 
Only the song of a secret bird. 

28 



INTRODUCTION 

Envoi 

In the world of dreams I have chosen my part. 

To sleep for a season and hear no word 
Of true love's truth or of light love's art, 

Only the song of a secret bird. 

(The origin, the germ of the poem was, Swinburne said, 
the line 'Only the song of a secret bird', by which he was 
haunted.) 

One reason for the failure of the first four lines is, I think, 
the slipping, sliding Y sounds 'snow's is* used as a line/ 
ending. 

The varied uses Swinburne has made of alliteration and 
assonances, is largely responsible for the beauty of the rest 
of the poem. 

When, as in the last stanza of 'A Ballad of Life', Swin/ 
burne does not use the word 'roses' as a line/end, he pro/ 
duces marvels : 

Forth, balad, and take roses in both arms, 

Even till the top rose touch thee in the throat 
Where the least thornprick harms ; 

And girdled in thy golden singing/coat, 
Come thou before my lady and say this ; 
Borgia, thy gold hair's colour burns in me, 

Thy mouth makes beat my blood in feverish 

rhymes ; 
Therefore so many as these roses be, 

Kiss me so many times. 
Then it may be, seeing how sweet she is, 
That she will stoop herself none otherwise 

Than a blown vine/branch doth, 
And kiss thee with soft laughter on thine eyes, 

Ballad, and on thy mouth. 

As Mr Pound wrote, 'The splendid lines mount up in 

29 



INTRODUCTION 

one's memory, and overwhelm any minute restrictions of 
one's praise*. 

In 'Rosamond 5 , the first drama Swinburne finished after 
his boyhood (it was begun in 18575 then torn up, revised, 
put aside again, and not completed until 1860), there are 
Hnes foreshadowing, though how faintly ! the last transcen/ 
dental stanza of *A Ballad of Life' : 

God help ! Your hair burns to me like gold 
Burnt to pure heat, your colour seen turns In me 
To pain and plague upon the temple vein 
That aches as if the sun's heat snapt the blood 
In hot tnid/measure. 

To return to Swinburne's rose/theme (not used as a line/ 
end), in the following lines from 'The Two Dreams', the 
word 'roses' produces a certain softness in the midst of the 
long and poignant assonances 'grate', 'daily', 'rain', 'deep', 
'weeks*, 'green 9 , 'leaves', used with an uttermost perfection: 

She, where a gold grate shut the roses in, 
Dwelt daily through deep summer weeks, through 

green 
Flushed hours of rain upon the leaves ; 

Another use of the rose/theme occurs in this transcendental 
passage from 'Anactoria' (one of the greatest of his poems, 
however much, if we except the memory of the poet who 
was Its theme, we may regret certain lines in the body of the 
poem) : 

Thee too the years shall cover ; thou shalt be 
As the rose born of one same blood with thee, 
As a song sung, as a word said, and fall 
Flower/wise, and be not any more at all, 
Nor any memory of thee anywhere; 
For never Muse has bound above thine hair 

30 



INTRODUCTION 

The high Pierian flower whose graft outgrows 
The summer kinship of the mortal rose. 

Dryden, in his Dedication to the ^Smeid, said 'Dampier 
has informed us, in his Voyages, that the air of the country 
which produces gold is never wholesome/ 

I have a strong dislike of the unwholesome air of 'Henna/ 
phroditus' (the air of a country which never produced gold). 

The air surrounding the poem *Anactoria J a land in 
which we may find much gold is, at times, extremely 
unwholesome. I have omitted such parts of it (both from 
the body of the book and this Preface) of which this can be 
said, since leaving all else aside they add nothing to the 
beauty of the poem. But such lines as I have given are 
wonderful, flawless poetry, as when Sappho, speaking of 
Venus, says 

Nay, sweet, for is she God alone 2 hath she 
Made earth and all the centuries of the sea, 
Taught the sun ways to travel, woven most fine 
The moonbeams, shed the starbeams forth as wine, 
Bound with her myrtles, beaten with her rods, 
The young men and the maidens and the gods 2 
Have we not lips to love with, eyes for tears, 
And summer and flower of women and of years 2 
Stars for the food of morning, and for noon 
Sunlight, and exaltation of the moon; 
Waters that answer waters, fields that wear 
Lilies, and languor of the Lesbian air 2 

To take the darker portions of the poem: 

For who shall change with prayers or thanksgivings 
The mystery of the cruelty of things? 
Or say what God above all gods and years, 
With offering and blood'sacrifice of tears, 

31 



INTRODUCTION 

With lamentation from strange lands, from graves 
Where the snake pastures, from scarred mouths of 

slaves, 

From prison, and from plunging prows of ships 
Through flamelike foam of the sea's closing lips 
With thwartings of strange signs, and wind/blown 

hair 

Of comets, desolating the dim air, 
When darkness is made fast with seals and bars, 
And fierce reluctance of disastrous stars, 
Eclipse, and sound of shaken hills, and wings 
Darkening, and blind inexpiable things 
With sorrow of labouring moons, and altering light 
And travail of the planets of the night, 
And weeping of the weary Pleiads seven, 
Feeds the mute melancholy lust of heaven? 

Here, the beauties come, very largely, from alliteration, from 
Swinburne's vowel/technique, including the use of the same 
vowel, alternately dulled, then sharp, then dark, as in the 
lines : 

With lamentation from strange lands, from graves 

Where the snake pastures, from scarred mouths of slaves, 
an effect which gives a strange, waving, wandering move/ 
ment, slowed, too, because of the many *S's. 
This is followed by the strongly marked alliteration of: 

'From prison, and from plunging prows of ships*. 
Swinburne, in this poem, varies the actual movement of the 
line, time and again, by means of his power over alliteration, 
by his perpetual shifting of the alliteration from one part of 
a line to another. For instance, the movement of the line 
* Where the snake pastures, from scarred mouths of slaves* 
is different from that of the next line, 

'From prison, and from plunging prows of ships* 
and this change is due, not only to the change of accent, but 



INTRODUCTION 

also to the fact that the alliterations are put in different parts 
of the line. 

It is also, in this case, a fact that Swinburne foretells, In 
the first line, the alliteration of the second line. The move" 
ment of the second line quoted differs slightly, though only 
slightly, from that of 

'And weeping of the weary Pleiads seven', 
because, although 'weeping' and 'weary' are put in the same 
places in the line as 'prison' and 'plunging', there is no third 
alliteration in that line. 
Again, the movement of 

'And weeping of the weary Pleiads seven,' 
with its melting sound, is not the same as that of the thicker 

'Feeds the mute melancholy lust of heaven*, 
where, again, the alliteration is shifted. 

Both these lines have a different movement from that of 
the last line of the following fragment: 

Of me the high God hath not all his will. 
Blossom of branches, and on each high hill 
Clear air and wind, and under in clamorous vales 
Fierce noises of the fiery nightingales, 
Buds burning in the sudden spring like fire, 
The wan washed sand and the waves' vain desire. 

Here, in this last line, the alliteration of external and internal 
letters (the varying 'waY and 'an's') makes the line more 
heavy and weary than if the alliteration were external only; 
whilst, at the same time, the change from dulled to bright 
Vs' gives a wandering effect. 'Washed', by the way, is 
slightly darker than 'wan' because of the 'sh 9 . 

But there is no miracle that is not performed by this great 
poet in the excerpts given from 'Anactoria' in this present 
book. 

Sometimes he makes a change between the movement of 
one line and another by the use of the same letter placed, 

33 



INTRODUCTION 

first externally, then Internally and very close together, as in 
the third line of this fragment: 

Him would I reach, him smite, him desecrate, 
Pierce the cold lips of God with human breath, 
And mix his immortality with death. 

His virtuosity in the varied use of the caesura, his knowledge 
of the means by which this will change the movement of a 
line, can be compared with the virtuosity of Dry den and of 
Pope. With all three poets, the pauses seem of natural 
growth they have varying heights, depths, and lengths. 
The difference made by these natural pauses and changes of 
accent are of a very subtle kind. Take these beautiful lines : 

Why hath he made us ? What had all we done 
That we should live and loathe the sterile sun, 
And with the moon wax paler as she wanes, 
And pulse by pulse feel rime grow through 

our veins? 

Thee too the years shall cover ; thou shalt be 
As the rose born of one same blood with thee, 

*Laus Veneris' is, to my mind less beautiful than the parts 
of 'Anactoria' which I have quoted; but it attains an equal 
perfection. 

No possible variation made by the use of a pause, a 
caesura, no possible lengthening of a line by the use of 
certain consonants, liquids, and vowels, is excluded from 
this poem, and Swinburne gives a feeling of flawless poise 
by his use of alliteration, by his use of assonance and disson/ 
ance, coming from time to time : 

i 
Lo, this is she that was the world's delight ; 

I 2 

The old grey years were parcels of her might; 
34 



INTRODUCTION 

a 
The strewings of the ways wherein she trod 

2 

Were the twain seasons of the day and night. 

Then there is the subtlety with which he changes the heat 
and burden, caused by the heavy vowels, into softness, by 
the use of un'sharp V s' and 7s/ as in the last line of this 
quatrain: 

Outside it must be winter among men; 
For at the gold bars of the gates again 

I heard all night and all the hours of it 
The wind's wet wings and fingers drip with rain. 

Here again the last line is a miracle of the use of alliteration 
and assonances. 

Reading such poems as * Anactoria', 'A Ballad of Life' 
and 'The Leper', I am reminded of certain passages in the 
singularly beautiful Second and Fourth Books of Paracelsus 
although for the Leper of Swinburne's poem, who, for 
the sake of love, existed in 'a poor wattled house', living on 
well/water and the seeds of grasses, there could be no 
quintessence of gold. 

*In the matter of medicine', wrote Paracelsus, 'we have 
seen a man sustain himself many years by the quintessence 
of gold, taking each day scarcely half a scruple of it.* 

Also of these passages from the Fourth Book: 

*. . . furthermore, we bear witness that the quintessence 
of gold exists in very small quantity, and what remains is a 
leprous body wherein is no sweetness or sourness, and no 
virtue or piece remains save a mixture of the four elements . . . 

'One essence is more powerful for curing leprosy. The 
quintessence of juniper expels it. And the quintessence of 
amber, the quintessence of antimony, and the quintessence 
of gold . . . But the quintessence of the Sun . . . takes away 
from the roots all the symptoms of leprosy and renovates the 

35 



INTRODUCTION 

body as honey and wax are purged and purified by the 
honeycomb. 5 

These passages, and another from Paracelsus, inspired a 
modern poet to write: 

. . . once hold 

The primal matter of all gold 
From which it grows 
(That Rose of the world) as the sharp clear 

tree from the seed of the great rose 

Then give of this, condensed to the transparency 
Of the beryl, the weight of twenty barley grains: 
And the leper's face will be full of the rose's face 
After great rains. 

'Atalantain Calydon' is, I think, indisputably Swinburne's 
greatest work. Here there are no redundancies there is none 
of the fatal fluency which marred some of his poems. The 
work has a grandeur not excelled by any poet since the 
dramatists of the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras. As Saints/ 
bury said, in the third volume of his History of English 
Prosody, 'Every weapon and every sleight of the English 
poet equivalence and substitution, alternation and repeti/ 
tion, rhymes and rhymeless suspension of sound, volley and 
check of verse, stanza construction, line and pause/mould/ 
ing, foot/conjunction and contrast this poet knows and 
can use them alLj. . . He seems to revel in variety: the 
stanzas actuallyTiide, though they never falsify, their heredity 
of norm. But is this variety merely a clever disguise of in/ 
ability to preserve and support a severer form? Not in the 
least. The great it is not rash to call it the immortal 
""Before the beginning of years'" comes at once to show the poet. ' 

To consider certain of the shorter poems. 

The strange softness and languor, together with the 
extreme poignancy of 'Ilicet', are nothing short of miracu/ 

36 



INTRODUCTION 

lous. Swinburne obtains this effect, to some degree, by the 
fact that in these stanzas six lines, lines A and B, D and E, 
have female endings (used very differently from those in the 
verse I have quoted from the first four lines of *A Ballad of 
Dreamland', and the verse quoted from 'The Triumph of 
Time'). The female endings of 'Ilicet' are usually devoid of 
poignant vowels (and when the vowel is poignant, it is 
invariably, with one exception, a high A, thus giving the 
effect of something trying to raise itself from the dust). 
Lines C and F have common endings with, nearly always, 
poignant vowels. 

In the final stanza, however, the last syllable of the female 
endings do not drop until after a long and fierce cry: 
'retire', 'desire', and here these syllables are less dropping 
than stretching outward; so that it seems as if the dust is 
gathering together in one last effort to raise itself from the 
tomb. The common endings in this verse are very dark and 
deep: 'call Vail'. 

The first stanza owes much of its beauty to the softness 
and darkness (deep as the colour and perfume of some 
sleepy dark rose) of the female endings 'sorrow*, 'morrow', 
with their deep vowels and soft Y and 'm' sinking into 
languor after the sharper and accented 'joy' and 'night*: 

There is an end of joy and sorrow; 

Peace all day long, all night, all morrow. 
The soft female endings are repeated, with the interval of 
one more poignant line, with a common ending, throughout 
the stanza. In line four, 

'The end is come of pleasant places' 
the female ending is less languorous than in the first two 
lines, because of the alliterative 'pi's* coming so close 
together. But the fifth line, 

'The end of tender words and faces', 
sinks again into the same softness, with only the word 
'tender' to raise it from its deep languor. 

37 



INTRODUCTION 

In the second stanza there is an exceedingly beautiful line 
of alliterative Fs : 

*No lips to laugh, no lids for tears 9 , 
this alliteration giving, for all its softness and deep dark 
colour, for all its absence of sharp vowels, a great poignance. 
This effect of poignance may come, in part, from the fact 
that the soft 1Y lengthen the line, though almost imper/ 
ceptibly in part from the assonance of lips' and 'lids* 
the word lids' being shallower in sound than lips*. The 
extra and disturbed depth and length of the fifth stanza 
that beginning with the lines 

Wind wherein seas and stars are shaken 

Shall shake them, and they shall not waken ; 
come from the alliterative Ys* and *shY. But a feeling of equil/ 
ibrium is given by the balanced *wY in the first and second 
words of the first line, and the last word of the second line. 

Much of the beauty of this poem comes from Swinburne's 
power over alliteration, this giving the lines their supreme 
balance, giving them an added poignance, as in 

The grave's mouth laughs unto derision 

Desire and dread and dream and vision, 
Delight of heaven and sorrow of hell. 
The beauty comes in part from this, in part from his amazing 
power for lengthening a line slightly by using the same 
letters internally in consecutive words and then outwardly 
in the word following, as in this line 

'The pa/e old lips of death are fed' 
or of lengthening it, more slightly, by using a letter internally 
in one word and then externally in the next, as in the line 

'The breathing flame's mouth curls and kisses'. 
Once he causes the line to dip, slightly and sadly, as one 
bending under the weight of dust, by the device of using, 
in the middle and again at the end of the line, double^ 
syllabled words in which the second syllable dies away : 

*A little sorrow, a little pleasure*. 

38 



INTRODUCTION 

The second syllable of 'sorrow* is shorter than that of the 
second syllable of 'pleasure 9 , and it is this subtle change, or 
difference, and the difference in vowel sounds (the vowel 
sounds in 'sorrow 9 being rich, whilst the second vowel 
sound in 'pleasure' is neutral) which produces this dipping 
movement. 

His use of assonances and dissonances, interspersed with 
alliteration, is instinctive and inspired. Take, for instance, 
this stanza, one of the most beautiful in the whole poem: 

123 45 6 

In deep wet ways by grey old gardens 

a . 5 I 5 

Fed with sharp spring the sweet fruit hardens ; 

34 34 

They know not what fiuits wane or grow; 

26 6 642 

Red summer burns to the utmost ember; 

3 4 2 

They know not, neither can remember, 

4 6i 3 4 

The old years and flowers they used to know. 5 

The alliteration and the halftones ; these, with the change 
from the poignant Ys* to the dulled, the piteous attempt 
of the sound to lift itself by means of the *aY and c geY in 
the first line, the depth and mournfulness of the V sounds 
the effect of these is beautiful, subtle, and strange. 

In the poem 'August* the feeling of the roundness and 
the ripeness of the fruit on the lovely apple/tree, of the dew, 
of the green leaves, is conveyed, very largely, by the round/ 
ness and ripeness of the vowels used. 

The word 'gold* is a kind of keynote throughout the 
poem. In 'August* as in all the finest works of this great 
poet, there are the faintest stirrings and blood/beats, pro-' 
duced, sometimes, by the repeated use of the same vowel 
with different vibration/lengths, at other moments by the 

39 



INTRODUCTION 

use of the same consonant ending two consecutive words. 
Take, for instance, this stanza: 

There were four apples on the tree, 

Red stained through goW, that all might see 

The sun went warm from core to rind ; 

The green leaves made the summer blind 

In that soft place they kept for me 

With golden apples shut behind. 

Now in this verse, the first, and the last two, lines seem to 
me to be, very faintly, quicker, seem to be, very faintly, 
shorter (though in actuality they are not) than the other 
lines. This is due to the fact that the use of the *dY in 'red 
stained through gold* seems like a prolonging or a deepen/ 
ing of the colour, whilst there are four consonants together, 
d, t, h, r, none of which soar; they are on a level of sound, 
and this loss of movement makes the sound seem longer. 
Again, the use of the alliterative *eY in 'The green leaves' 
deepens the sound. 

But the whole poem is of an incredible subtlety. The 
wandering from the dark to the fuller V sounds, and from 
these to the warmer, darker depths of the varying V sounds, 
these give a sense of the change to the roundness, warmth 
and ripeness of the fruit, after the sharpness of the leaves. 
These effects could only have been produced by one of the 
greatest artists in his medium. 

Here is one example : 

In the mwte August afternoon 

They trembled to some undertone 

Of rrmic in the silver air; 

Great pleasure was it to be there 

Till green turned duskier and the moon 

Colored the corn^sheaves like gold hair. 

There is a slight slowing produced by the c rY in 'silver air'. 

40 



INTRODUCTION 

Two stanzas after this, the 'moon', 'noon 5 , 'tune* sounds 
are repeated, with fresh subtleties of V sounds. 

In this stanza, 

I lay there till the warm smell grew 
More sharp, when flecks of yellow dew 
Between the round ripe leaves had blurred 
The rind with stain and wet ; I heard 
A wind that blew and breathed and blew, 
Too weak to alter its one word. 

the slight lengthening caused by the 'mY, in 'warm* and 
'smell', the pause after 'sharp', the faint difference, so faint 
as to be almost imperceptible, between the sounds of 'grew' 
and 'dew', of 'blurred' and 'heard', the movement caused 
by the different 'e's' in 

A wind that blew and breathed and blew, 
Too weak to alter its one word 

all these subtleties give a feeling of dew falling on those 
round ripe leaves, sometimes chilled by a passing air, some/ 
times not. And this is not only a matter of association, 
though association plays its part in the magic, as well as 
texture. 

In the ist and 2nd volumes of Poems and Ballads and in 
'Chastelard' and 'Locrine', exquisite songs are interspersed, 
coming to us as 'naked ear/delighting absolute melody 
melody that is just Melody and nothing else ; that glides into 
the ear, one knows not why . . , that sounds sad when we 
are merry and merry when we are sad . . .' This Wagner 
wrote, of a different subject. [Posthumous Works.] 

Sometimes the songs are too extended, are more beautiful 
if they remain in one's ears as fragments only as this lovely 
excerpt from 'Anima Anceps' : 

Till death have broken 
Sweet life's love/token, 

D 41 



INTRODUCTION 

Till all be spoken 

That shall be said, 
What dost thou praying, 
O soul, and playing 
With song and saying, 

Things flown and fled 
For this we know not 
That fresh springs flow not 
And fresh griefs grow not 

When men are dead ; 
When strange years cover 
Lover and lover, 
And joys are over 

And tears are shed. 

or as the first two verses of 'A Match'. 

The poem has no particular meaning; it is just an 
exquisite sound, like the song of a bird: 

If love were what the rose is, 

And I were like the leaf, 
Our lives would grow together 
In sad or singing weather, 
Blown fields or flowerful closes, 

Green pleasures or grey grief; 
If love were what the rose is, 

And I were Hke the leaf. 

If I were what the words are, 
And love were like the tune, 

With double sound and single 

Delight our lips would mingle, 

With kisses glad as birds are 
That get sweet rain at noon; 

If I were what the words are 
And love were like the tune. 

42 



INTRODUCTION 

Here, in verse one, by separating the line^end 'roses* from 
its tyhme 'closes', by one extra line, he avoids the tinfor' 
tunate sound of the opening lines of *A Ballad of Dream' 
land'. 

As an example of the over/extension to which the songs 
are liable, we may take the third and fourth verses of Mary 
Beaton's song from 'Chastelard*: 

L 

Between the sunset and the sea 
My love laid hands and lips on me; 
Of sweet came sour, of day came night, 
Of long desire came brief delight: 
Ah love, and what thing came of thee 
Between the sea^downs and the sea. 

II. 

Between the sea-mark and the sea 
Joy grew to grief, grief grew tojue; 
Love turned to tears, and tears to fire, 
And dead delight to new desire; 
Love's talk, love's touch there seemed to be 
Between the sea-sand and the sea. 

These two verses are exquisite, and the poem would have 
been more so had the last two been omitted: this may be 
said especially of Verse III. 

III. 

Between the sundown and the sea 

Love watched one hour of love with me; 

Then down the all/golden water/ways 

His feet flew after yesterdays; 

I saw them come and saw them flee 

Between the sea'foam and the sea. 

4? 



INTRODUCTION 

IV. 

Between the sea^strand and the sea 
Love fell on sleep, sleep fell on me ; 
The first star saw twain turn to one 
Between the moonrise and the sun ; 
The next, that saw not love, saw me 
Between the sea^banks and the sea. 

The Ballads in the third Volume of Poems and Ballads 
contain superb lines, such as these from 'The Weary 
Wedding' (although the refrain 'One with another' is, 
I think, a mistake and meaningless) : 

* And what will ye give your sister Jean ? 

One with another?' 
'A bier to build and a babe to wean, 
Mother, my mother/ 

* And what will ye give your sister Nell ? 

One with another 2' 
'The end of life and beginning of hell, 

Mother, my mother/ 

* 
'And what will ye give your brother Hugh 2 

One with another?' 
C A bed of turf to turn into, 

Mother, rny mother/ 

'And what will ye give your brother John? 

One with another?' 
'The dust of death to feed upon, 

Mother, my mother/ 

Swinburne's true grandeurs appeared for the first time with 
* Atalanta in Calydon', were continued in the First Volume 
of Poems and Ballads y and certain poems in the second and 
third Volumes. After these, his work became, often, misty 
and diffuse. 

44 



INTRODUCTION 

To speak for a moment of the personal life of this great poet 
and most unhappy man. 

His nature had been twisted as a boy at Eton by a horrible 
sadistic tutor, and to this man, and to Swinburne's addiction 
to the works of de Sade we must ascribe such poetic falls 
from grace as 'Hermaphroditus' and 'Dolores'. 

Swinburne told Richard Monckton Milnes :'...! have 
known him [the tutor] prepare the flogging/room (not 
with corduroy or onion) but with burnt scents ; or choose a 
sweet place out of doors with smell of firwood. This I call 
real delicate torment. . . . Once, before giving me a swishing 
that I had the marks of for more than a month ... he let 
me saturate my face with eau/de/Cologne. I conjecture now, 
on looking back to that "rosy hour", "purged by the 
euphrosy and rue" of the Marquis de Sade and his philox 
sophy, that, counting on the pungency of the perfume and 
its power over the nerves, he meant to stimulate and excite 
the senses by that preliminary pleasure so as to inflict the 
acuter pain afterwards on that awakened and intensified 
susceptibility.* 

In spite of that twisting, his remained, fundamentally, a 
most noble nature. As Mr Pound wrote of him *. . . there 
is, underneath all the writing, a magnificent passion for 
liberty ... the passion not merely for political, but also for 
personal liberty is the bedrock of Swinburne's writing. The 
sense of tragedy, and of the unreasoning cruelty of the gods, 
hangs over it. He fell into facile writing and he accepted a 
facile compromise for life; but no facile solution for his 
universe. His belief did not desert him ; no, not even in 
Putney.' 

His was a strange duality of character. On being told by 
his friend Lady Trevelyan that he was being attacked, on 
the score of his personal morality, he wrote, 1 cannot 
express the horror and astonishment, the unutterable indig/ 
nation and loathing, with which I have been struck on 

45 



INTRODUCTION 

hearing that anyone could be vile enough to tax me, I do 
not say with doing, but with saying anything of the kind 
to which you refer. The one suggestion is not falser than the 
other. I am literally amazed and horror/stricken at the in/ 
famous wickedness of people who invent in malice or repeat 
in levity such horrors. 

"I cannot believe such persons can really or seriously injure 
those who are conscious of no wrong done to them which 
might explain their enmity. It is I who should be ashamed 
to meet and disgraced by meeting people capable of believing 
me improper to meet. I can only imagine . . . that as you 
say I must have talked very foolishly to make such infamies 
possible ; all I can ever recollect saying which could be per/ 
verted was (for instance) that "the Greeks did not seem to 
be worse than the moderns because of things considered 
innocent at one time by one country were not considered so 
by others". Far more than this I have heard said by men of 
the highest character. This sort of thing, I was told after/ 
wards, might be thought wild and offensive by hearers who 
were bent on malignant commentary, or ... I do remember 
saying if people read the classics, not to speak of the moderns 
very often, they must see that many qualities called virtues 
and vices depend on time, climate, and temperament. The 
remark may have been false or foolish, but who could have 
imagined it (until he had proof) capable of being twisted 
into an avowal that I approved vice and disapproved virtue ? 
Anyone who says he has heard me speak personally as if I 
agreed with other times, or disagreed with this, lies/ 

I cannot believe this extremely brave man was a hypocrite. 

When Lady Trevelyan was lying on her death/bed, a few 
hours before her end, she asked John Ruskin (who repeated 
this in a letter to Edward Coleridge) Very anxiously what 
I thought of Swinburne and what he was likely to do and 
to be. And I answered that she need not be in pain about 
him the abuse she heard of him was dreadful, but not, in 

46 



INTRODUCTION 

the deep sense, moral evil at all, but mentally physical and 
ungovernable by his will and that, finally, God never 
made such good fruit of human work, to grow on an evil 
tree/ 

Ruskin wrote, a few days later, to Admiral Swinburne, 
'You ought not none of us ought to be pained grievously 
by anything in these poems [the Krst Series of Poems and 
Ballads]. 'The common world cannot distinguish between 
Coreggio's Antiope and a Parisian street lithograph, and 
mistakes Carlyle said this long ago the ilkcut serpent 
of Eternity for a common poisonous reptile/ 

'One might almost pity', Swinburne wrote of Blake, 'the 
poor age and the poor men he came among for having such 
a fiery energy cast unawares into the midst of their small 
customs and competitions/ 

It is in Swinburne's book on Blake (of which a gentle/ 
man named J. R. Green 'mats ou sont Its nieges d'antan 
wrote, in The Saturday Review, February 1868, that it 
revealed Swinburne's 'frivolous incapacity as a critic, either 
of poetry or of art; his inability to think consecutively for 
five minutes together ; his powerlessness to express even his 
gleams of momentary intelligence in intelligible speech') 
that we may see Swinburne's true nature. 

It is my firm belief that Swinburne, for all his defiance, 
for all his raging blasphemies, was born a believer. It was 
his tragedy that he dreamed mankind had been abandoned. 

The furies and bitter, fiery tears of certain of the choruses 
in 'Atalanta', the grey hopelessness of 'At the Foot of the 
Crucifix', are the result, not of unbelief, but of what he felt 
was a betrayed faith. This, had it not been for the last deplor/ 
able verses (although I think these have been misunderstood, 
since it was not against the murdered Christ that he railed, 
but against those who still betray Him with a kiss, though 
the last verses contain one unforgivable phrase) would have 
been a great poem : 

47 



INTRRDUCTION 

Lines from 
'Before a Crucifix 9 

Here, down between the dusty trees, 
At this lank edge of haggard wood, 

Women with labour-loosened knees, 
With gaunt backs bowed by servitude, 

Stop, shift their loads, and pray, and fare 

Forth with souls easier for the prayer. 

The suns have branded black, the rains 
Striped grey this piteous God of theirs; 

The face is full of prayers and pains, 

To which they bring their pains and prayers ; 

Lean limbs that show the labouring bones, 

And ghastly mouth that gapes and groans. 

God of this grievous people, wrought 

After the likeness of their race, 
By faces like thine own besought, 

Thine own blind helpless eyeless face, 
I, too, that have not tongue nor knee 
For prayer, I have a word to thee. 

* 

With iron for thy linen bands 

And unclean cloths for winding-sheet 

They bind the people's nail-pierced hands, 
They hide the people's nail/pierced feet ; 

And what man or what angel known 

Shall roll back the sepulchral stone 2 

But these have not the rich man's grave 
To sleep in when their pain is done. 

These were not fit for God to save. 
As naked hell-fire is the sun 



INTRODUCTION 

In their eyes living, and when dead 
These have not where to lay their head. 

They have no tomb to dig, and hide ; 

Earth is not theirs, that they should sleep. 
On all these tombless crucified 

No lovers' eyes have time to weep. 
So still, for all man's tears and creeds, 
The sacred body hangs and bleeds. 

Through the left hand a nail is driven, 
Faith, and another through the right, 

Forged in the fires of hell and heaven, 
Fear that puts out the eye of light: 

And the feet soiled and scarred and pale 

Are pierced with falsehood for a nail. 



O sacred head, O desecrate, 

O laboupwounded feet and hands, 
O blood poured forth in pledge to fate 

Of nameless lives in divers lands, 
O slain and spent and sacrificed 
People, the grey/grown speechless Christ ! 

Swinburne detested what he described as a Torm of bastard 
belief (a) cross/bred between faith and unfaith, which has 
been fostered in ages of doubt; a ghost raised rather by fear 
than love ; by fear of a dead God as judge rather than by 
love of a dead God as comforter'. 

That 'bastard belief' was not for him. But in 1874, afisr 
John TyndalFs Inaugural Address to the British Associa/ 
tion for the Advancement of Science on the relations be/ 
tween science and theology, Swinburne wrote, *. . . science 
so enlarged and harmonized gives me a sense as much of 

49 



INTRODUCTION 

rest as of Hght No mythology can make its believers feel less 
afraid or loth to be reabsorbed into the immeasurable har^ 
mony with but the change of a single individual note in a 
single bar of the tune, than does the faintest perception of 
the lowest chord touched in the whole system of things. 
Even my technical ignorance does not impair, I think, my 
power to see accurately and seize firmly the first thread of the 
great clue, because my habit of mind is not (I hope) un/ 
scientific, though my work lies in the field of art instead of 
science ; and when seen and seized even that first perception 
gives me an indescribable sense as of music and repose. It 
is Theism which to me seems to introduce an element 
happily a fictitious element of doubt, discord, and dis/ 
order/ 

The editor of Swinburne's letters, Mr Cecil Y. Lang, 
wrote, 'It is not entirely certain that the headstrong, impetu/ 
ous, self/conscious rebel of the early and middle sixties 
conceded to Christ the same reverence that, before all other 
poets, he offered so willingly and humbly to sages, great 
ethical teachers, or merely elderly men of his own time, but 
it is clear that thereafter his attitude, within these narrow 
confines, was not merely decorous but exemplary. "Ever 
since I knew him", he wrote to his sister in June 1903, 
referring to Mazzini, "I have been able to read the Gospels 
with such power of realizing and feeling the truth of the 
human character of Christ as I have never felt before** .' 

As he said of Blake, 'His faith was absolute and hard, 
like a pure fanatic's; there was no speculation in him. 
What could be made of such a man fed and clothed with 
the teapot pieties of Cowper and the tape/yard infidelities of 
Paine 2 Neither set would have to do with him; was he not 
a believers And was he not a blasphemers His licence of 
thought and talk was always of the maddest, or seemed so 
to the ears of his generation. . . . Now on his own ground, 
no man was ever more sane or more reverent. His outcries 

50 



INTRODUCTION 

on various matters of art or morals were in effect the mere 
expression, not of reasonable dissent, but of violent belief. 
. . . Indifference was impossible to him.' 

Swinburne lived after the time of Cowper in an age of 
worse poetry than Cowper's 'teapot/pieties 9 but that noble 
passage from his book on William Blake might have been 
his own epitaph. 



A BALLAD OF LIFE 



I found in dreams a place of wind and flowers, 

Full of sweet trees and colour of glad grass, 

In midst whereof there was 
A lady clothed like summer with sweet hours; 
Her beauty, fervent as a fiery moon, 

Made my blood burn and swoon 

Like a flame rained upon. 
Sorrow had filled her shaken eyelids* blue, 
And her mouth's sad red heavy rose all through 

Seemed sad with glad things gone. 

She held a little cithern by the strings, 

Shaped heartwise, strung with subtle-coloured hair 

Of some dead lute player 
That in dead years had done delicious things. 
The seven strings were named accordingly; 

The first string charity, 

The second tenderness, 
The rest were pleasure, sorrow, sleep, and sin, 
And loving kindness, that is pity's kin 

And is most pitiless. 

There were three men with her, each garmented 
With gold and shod with gold upon the feet, 
And with plucked ears of wheat. 

The first man's hair was wound upon his head: 

53 



A BALLAD OF LIFE 

His face was red, and his mouth curled and sad; 

All his gold garment had 

Pale stains of dust and rust. 
A riven hood was pulled across his eyes; 
The token of him being upon this wise 

Made for a sign of Lust. 

The next was Shame, with hollow heavy face 

Coloured like green wood when flame kindles it. 

He hath such feeble feet 
They may not well endure in any place. 
His face was full of grey old miseries, 

And all his blood's increase 
Was even increase of pain. 
The last was Fear, that is akin to Death; 
He is Shame's friend, and always as Shame saith 

Fear answers him again. 

My soul said in me: This is marvellous, 

Seeing the air's face is not so delicate 

Nor the sun's grace so great, 
If sin and she be kin or amorous. 
And seeing where maidens served her on their knees, 

I bade one crave of these 

To know the cause thereof. 
Then Fear said: I am Pity that was dead* 
And Shame said: I am Sorrow comforted. 

And Lust said: I am Love. 

Thereat her hands began a lute-playing 

And her sweet mouth a song in a strange tongue; 
And all the while she sung 

There was no sound but long tears following 

54 



A BALLAD OF LIFE 

Long tears upon men's faces, waxen white 

With extreme sad delight. 

But those three following men 
Became as men raised up among the dead; 
Great glad mouths open, and fair cheeks made red 

With child's blood come again. 

Then I said: Now assuredly I see 

My lady is perfect, and transfigureth 

All sin and sorrow and death, 
Making them fair as her own eyelids be, 
Or lips wherein my whole soul's life abides; 

Or as her sweet white sides 

And bosom carved to kiss. 
Now therefore, if her pity further me, 
Doubtless for her sake all my days shall be 

As righteous as she is. 

Forth, ballad, and take roses in both arms, 

Even till the top rose touch thee in the throat 
Where the least thornprick harms; 

And girdled in thy golden singing-coat, 
Come thou before my lady and say this; 
Borgia, thy gold hair's colour burns in me, 

Thy mouth makes beat my blood in feverish rhymes; 
Therefore so many as these roses be, 

Kiss me so many times. 
Then it may be, seeing how sweet she is, 
That she will stoop herself none otherwise 

Than a blown vine-branch doth, 
And kiss thee with soft laughter on thine eyes, 
Ballad, and on thy mouth. 

55 



A BALLAD OF DEATH 



Kneel down, fair Love, and fill thyself with tears, 

Girdle thyself with sighing for a girth 

Upon the sides of mirth, 

Cover thy lips and eyelids, let thine ears 

Be filled with rumour of people sorrowing; 

Make thee soft raiment out of woven sighs 

Upon the flesh to cleave, 

Set pains therein and many a grievous thing, 

And many sorrows after each his wise, 

For armlet and for gorget and for sleeve. 

O Love's lute heard about the lands of death, 

Left hanged upon the trees that were therein; 

O Love and Time and Sin, 

Three singing mouths that mourn now under breath, 

Three lovers, each one evil spoken of; 

O smitten lips wherethrough this voice of mine 

Came softer with her praise; 

Abide a little for our lady's love. 

The kisses of her mouth were more than wine, 

And more than peace the passage of her days. 

O Love, thou knowest if she were good to see. 
O Time, thou shalt not find in any land 
Till, cast out of thine hand, 
The sunlight and the moonlight fail from thee, 

56 



A BALLAD OF DEATH 

Another woman fashioned like as this. 

O Sin, thou knowest that all thy shame in her 

Was made a goodly thing; 

Yea, she caught Shame and shamed him with her kiss, 

With her fair kiss, and lips much lovelier 

Than lips of amorous roses in late spring. 

By night there stood over against my bed 

Queen Venus with a hood striped gold and black, 

Both sides drawn fully back 

From brows wherein the sad blood failed of red, 

And temples drained of purple and full of death. 

Her curled hair had the wave of sea- water 

And the sea's gold in it. 

Her eyes were as a dove's that sickeneth. 

Strewn dust of gold she had shed over her, 

And pearl and purple and amber on her feet. 

Upon her raiment of dyed sendaline 

Were painted all the secret ways of love 

And covered things thereof, 

That hold delight as grape-flowers hold their wine; 

Red mouths of maidens and red feet of doves, 

And brides that kept within the bride-chamber 

Their garment of soft shame, 

And weeping faces of the wearied loves 

That swoon in sleep and awake wearier, 

With heat of lips and hair shed out like flame. 

The tears that through her eyelids fell on me 
Made mine own bitter where they ran between 
As blood had fallen therein, 
She saying; Arise, lift up thine eyes and see 

E 57 



A BALLAD OF DEATH 

If any glad thing be or any good 

Now the best thing is taken forth of us; 

Even she to whom all praise 

Was as one flower in a great multitude, 

One glorious flower of many and glorious, 

One day found gracious among many days: 

Even she whose handmaiden was Love to whom 

At kissing times across her stateliest bed 

Kings bowed themselves and shed 

Pale wine, and honey with the honeycomb, 

And spikenard bruised for a burnt-offering; 

Even she between whose lips the kiss became 

As fire and frankincense; 

Whose hair was as gold raiment on a king, 

Whose eyes were as the morning purged with flame, 

Whose eyelids as sweet savour issuing thence. 

Then I beheld, and lo on the other side 

My lady's likeness crowned and robed and dead. 

Sweet still, but now not red, 

Was the shut mouth whereby men lived and died. 

And sweet, but emptied of the blood's blue shade* 

The great curled eyelids that withheld her eyes. 

And sweet, but like spoilt gold, 

The weight of colour in her tresses weighed. 

And sweet, but as a vesture with new dyes, 

The body that was clothed with love of old. 

Ah! that rny tears filled all her woven hair 
And all the hollow bosom of her gown 
Ah! that my tears ran down 
Even to the place where many kisses were, 

58 



A BALLAD OF DEATH 

Even where her parted breast-flowers have place, 

Even where they are cloven apart who knows not this ? 

Ah! the flowers cleave apart 

And their sweet fills the tender interspace; 

Ah! the leaves grown thereof were things to kiss 

Ere their fine gold was tarnished at the heart. 

Ah! in the days when God did good to me, 

Each part about her was a righteous thing; 

Her mouth an almsgiving, 

The glory of her garments charity, 

The beauty of her bosom a good deed, 

In the good days when God kept sight of us; 

Love lay upon her eyes, 

And on that hair whereof the world takes heed: 

And all her body was more virtuous 

Than souls of women fashioned otherwise. 

Now, ballad, gather poppies in thine hands 

And sheaves of brier and many rusted sheaves 

Rain-rotten in rank lands, 

Waste marigold and late unhappy leaves 

And grass that fades ere any of it be mown; 

And when thy bosom is filled full thereof 

Seek out Death's face ere the light altereth, 

And say *My master that was thrall to Love 

Is become thrall to Death/ 

Bow down before him, ballad, sigh and groan, 

But make no sojourn in thy outgoing; 

For haply it may be 

That when thy feet return at evening 

Death shall come in with thee. 

59 



LAUS VENERIS 



Asleep or waking is it 5 for her neck, 
Kissed over close, wears yet a purple speck 

Wherein the pained blood falters and goes out; 
Soft, and stung softly fairer for a fleck. 

But though my lips shut sucking on the place, 
There is no vein at work upon her face; 
Her eyelids are so peaceable, no doubt 
Deep sleep has warmed her blood through all its ways. 

Lo, this is she that was the world's delight; 
The old grey years were parcels of her might; 
The strewings of the ways wherein she trod 
Were the twain seasons of the day and night. 

Lo, she was thus when her clear limbs enticed 
All lips that now grow sad with kissing Christ, 

Stained with blood fallen from the feet of God, 
The feet and hands whereat our souls were priced. 

Alas, Lord, surely thou art great and fair. 
But lo her wonderfully woven hair! 

And thou didst heal us with thy piteous kiss; 
But see now, Lord; her mouth is lovelier. 

60 



LAUS VENERIS 

She is right fair; what hath she done to thee ? 
Nay, fair Lord Christ, lift up thine eyes and see: 

Had now thy mother such a lip like this? 
Thou knowest how sweet a thing it is to me. 

Inside the Horsel here the air is hot; 
Eight little peace one hath for it, God wot; 

The scented dusty daylight burns the air, 
And my heart chokes me till I hear it not. 

Behold, my Venus, my soul's body, lies, 
With my love laid upon her garment- wise, 
Feeling my love in all her limbs and hair 
And shed between her eyelids through her eyes. 

She holds my heart in her sweet open hands 
Hanging asleep; hard by her head there stands, 

Crowned with gilt thorns and clothed with flesh 

like fire, 
Love, wan as foam blown up the salt burnt sands 

Hot as the brackish waifs of yellow spume 
That shift and steam loose clots of arid fume 
From the sea's panting mouth of dry desire; 
There stands he, like one labouring at a loom. 

The warp holds fast across; and every thread 
That males the woof up has dry specks of red; 

Always the shuttle cleaves clean through, and he 
Weaves with the hair of many a ruined head. 

61 



LAUS VENERIS 

Love is not glad nor sorry, as I deem; 
Labouring he dreams, and labours in the dream, 

Till when the spool is finished, lo I see 
His web, reeled off, curls and goes out like steam. 

Night falls like fire; the heavy lights run low, 
And as they drop, my blood and body so 

Shake as the flame shakes, full of days and hours 
That sleep not neither weep they as they go. 

Ah yet would God this flesh of mine might be 
Where air might wash and long leaves cover me, 

Where tides of grass break into foam of flowers, 
Or where the wind's feet shine along the sea. 

Ah yet would God that stems and roots were bred 
Out of my weary body and my head, 

That sleep were sealed upon me with a seal, 
And I were as the least of all his dead. 

Would God my blood were dew to feed the grass, 
Mine ears made deaf and mine eyes blind as glass, 

My body broken as a turning wheel, 
And my mouth stricken ere it saith Alas! 

Ah God, that love were as a flower or flame, 
That life were as the naming of a name, 

That death were not more pitiful than desire, 
That these things were not one thing and the same! 

Behold now, surely somewhere there is death: 
For each man hath some space of years, he saith, 

A little space of time ere time expire, 
A little day, a little way of breath. 

62 



LAUS VENERIS 

And lo, between the sundawn and the sun, 
His day's work and his night's work are undone; 

And lo, between the nightfall and the light, 
He is not, and none knoweth of such an one. 

Ah God, that I were as all souls that be, 
As any herb or leaf of any tree, 

As men that toil through hours of labouring night, 
As bones of men under the deep sharp sea. 

Outside it must be winter among men; 
For at the gold bars of the gates again 

I heard all night and all the hours of it, 
The wind's wet wings and fingers drip with rain. 

Knights gather, riding sharp for cold; I know 
The ways and woods are strangled with the snow; 
And with short song the maidens spin and sit 
Until Christ's birthnight, lily-like, arow. 

The scent and shadow shed about me make 
The very soul in all my senses ache; 

The hot hard night is fed upon my breath, 
And sleep beholds me from afar awake. 

Alas, but surely where the hills grow deep, 
Or where the wild ways of the sea are steep, 

Or in strange places somewhere there is death, 
And on death's face the scattered hair of sleep. 

There lover-like with lips and limbs that meet 
They lie, they pluck sweet fruit of life and eat; 

But me the hot and hungry days devour, 
And in my mouth no fruit of theirs is sweet. 

63 



LAUS VENERIS 

No fruit of theirs, but fruit of my desire, 

For her love's sake whose lips through mine respire; 

Her eyelids on her eyes like flower on flower, 
Mine eyelids on mine eyes like fire on fire. 

So lie we, not as sleep that lies by death, 
With heavy kisses and with happy breath; 

Not as man lies by woman, when the bride 
Laughs low for love's sake and the words he saith. 

For she lies, laughing low with love; she lies 
And turns his kisses on her lips to sighs, 

To sighing sound of lips unsatisfied, 
And the sweet tears are tender with her eyes. 

Ah, not as they, but as the souls that were 
Slain in the old time, having found her fair; 

Who, sleeping with her lips upon their eyes, 
Heard sudden serpents hiss across her hair. 

Their blood runs round the roots of time like rain: 
She casts them forth and gathers them again; 

With nerve and bone she weaves and multiplies 
Exceeding pleasure out of extreme pain. 

Her little chambers drip with flower-like red, 
Her girdles, and the chaplets of her head, 

Her armlets and her anklets; with her feet 
She tramples all that winepress of the dead. 

Her gateways smoke with fume of flowers and fires, 
With loves burnt out and unassuaged desires; 
Between her lips the steam of them is sweet, 
The languor in her ears of many lyres. 

64 



LAUS VENER1S 

Her beds are full of perfume and sad sound, 

Her doors are made with music, and barred round 

With sighing and with laughter and with tears, 
With tears whereby strong souls of men are bound. 

There is the knight Adonis that was slain, 
With flesh and blood she chains him for a chain; 

The body and the spirit in her ears 
Cry, for her lips divide him vein by vein. 

Yea, all she slayeth; yea, every man save me; 
Me, love, thy lover that must cleave to thee 

Till the ending of the days and ways of earth, 
The shaking of the sources of the sea. 

Me, most forsaken of all souls that fell; 
Me, satiated with things insatiable; 

Me, for whose sake the extreme hell makes mirth, 
Yea, laughter kindles at the heart of hell. 

Alas thy beauty! for thy mouth's sweet sake 
My soul is bitter to me, my limbs quake 

As water, as the flesh of men that weep, 
As their heart's vein whose heart goes nigh to break. 

Ah God, that sleep with flower-sweet finger-tips 
Would crush the fruit of death upon my lips; 

Ah God, that death would tread the grapes of sleep 
And wring their juice upon me as it drips. 

There is no change of cheer for many days, 

But change of chimes high up in the air, that sways 

Rung by the running fingers of the wind; 
And singing sorrows heard on hidden ways. 

65 



LAUS VENERIS 

Day smiteth day In twain, night sundereth night, 
And on mine eyes the dark sits as the light; 

Yea, Lord, thou knowest I know not, having sinned, 
If heaven be clean or unclean in thy sight. 

Yea, as if earth were sprinkled over me, 
Such chafed harsh earth as chokes a sandy sea, 

Each pore doth yearn, and the dried blood thereof 
Gasps by sick fits, my heart swims heavily, 

There is a feverish famine In my veins; 

Below her bosom, where a crushed grape stains 

The white and blue, there my lips caught and clove 
An hour since, and what mark of me remains? 

I dare not always touch her, lest the kiss 
Leave my lips charred. Yea, Lord, a little bliss, 

Brief bitter bliss, one hath for a great sin; 
Nathless thou knowest how sweet a thing it is. 

Sin, is it sin whereby men's souls are thrust 
Into the pit? yet had I a good trust 

To save my soul before it slipped therein, 
Trod under by the fire-shod feet of lust. 

For if mine eyes fail and my soul takes breath, 
I look between the iron sides of death 

Into sad hell where all sweet love hath end, 
All but the pain that never finisheth. 

There are the naked faces of great kings, 
The singing folk with all their lute-playings; 

There when one cometh he shall have to friend 
The grave that covets and the worm that clings. 

66 



LAUS VENERIS 

There sit the knights that were so great of hand. 
The ladies that were queens of fair green land, 

Grown grey and black now, brought unto the dust. 
Soiled, without raiment, clad about with sand. 

There is one end for all of them; they sit 
Naked and sad, they drink the dregs of it, 

Trodden as grapes in the wine-press of lust, 
Trampled and trodden by the fiery feet. 

I see the marvellous mouth whereby there fell 
Cities and people whom the gods loved well, 

Yet for her sake on them the fire gat hold, 
And for their sakes on her the fire of hell. 

And softer than the Egyptian lote-leaf is, 

The queen whose face was worth the world to kiss, 

Wearing at breast a suckling snake of gold; 
And large pale lips of strong Semiramis, 

Curled like a tiger's that curl back to feed; 
Red only where the last kiss made them bleed; 

Her hair most thick with many a carven gem, 
Deep in the mane, great-chested, like a steed. 

Yea, with red sin the faces of them shine; 
But in all these there was no sin like mine; 

No, not in all the strange great sins of them 
That made the wine-press froth and foam with wine. 

For I was of Christ's choosing, I God's knight, 
No blinkard heathen stumbling for scant light; 

I can well see, for all the dusty days 
Gone past, the clean great time of goodly fight. 

67 



LAUS VENERIS 

I smell the breathing battle sharp with blows, 
With shriek of shafts and snapping short of bows; 

The fair pure sword smites out in subtle ways, 
Sounds and long lights are shed between the rows 

Of beautiful mailed men; the edged light slips, 
Most like a snake that takes short breath and dips 

Sharp from the beautifully bending head, 
With all its gracious body lithe as lips 

That curl in touching you; right in this wise 
My sword doth, seeming fire in mine own eyes, 
Leaving all colours in them brown and red 
And flecked with death; then the keen breaths like sighs, 

The caught-up choked dry laughters following them, 
When all the fighting face is grown a flame 

For pleasure, and the pulse that stuns the ears, 
And the heart's gladness of the goodly game. 

Let me think yet a little; I do know 

These things were sweet, but sweet such years ago, 

Their savour is all turned now into tears: 
Yea, ten years since, where the blue ripples blow 

The blue curled eddies of the blowing Rhine, 
I felt the sharp wind shaking grass and vine 

Touch my blood too, and sting me with delight 
Through all this waste and weary body of mine 

That never feels clear air; right gladly then 
I rode alone, a great way off my men, 

And heard the chiming bridle smite and smite, 
And gave each rhyme thereof some rhyme again, 

68 



LAUS VENERIS 

Till my song shifted to that iron one; 
Seeing there rode up between me and the sun 
Some certain of my foe's men, for his three 
White wolves across their painted coats did run. 

The first red-bearded, with square cheeks alack, 
I made my knave's blood turn his beard to black; 

The slaying of him was a joy to see: 
Perchance too, when at night he came not back, 

Some woman fell a- weeping, whom this thief 
Would beat when he had drunken; yet small grief 

Hath any for the ridding of such knaves; 
Yea, if one wept, I doubt her teen was brief. 

This bitter love is sorrow in all lands, 

Draining of eyelids, w r ringing of drenched hands, 

Sighing of hearts and filling up of graves; 
A sign across the head of the world he stands, 

As one that hath a plague-mark on his brows; 
Dust and spilt blood do track him to his house 

Down under earth; sweet smells of lip and cheek 
Like a sweet snake's breath made more poisonous 

With chewing of some perfumed deadly grass, 
Are shed all round his passage if he pass, 

And their quenched savour leaves the whole soul weak. 
Sick with keen guessing whence the perfume was. 

As one who hidden in deep sedge and reeds 
Smells the rare scent made where a panther feeds, 

And tracking ever slotwise the warm smell 
Is snapped upon by the sweet mouth and bleeds, 

69 



LAUS VENERIS 

His head far down the hot sweet throat of her 
So one tracks love, whose breath is deadlier, 

And lo, one springe and you are fast in hell, 
Fast as the gin's grip of a wayfarer. 

I think now, as the heavy hours decease 
One after one, and bitter thoughts increase 

One upon one, of all sweet finished things; 
The breaking of the battle; the long peace 

Wherein we sat clothed softly, each man's hair 
Crowned with green leaves beneath white hoods of vair; 

The sounds of sharp spears at great tourneyings, 
And noise of singing in the late sweet air. 

I sang of love, too, knowing nought thereof; 
* Sweeter*, I said, 'the little laugh of love 
Than tears out of the eyes of Magdalen, 
Or any fallen feather of the Dove. 

'The broken little laugh that spoils a kiss, 
The ache of purple pulses, and the bliss 

Of blinded eyelids that expand again 
Love draws them open with those lips of his, 

'Lips that cling hard till the kissed face has grown 
Of one same fire and colour with their own; 

Then ere one sleep, appeased with sacrifice, 
Where his lips wounded, there his lips atone. 5 

I sang these things long since and knew them not; 
*Lo, here is love, or there is love, God wot, 

This man and that finds favour in his eyes/ 
I said, 'but I, what guerdon have I got f 

70 



LAUS VENERIS 

*The dust of praise that is blown everywhere 
In all men's faces with the common air; 

The bay-leaf that wants chafing to be sweet 
Before they wind it in a singer's hair. 9 

So that one dawn I rode forth sorrowing; 
I had no hope but of some evil thing, 

And so rode slowly past the windy wheat 
And past the vineyard and the water-spring. 

Up to the Horsel. A great elder-tree 
Held back its heaps of flowers to let me see 

The ripe tall grass, and one that walked therein, 
Naked, with hair shed over to the knee. 

She walked between the blossom and the grass; 
I knew the beauty of her, what she was, 

The beauty of her body and her sin, 
And in my flesh the sin of hers, alas! 

Alas! for sorrow is all the end of this. 

sad kissed mouth, how sorrowful it is! 

O breast whereat some suckling sorrow clings, 
Red with the bitter blossom of a kiss! 

Ah, with blind lips I felt for you, and found 
About my neck your hands and hair enwound, 
The hands that stifle and the hair that stings, 

1 felt them fasten sharply without sound. 

Yea, for my sin I had great store of bliss: 
Rise up, make answer for me, let thy kiss 

Seal my lips hard from speaking of my sin, 
Lest one go mad to hear how sweet it is. 

71 



LAUS VENERIS 

Yet I waxed faint with fume of barren bowers. 
And murmuring of the heavy-headed hours; 

And let the dove's beak fret and peck within 
My lips in vain, and Love shed fruitless flowers 

So that God looked upon me when your hands 
Were hot about me; yea, God brake my bands 

To save my soul alive, and I came forth 
Like a man blind and naked in strange lands 

That hears men laugh and weep, and knows not whence 
Nor wherefore, but is broken in his sense; 

Howbeit I met folk riding from the north 
Towards Rome, to purge them of their souls' offence. 

And rode with them, and spake to none; the day 
Stunned me like lights upon some wizard way, 
And ate like fire mine eyes and mine eyesight; 
So rode I, hearing all these chant and pray, 

And marvelled; till before us rose and fell 
White cursed hills, like outer skirts of hell 

Seen where men's eyes look through the day to night, 
Like a jagged shell's lips, harsh, untunable, 

Blown in between by devils' wrangling breath; 
Nathless we won well past that hell and death, 

Down to the sweet land where all airs are good, 
Even unto Rome where God's grace tarrieth. 

Then came each man and worshipped at his knees 
Who in the Lord God's likeness bears the keys 

To bind or loose, and called on Christ's shed blood, 
And so the sweet-souled father gave him ease. 

72 



LAUS VENERIS 

But when I carne I fell down at his feet, 

Saying, 'Father, though the Lord's blood be right sweet, 

The spot it takes not off the panther's skin, 
Nor shall an Ethiop's stain be bleached with it. 

*Lo, I have sinned and have spat out at God, 
Wherefore his hand is heavier and his rod 

More sharp because of mine exceeding sin, 
And all his raiment redder than bright blood 

'Before mine eyes; yea, for my sake I wot 
The heat of hell is waxen seven times hot 
Through my great sin/ Then spake he some 

sweet word, 
Giving me cheer; which thing availed me not. 

Yea, scarce I wist if such indeed were said; 
For when I ceased lo, as one newly dead 
Who hears a great cry out of hell, I heard 
The crying of his voice across my head. 

'Until this dry shred staff, that hath no whit 
Of leaf nor bark, bear blossom and smell sweet, 

Seek thou not any mercy in God's sight, 
For so long shalt thou be cast out from it/ 

Yea, what if dried-up stems wax red and green, 
Shall that thing be which is not nor has been 2 

Yea, what if sapless bark wax green and white, 
Shall any good fruit grow upon my sin 3 

F 73 



LAUfS VENERIS 

Nay, though sweet fruit were plucked of a dry tree, 
And though men drew sweet waters of the sea, 

There should not grow sweet leaves on this dead stem, 
This waste wan body and shaken soul of me. 

Yea, though God search it warily enough, 
There is not one sound thing in all thereof; 

Though he search all my veins through, searching them 
He shall find nothing whole therein but love. 

For I came home right heavy, with small cheer, 
And lo my love, mine own soul's heart, more dear 
Than mine own soul, more beautiful than God, 
Who hath my being between the hands of her 

Fair still, but fair for no man saving me, 
As when she came out of the naked sea 

Making the foam as fire whereon she trod, 
And as the inner flower of fire was she. 

Yea, she laid hold upon me, and her mouth 
Clove unto mine as soul to body doth, 

And, laughing, made her lips luxurious; 
Her hair had smells of all the sunburnt south. 

Strange spice and flower, strange savour of crushed fruit, 
And perfume the swart kings tread underfoot 

For pleasure when their minds wax amorous, 
Charred frankincense and grated sandal-root. 

And I forgot fear and all weary things, 

All ended prayers and perished thanksgivings, 

Feeling her face with all her eager hair 
Cleave to me, clinging as a fire that clings 

74 



LAUS VENERIS 

To the body and to the raiment, burning them; 
As after death I know that such-like flame 

Shall cleave to me for ever; yea, what care, 
Albeit I burn then having felt the same 5 

Ah love, there is no better life than this; 

To have known love, how bitter a thing it is, 

And afterward be cast out of God's sight; 
Yea, these that know not, shall they have such bliss 

High up in barren heaven before his face 
As we twain in the heavy-hearted place, 

Remembering love and all the dead delight, 
And all that time was sweet with for a space? 

For till the thunder in the trumpet be, 
Soul may divide from body, but not we 

One from another; I hold thee with my hand, 
I let mine eyes have all their will of thee, 

I seal myself upon thee with my might, 
Abiding alway out of all men's sight 

Until God loosen over sea and land 
The thunder of the trumpets of the night. 

Explicit Laus Veneris. 



75 



TRANSLATIONS FROM THE 
FRENCH OF VILLON 



The Complaint of the Fair Armouress 



Meseemetti I heard cry and groan 

That sweet who was the armourer's maid; 
For her young years she made sore moan, 

And right upon this wise she said; 

* Ah fierce old age with foul bald head, 
To spoil fair things thou art over fain; 

Who holdeth me 5 who ? would God I were dead! 
Would God I were well dead and slain! 



II 

*Lo, thou hast broken the sweet yoke 
That my high beauty held above 

All priests and clerks and merchant-folk; 
There was not one but for my love 
Would give me gold and gold enough, 

Though sorrow his very heart had riven, 
To win from me such wage thereof 

As now no thief would take if given. 



76 



TRANSLATIONS FROM THE FRENCH OF VILLON 

III 

*I was right chary of the same, 

God wot it was my great folly, 
For love of one sly knave of them 

Good store of that same sweet had he; 

For all my subtle wiles, perdie, 
God wot I loved him well enow; 

Right evilly he handled me, 
But he loved well my gold, I trow. 

IV 

'Though I gat bruises green and black, 

I loved him never the less a jot; 
Though he bound burdens on my back, 

If he said "Kiss me and heed it not" 

Right little pain I felt, God wot, 
When that foul thief's mouth, found so sweet, 

Kissed me Much good thereof I got! 
I keep the sin and the shame of it. 



'And he died thirty year agone. 

I am old now, no sweet thing to see; 
By God, though, when I think thereon, 

And of that good glad time, woe's me, 

And stare upon my changed body 
Stark naked, that has been so sweet, 

Lean, wizen, like a small dry tree, 
I am nigh mad with the pain of it. 



77 



TRANSLATIONS FROM THE FRENCH OF VILLON 

VI 

'Where is my faultless forehead's white, 

The lifted eyebrows, soft gold hair, 
Eyes wide apart and keen of sight, 

With subtle skill in the amorous air; 

The straight nose, great nor small, but fair, 
The small carved ears of shapeliest growth, 

Chin dimpling, colour good to wear, 
And sweet red splendid kissing mouth ? 

VII 

'The shapely slender shoulders small, 

Long arms, hands wrought in glorious wise, 

Round little breasts, the hips withal 
High, full of flesh, not scant of size, 
Fit for all amorous masteries; 



VIII 

*A writhled forehead, hair gone grey, 

Fallen eyebrows, eyes gone blind and red, 
Their laughs and looks all fled away, 

Yea, all that smote men's hearts are fled; 

The bowed nose, fallen from goodlihead; 
Foul flapping ears like water-flags; 

Peaked chin, and cheeks all waste and dead, 
And lips that are two skinny rags: 



TRANSLATIONS FROM THE FRENCH OF VILLON 

IX 

'Thus endeth all the beauty of us. 

The arms made short, the hands made lean. 
The shoulders bowed and ruinous, 

The breasts, alack! all fallen in; 

The flanks too, like the breasts, grown thin; 



For the lank thighs, no thighs but skin, 
They are specked with spots like sausage-meat. 



*So we make moan for the old sweet days, 

Poor old light women, two or three 
Squatting above the straw-fire's blaze, 

The bosom crushed against the knee, 

Like faggots on a heap we be, 
Round fires soon lit, soon quenched and done, 

And we were once so sweet, even we I 
Thus fareth many and many an one/ 



79 



TRANSLATIONS FROM THE 
FRENCH OF VILLON 



Epistle inform of a Ballad to bis Friends 

Have pity, pity, friends, have pity on me, 

Thus much at least, may it please you, of your grace! 
I lie not under hazel or hawthorn-tree 

Down in this dungeon ditch, mine exile's place 

By leave of God and fortune's foul disgrace. 
Girls, lovers, glad young folk and newly wed, 
Jumpers and jugglers, tumbling heel o'er head, 

Swift as a dart, and sharp as needle-ware, 
Throats clear as bells that ring the kine to shed, 

Your poor old friend, what, will you leave him there 2 

Singers that sing at pleasure, lawlessly, 
Light, laughing, gay of word and deed, that race 

And run like folk light-witted as ye be 
And have in hand nor current coin nor base, 
Ye wait too long, for now he's dying apace. 

Rhymers of lays and roundels sung and read, 

Yell brew him broth too late when he lies dead. 
Nor wind nor lightning, sunbeam nor fresh air, 

May pierce the thick wall's bound where lies his bed; 
Your poor old friend, what, will you leave him there 5 



TRANSLATIONS FROMTHE FRENCH OF VILLON 

O noble folk from tithes and taxes free. 
Come and behold him in this piteous case, 

Ye that nor king nor emperor holds in fee, 
But only God in heaven; behold his face 
Who needs must fast, Sundays and holidays, 

Which makes his teeth like rakes; and when he hath fed 

With never a cake for banquet but dry bread, 
Must drench his bowels with much cold watery fare, 

With board nor stool, but low on earth instead; 
Your poor old friend, what, will you leave him there ? 

Princes afore-named, old and young fbresaid, 
Get me the king's seal and my pardon sped, 

And hoist me in some basket up with care: 
So swine will help each other ill bested, 
For where one squeaks they run in heaps ahead. 
Your poor old friend, what, will you leave him there 5 



81 



A LEAVE-TAKING 



Let us go hence, my songs; she will not hear. 
Let us go hence together without fear; 
Keep silence now, for singing-time is over, 
And over all old things and all things dear. 
She loves not you nor me as all we love her. 
Yea, though we sang as angels in her ear, 
She would not hear. 

Let us rise up and part; she will not know. 
Let us go seaward as the great winds go, 
Full of blown sand and foam; what help is there ? 
There is no help, for all these things are so, 
And all the world is bitter as a tear. 
And how these things are, though ye strove to show 
She would not know. 

Let us go home and hence; she will not weep. 
We gave love many dreams and days to keep, 
Flowers without scent, and fruits that would not grow, 
Saying, *If thou wilt, thrust in thy sickle and reap/ 
All is reaped now; no grass is left to mow; 
And we that sowed, though all we fell on sleep, 
She would not weep. 



82 



A LEAVE-TAKING 

Let us go hence and rest; she will not love. 
She shall not hear us if we sing hereof, 
Nor see love's ways, how sore they are and steep. 
Come hence, let be, lie still; it is enough. 
Love is a barren sea, bitter and deep; 
And though she saw all heaven in flower above, 
She would not love. 

Let us give up, go down; she will not care. 
Though all the stars made gold of all the air, 
And the sea moving saw before it move 
One moon-flower making all the foam-flowers fair; 
Though all those waves went over us, and drove 
Deep down the stifling lips and drowning hair, 
She would not care. 

Let us go hence, go hence, she will not see. 

Sing all once more together; surely she, 

She too, remembering days and words that were, 

Will turn a little toward us, sighing; but we, 

We are hence, we are gone, as though we had not been 

there. 

Nay, and though all men seeing had pity on me, 
She would not see. 



83 



ITYLUS 



Swallow, my sister, O sister swallow. 
How can thine heart be full of the spring 5 

A thousand summers are over and dead. 
What hast thou found in the spring to follow 2 
What hast thou found in thine heart to sing 2 
What wilt thou do when the summer is shed 2 

swallow, sister, O fair swift swallow, 
Why wilt thou fly after spring to the south, 

The soft south whither thine heart is set 2 
Shall not the grief of the old time follow 2 

Shall not the song thereof cleave to thy mouth 2 
Hast thou forgotten ere I forget 2 

Sister, my sister, O fleet sweet swallow, 
Thy way Is long to the sun and the south, 

But I, fulfilled of my heart's desire, 
Shedding my song upon height, upon hollow, 
From tawny body and sweet small mouth 
Feed the heart of the night with fire. 

1 the nightingale all spring through, 

O swallow, sister, O changing swallow, 

All spring through till the spring be done, 
Clothed with the light of the night on the dew, 
Sing, while the hours and the wild birds follow, 
Take flight and follow and find the sun. 

84 



ITYLUS 

Sister, my sister, O soft light swallow, 
Though all things feast in the spring's guest-chamber, 

How hast thou heart to be glad thereof yet 5 
For where thou fliest I shall not follow. 
Till life forget and death remember, 
Till thou remember and I forget. 

Swallow, my sister, O singing swallow, 
I know not how thou hast heart to sing. 
Hast thou the heart? is it all past over 2 
Thy lord the summer is good to follow, 
And fair the feet of thy lover the spring: 

But what wilt thou say to the spring thy lover I 

O swallow, sister, O fleeting swallow, 
My heart in me is a molten ember 

And over my head the waves have met. 
But thou wouldst tarry or I would follow, 
Could I forget or thou remember, 
Couldst thou remember and I forget. 

O sweet stray sister, O shifting swallow, 
The heart's division divideth us. 

Thy heart is light as a leaf of a tree; 
But mine goes forth among sea-gulfs hollow 
To the place of the slaying of Itylus, 
The feast of Daulis, the Thracian sea. 

O swallow, sister, O rapid swallow, 
I pray thee sing not a little space. 

Are not the roofs and the lintels wet 5 
The woven web that was plain to follow, 
The small slain body, the flower-like face, 
Can I remember if thou forget? 

85 



ITYLUS 

O sister, sister, thy first-begotten! 

The hands that cling and the feet that follow, 

The voice of the child's blood crying yet 
Who bath remembered me? who hath forgotten? 
Thou hast forgotten, O summer swallow, 
But the world shall end when I forget. 



86 



THE LEPER 



Nothing Is better, I well think, 

Than love; the hidden well-water 

Is not so delicate to drink: 

This was well seen of me and her. 

I served her in a royal house; 

I served her wine and curious meat 
For will to kiss between her brows 

I had no heart to sleep or eat. 

Mere scorn God knows she had of me; 

A. poor scribe, nowise great or fair, 
"Who plucked his clerk's hood back to see 

Her curled-up lips and amorous hair. 

I vex my head with thinking this. 

Yea, though God always hated me, 
And hates me now that I can kiss 

Her eyes, plait up her hair to see 

How she then wore it on the brows, 
Yet am I glad to have her dead 

Here in this wretched wattled house 
"Where I can kiss her eyes and head. 

87 



THE LEPER 

Nothing is better, I well know, 
Than love; no amber in cold sea 

Or gathered berries under snow: 
That is well seen of her and me. 

Three thoughts I make my pleasure of: 
First I take heart and think of this: 

That knight's gold hair she chose to love, 
His mouth she had such will to kiss. 

Then I remember that sundawn 

I brought him by a privy way 
Out of her lattice, and thereon 

What gracious words she found to say. 

(Cold rushes for such little feet 
Both feet could lie into my hand. 

A. marvel was it of my sweet 

Her upright body could so stand.) 

* Sweet friend, God give you thank and grace 
Now am I clean and whole of shame, 

Nor shall men burn me in the face 

For my sweet fault that scandals them. 9 

I tell you over word by word. 

She, sitting edgewise on her bed, 
Holding her feet, said thus. The third, 

A sweeter thing than these, I said. 

God, that makes time and ruins it 

And alters not, abiding God, 
Changed with disease her body sweet, 

The body of love wherein she abode. 

88 



THE LEPER 

Love is more sweet and comelier 

Than a dove's throat strained out to sing. 

All they spat out and cursed at her 
And cast her forth for a base thing. 

They cursed her, seeing how God had wrought 
This curse to plague her, a curse of his. 

Fools were they surely, seeing not 
How sweeter than all sweet she is. 

He that had held her by the hair, 
With kissing lips blinding her eyes, 

Felt her bright bosom, strained and bare, 
Sigh under him, with short mad cries 

Out of her throat and sobbing mouth 

And body broken up with love, 
With sweet hot tears his lips were loth 

Her own should taste the savour o 

Yea, he inside whose grasp all night 

Her fervent body leapt or lay, 
Stained with sharp kisses red and white, 

Found her a plague to spurn away. 

I hid her in this wattled house, 
I served her water and poor bread. 

For joy to kiss between her brows 
Time upon time I was nigh dead. 

Bread failed; we got but well-water 

And gathered grass with dropping seed. 

I had such joy of kissing her, 
I had small care to sleep or feed. 

; 89 



THE LEPER 

Sometimes when service made me glad 
The sharp tears leapt between my lids, 

Falling on her, such joy I had 
To do the service God forbids. 

*I pray you let me be at peace, 

Get hence, make room for me to die/ 

She said that: her poor lip would cease, 
Put up to mine, and turn to cry. 

I said, *Bethink yourself how love 
Fared in us twain, what either did; 

Shall I unclothe my soul thereof* 
That I should do this, God forbid/ 

Yea, though God hateth us, he knows 

That hardly in a little thing 
Love faileth of the work it does 

Till it grow ripe for gathering. 

Six months, and now my sweet is dead 
A. trouble takes me; I know not 

If all were done well, all well said, 
No word or tender deed forgot. 

Too sweet, for the least part in her, 

To have shed life out by fragments; yet, 

Could the close mouth catch breath and stir, 
I might see something I forget. 

Six months, and I sit still and hold 
In two cold palms her cold two feet. 

Her hair, half grey half ruined gold, 
Thrills me and burns me in kissing it. 

90 



THE LEPER 

Love bites and stings rne through, to see 
Her keen face made of sunken bones. 

Her worn-off eyelids madden me. 

That were shot through with purple once. 

She said, *Be good with me; I grow 
So tired for shame*s sake, I shall die 

If you say nothing*; even so. 

A.nd she is dead now, and shame put by. 

Yea, and the scorn she had of me 

In the old time, doubtless vexed her then. 

I never should have kissed her. See 

Wliat fools God's anger makes of men! 

She might have loved me a little too, 
Had I been humbler for her sake. 

But that new shame could make love new 
She saw not yet her shame did make. 

I took too much upon my love, 

Having for such mean service done 

Her beauty and all the ways thereof^ 
Her face and all the sweet thereon. 

Yea, all this while I tended her, 

I know the old love held fast his part: 

I know the old scorn waxed heavier, 
Mixed with sad wonder, in her heart. 

It may be all my love went wrong 
A. scribe's work writ awry and blurred, 

Scrawled after the blind evensong 
Spoilt music with no perfect word. 



THE LEPER 

But surely I would fain have done 

All things the best I could. Perchance 

Because I failed, came short of one, 
She kept at heart that other man's. 

I am grown blind with all these things: 
It may be now she hath in sight 

Some better knowledge: still there clings 
The old question. Will not God do right 



Lines from APRIL 
From the French of the Vidame de Chartres 



"When the fields catch flower 
And the underwood is green, 

And from bower unto bower 
The songs of the birds begin, 
I sing with sighing between. 

When I laugh and sing, 

I am heavy at heart for my sin; 

I am sad in the spring 

For my love that I shall not win, 

For a foolish thing* 

This profit I have of my woe, 

That I know, as I sing, 
I know he will needs have it so 

"Who is master and king, 

Who is lord of the spirit of spring. 
I will serve her and will not spare 

Till her pity awake 
Who is good, who is pure, who is fair, 

Even her for whose sake. 
Love hath ta'en me and slain unaware. 



93 



MIA. 



Under green apple-boughs 
That never a storm will rouse, 
My lady hath her house 
Between two bowers; 
In either of the twain 
Red roses full of rain; 
She hath for bondwomen 
kind of flowers, 



She hath no handmaid fair 
Xo draw her curled gold hair 
Through rings of gold that bear 

Her whtole hair*s weight; 
She hath no maids to stand 
Gold-clothed on either hand; 
In all the great green land 

ISTone is so great. 

She hath no more to wear 
But one white hood of vair 
Drawn over eyes and hair, 

"Wrought with strange gold, 
Made for some great queen's head, 
Some fair great queen since dead; 
And one strait gown of red 

Against the cold. 

94 



MA.OOISTNA. MIA 

Beneath her eyelids deep 
Love lying seems asleep. 
Love, swift to wake, to weep, 

To laugh, to gaze; 
Her breasts are like white birds, 
A.nd all her gracious words 
A.S water-grass to herds 

In the June- days. 

To her all dews that fall 
A_nd rains are musical; 
Her flowers are fed from all, 

Her joy from these; 
In the deep-feathered firs 
Their gift of joy is hers, 
In the least breath that stirs 

Across the trees. 



She grows with greenest leaves, 
Ripens with reddest sheaves, 
Forgets, remembers, grieves, 

And is not sad; 
The quiet lands and skies 
Leave light upon her eyes; 
None knows her, weak or wise, 

Or tired or glad. 

None knows, none understands, 
Wliat flowers are like her hands; 
Though you should search all lands 
^Wherein time grows, 

95 



MADONNA MIA 

'W'hat snows are like her feet, 
Though his eyes burn with heat 
Through gazing on my sweet, 
Yet no man knows. 



Only this thing is said; 

That white and gold and red, 

God's three chief words, man's bread 

A.nd oil and wine, 
"W^re given her for dowers, 
.And kingdom of all hours, 
grace of goodly flowers 

A.nd various vine. 



This is my lady's praise: 

God after many days 

Wrought her in unknown ways, 

In sunset lands; 
This was my lady's birth; 
God gave her might and mirth 
.And laid his whole sweet earth 

Between her hands. 



Under deep apple-boughs 
My lady hath her house; 
She wears upon her brows 

The flower thereof; 
All saying but what God saith 
To her is as vain breath; 
She is more strong than death, 

Being strong as love. 

96 



A BALLAD OF BURDENS 



The burden of fair women. Vain delight, 

And love self-slain in some sweet shameful way, 

And sorrowful old age that comes by night 
As a thief comes that has no heart by day, 
And change that finds fair cheeks and leaves them grey. 

And weariness that keeps awake for hire, 

And grief that says what pleasure used to say, 

This is the end of every man's desire. 

The burden of bought kisses. This is sore, 

A burden without fruit in childbearing; 
Between the nightfall and the dawn threescore, 

Threescore between the dawn and evening. 

The shuddering in thy lips, the shuddering 
In thy sad eyelids tremulous like fire, 

Makes love seem shameful and a wretched thing. 
This is the end of every man's desire. 

The burden of sweet speeches. Nay, kneel down, 

Cover thy head, and weep; for verily 
These market-men that buy thy white and brown 

In the last days shall take no thought for thee. 

In the last days like earth thy face shall be. 
Yea, like sea-marsh made thick with brine and mire, 

Sad with sick leavings of the sterile sea. 
This is the end of every man's desire. 

97 



A BALLAD OF BURDENS 

The burden of long living. Thou shalt fear 
Waking, and sleeping mourn upon thy bed; 

And say at night * Would God the day were here/ 
And say at dawn 'Would God the day were dead/ 
With weary days thou shalt be clothed and fed, 

And wear remorse of heart for thine attire, 

Pain for thy girdle and sorrow upon thine head; 

This is the end of every man's desire. 



The burden of bright colours. Thou shalt see 

Gold tarnished, and the grey above the green; 
And as the thing thou seest thy face shall be, 

And no more as the thing beforedme seen. 

And thou shalt say of mercy 'It hath been*, 
And living, watch the old lips and loves expire, 

And talking, tears shall take thy breath between. 
This is the end of every man's desire. 

The burden of sad sayings. In that day 

Thou shalt tell all thy days and hours, and tell 

Thy times and ways and words of love, and say 
How one was dear and one desirable, 
And sweet was Hfe to hear and sweet to smell, 

But now with lights reverse the old hours retire 
And the last hour is shod with fire from hell. 

This is the end of every man's desire. 

The burden of four seasons. Rain in spring, 
White rain and wind among the tender trees: 

A summer of green sorrows gathering, 
Rank autumn in a mist of miseries, 

98 



A BALLAD OF BURDENS 

With sad face set towards the year, that sees 
The charred ash drop out of the dropping pyre. 

And winter wan with many maladies; 
This is the end of every man's desire. 

The burden of dead faces. Out of sight 
And out of love, beyond the reach of hands, 

Changed in the changing of the dark and light, 
They walk and weep about the barren lands 
Where no seed is nor any garner stands, 

Where in short breaths the doubtful days respire, 
And time's turned glass lets through the sighing sands; 

This is the end of every man's desire. 

The burden of much gladness. Life and lust 

Forsake thee, and the face of thy delight; 
And underfoot the heavy hour strews dust, 

And overhead strange weathers burn and bite; 

And where the red was, lo the bloodless white, 
And where truth was, the likeness of a liar, 

And where day was, the likeness of the night; 
This is the end of every man's desire. 

L'ENVOY 

Princes, and ye whom pleasure quickeneth, 
Heed well this rhyme before your pleasure tire; 

For life is sweet, but after life is death. 
This is the end of every man's desire. 



99 



ILICET 



There is an end of joy and sorrow; 
Peace all day long, all night, all morrow* 

But never a time to laugh or weep. 
The end is come of pleasant places, 
The end of tender words and faces, 

The end of all, the poppied sleep. 

No place for sound within their hearing, 
No room to hope, no time for fearing, 

No lips to laugh, no lids for tears. 
The old years have run out all their measure; 
No chance of pain, no chance of pleasure, 

No fragment of the broken years. 

Outside of all the worlds and ages, 
There "where the fool is as the sage is, 

There where the slayer is clean of blood, 
No end, no passage, no beginning, 
There where the sinner leaves off sinning, 

There where the good man is not good. 

There is not one thing with another. 
But Evil saith to Good: My brother, 

My brother, I am one with thee: 
They shall not strive nor cry for ever: 
No man shall choose between them: never 

Shall this thing end and that thing be. 

100 



ILICET 

Wind wherein seas and stars are shaken 
Shall shake them, and they shall not waken; 

None that has lain down shall arise; 
The stones are sealed across their places; 
One shadow is shed on all their faces, 

One blindness cast on all their eyes. 

Sleep, is it sleep perchance that covers 
Each face, as each face were his lover's ? 

Farewell; as men that sleep fare well. 
The grave's mouth laughs unto derision 
Desire and dread and dream and vision, 

Delight of heaven and sorrow of hell. 

No soul shall tell nor lip shall number 
The names and tribes of you that slumber; 

No memory, no memorial. 

*Thou knowest* who shall say thou knowest ? 
There is none highest and none lowest: 

An end, an end, an end of all. 

Good night, good sleep, good rest from sorrow, 
To these that shall not have good morrow; 

The gods be gentle to all these. 
Nay, if death be not, how shall they be 2 
Nay, is there help in heaven? it may be 

All things and lords of things shall cease. 

The stooped urn, filling, dips and flashes; 
The bronzed brims are deep in ashes; 

The pale old lips of death are fed. 
Shall this dust gather flesh hereafter ? 
Shall one shed tears or fall to laughter, 

At sight of all these poor old dead? 

101 



ILICET 

Nay, as thou wilt; these know not of it; 
Thine eyes 9 strong weeping shall not profit, 

Thy laughter shall not give thee ease; 
Cry aloud, spare not, cease not crying, 
Sigh, till thou cleave thy sides with sighing, 

Thou shalt not raise up one of these. 

Burnt spices flash, and burnt wine hisses, 
The breathing flame's mouth curls and kisses 

The small dried rows of frankincense; 
All round the sad red blossoms smoulder, 
Flowers coloured like the fire, but colder, 

In sign of sweet things taken hence; 

Yea, for their sake and in death's favour 
Things of sweet shape and of sweet savour 

We yield them, spice and flower and wine; 
Yea, costlier things than wine or spices, 
Whereof none knoweth how great the price is, 

And fruit that comes not of the vine. 

From boy's pierced throat and girl's pierced bosom 
Drips, reddening round the blood-red blossom, 

The slow delicious bright soft blood, 
Bathing the spices and the pyre, 
Bathing the flowers and fallen fire, 

Bathing the blossom by the bud. 

Roses whose lips the flame has deadened 
Drink till the lapping leaves are reddened 

And warm wet inner petals weep; 
The flower whereof sick sleep gets leisure, 
Barren of balm and purple pleasure, 

Fumes with no native steam of sleep. 

102 



ILICET 

Why will ye weep I what do ye weeping? 
For waking folk and people sleeping, 

And sands that fill and sands that fall, 
The days rose-red, the poppied hours, 
Blood, wine, and spice and fire and flowers, 

There is one end of one and all. 

Shall such an one lend love or borrow 2 
Shall these be sorry for thy sorrow 2 

Shall these give thanks for words or breath 2 
Their hate is as their loving-kindness; 
The frontlet of their brows is blindness, 

The armlet of their arms is death. 

Lo, for no noise or light of thunder 
Shall these grave-clothes be rent in sunder, 

He that hath taken, shall he give 2 
He hath rent them: shall he bind together 2 
He hath bound them, shall he break the tether 2 
He hath slain them: shall he bid them live 2 

A little sorrow, a little pleasure, 
Fate metes us from the dusty measure 

That holds the date of all of us; 
We are born with travail and strong crying, 
And from the birth-day to the dying 

The likeness of our life is thus. 

One girds himself to serve another, 
Whose father was the dust, whose mother 

The little dead red worm therein; 
They find no fruit of things they cherish; 
The goodness of a man shall perish, 

It shall be one thing with his sin. 

103 



ILICET 

In deep wet ways by grey old gardens 

Fed with sharp spring the sweet fruit hardens; 

They know not what fruits wane or grow; 
Red summer burns to the utmost ember; 
They know not, neither can remember, 

The old years and flowers they used to know. 

Ah, for their sakes, so trapped and taken, 
For theirs, forgotten and forsaken, 

Watch, sleep not, gird thyself with prayer. 
Nay, where the heart of wrath is broken, 
Where long love ends as a thing spoken, 

How shall thy crying enter there 2 

Though the iron sides of the old world falter 
The likeness of them shall not alter 

For all the rumour of periods, 
The stars and seasons that come after, 
The tears of latter men, the laughter 

Of the old unalterable gods. 

Far up above the years and nations, 

The high gods, clothed and crowned with patience, 

Endure through days of death-like date; 
They bear the witness of things hidden; 
Before their eyes all life stands chidden, 

As they before the eyes of Fate. 

Not for their love shall Fate retire, 
Nor they relent for our desire, 

Nor the graves open for their call. 
The end is more than joy and anguish, 
Than lives that laugh and lives that languish, 

The poppied sleep, the end of all. 

104 



Lines from ANACTORIA 

For who shall change with prayers or thanksgivings 

The mystery of the cruelty of things 2 

Or say what God above all gods and years, 

With offering and blood-sacrifice of tears, 

With lamentation from strange lands, from graves 

Where the snake pastures, from scarred mouths of slaves, 

From prison, and from plunging prows of ships 

Through flamelike foam of the sea's closing lips 

With thwartings of strange signs, and wind-blown hair 

Of comets, desolating the dim air, 

When darkness is made fast with seals and bars, 

And fierce reluctance of disastrous stars, 

Eclipse, and sound of shaken hills, and wings 

Darkening, and blind inexpiable things 

With sorrow of labouring moons, and altering light 

And travail of the planets of the night, 

And weeping of the weary Pleiads seven, 

Feeds the mute melancholy lust of heaven I 

Is not this incense bitterness, his meat 

Murder 5 his hidden face and iron feet 

Hath not man known, and felt them on their way 

Threaten and trample all things and every day 2 

Hath he not sent us hunger 2 who hath cursed 

Spirit and flesh with longings filled with thirst 

Their lips who cried unto him? who bade exceed 

The fervid will, fall short the feeble deed, 

H 105 



LINES FROM ANACTORIA 

Bade sink the spirit and the flesh aspire, 

Pain animate the dust of dead desire, 

And life yield up her flower to violent fate l 

Him would I reach, him smite, him desecrate, 

Pierce the cold lips of God with human breath, 

And mix his immortality with death. 

Why hath he made us 2 what had all we done 

That we should live and loathe the sterile sun, 

And with the moon wax paler as she wanes, 

And pulse by pulse feel time grow through our veins 2 

Thee too the years shall cover; thou shalt be 

As the rose born of one same blood with thee, 

As a song sung, as a word said, and fall 

Flower- wise, and be not any more at all, 

Nor any memory of thee anywhere; 

For never Muse has bound above thine hair 

The high Pierian flower whose graft outgrows 

All summer kinship of the mortal rose 

And colour of deciduous days, nor shed 

Reflex and flush of heaven about thine head, 

Nor reddened brows made pale by floral grief 

With splendid shadow from that lordlier leaf. 

Yea, thou shalt be forgotten like spilt wine, 

Except these kisses of my lips on thine 

Brand them with immortality; but me 

Men shall not see bright fire nor hear the sea, 

Nor mix their hearts with music, nor behold 

Cast forth of heaven with feet of awful gold 

And plumeless wings that make the bright air blind, 

Lightning, with thunder for a hound behind 

Hunting through fields unfurrowed and unsown 

But in the light and laughter, in the moan 

And music, and in grasp of lip and hand 

1 06 



LINES FROM ANACTORIA 

And shudder of water that makes felt on land 
The immeasurable tremor of all the sea, 
Memories shall mix and metaphors of me. 
Like me shall be the shuddering calm of night, 
When all the winds of the world for pure delight 
Close lips that quiver and fold up wings that ache; 
When nightingales are louder for love's sake, 
And leaves tremble like lute-strings or like fire; 
Like me the one star swooning with desire 
Even at the cold Hps of the sleepless moon, 
As I at thine; like me the waste white noon, 
Burnt through with barren sunlight; and like me 
The land-stream and the tide-stream in the sea. 
I am sick with time as these with ebb and flow, 
And by the yearning in my veins I know 
The yearning sound of waters; and mine eyes 
Burn as that beamless fire which fills the skies 
With troubled stars and travailing things of flame; 
And in my heart the grief consuming them 
Labours, and in my veins the thirst of these, 
And all the summer travail of the trees 
And all the winter sickness; and the earth, 
Filled full with deadly works of death and birth, 
Some spent with hungry lusts of birth and death, 
Has pain like mine in her divided breath; 
Her spring of leaves is barren, and her fruit 
Ashes; her boughs are burdened, and her root 
Fibrous and gnarled with poison; underneath 
Serpents have gnawn it through with tortuous teeth 
Made sharp upon the bones of all the dead, 
And wild birds rend her branches overhead. 
These, woven as raiment for his word and thought, 
These hath God made, and me as these, and wrought 

107 



LINES FROM ANACTORIA 

Song, and hath lit It at my lips; and me 

Earth shall not gather though she feed on thee. 

As a shed tear shalt thou be shed; but I 

Lo, earth may labour, men live long and die, 

Years change and stars, and the high God devise 

New things, and old things wane before his eyes 

Who wields and wrecks them, being more strong than 

they 

But* having made me, me he shall not slay. 
Nor slay nor satiate, like those herds of his 
Who laugh and live a little, and their kiss 
Contents them, and their loves are swift and sweet, 
And sure death grasps and gains them with slow feet, 
Love they or hate they, strive or bow their knees 
And all these end; he hath his will of these. 
Yea, but albeit he slay me, hating me 
Albeit he hide me in the deep dear sea 
And cover me with cool wan foam, and ease 
This soul of mine as any soul of these, 
And give me water and great sweet waves, and make 
The very sea's name lordlier for my sake, 
The whole sea sweeter albeit I die indeed 
And hide myself and sleep and no man heed, 
Of me the high God hath not all his will. 
Blossom of branches, and on each high hill 
Clear air and wind, and under in clamorous vales 
Fierce noises of the fiery nightingales, 
Buds burning in the sudden spring like fire, 
The wan washed sand and the waves* vain desire, 
Sails seen like blown white flowers at sea, and words 
That bring tears swiftest, and long notes of birds 
Violently singing till the whole world sings 
I, Sappho, shall be one with all these things, 

108 



LINES FROM ANACTORIA 

With all high things for ever; and my face 

Seen once, my songs once heard in a strange place, 

Cleave to men's lives, and waste the days thereof 

With gladness and much sadness and long love. 

Yea, they shall say, earth's womb has borne in vain 

New things, and never this best thing again; 

Borne days and men, borne fruits and wars and wine, 

Seasons and songs, but no song more like mine. 

And they shall know me as ye who have known me here, 

Last year when I loved Atthis, and this year 

When I love thee, and they shall praise me, and say 

'She hath all time as all we have our day, 

Shall she not live and have her wilF even I? 

Yea, though thou diest, I say I shall not die. 

For these shall give me of their souls, shall give 

Life, and the days and loves wherewith I live, 

Shall quicken me with loving, fill with breath, 

Save me and serve me, strive for me with death. 

Alas, that neither moon nor snow nor dew 

Nor all cold things can purge me wholly through, 

Assuage me nor allay me nor appease, 

Till supreme sleep shall being me bloodless ease; 

Till time wax faint in all his periods; 

Till fate undo the bondage of the gods, 

And lay, to slake and satiate me all through, 

Lotus and Lethe on my lips like dew, 

And shed around and over and under me 

Thick darkness and the insuperable sea. 



109 



SAPPHICS 



All the night sleep came not upon my eyelids. 
Shed not dew, nor shook nor unclosed a feather, 
Yet with lips shut close and with eyes of iron 
Stood and beheld me. 



Then to me so lying awake a vision 
Came without sleep over the seas and touched me, 
Softly touched mine eyelids and lips; and I too, 
Full of the vision, 

Saw the white implacable Aphrodite, 
Saw the hair unbound and the feet unsandalled 
Shine as fire of sunset on western waters; 
Saw the reluctant 

Feet, the straining plumes of the doves that drew her, 
Looking always, looking with necks reverted, 
Back to Lesbos, back to the hills whereunder 
Shone Mitylene; 

Heard the flying feet of the Loves behind her 
Make a sudden thunder upon the waters, 
As the thunder flung from the strong unclosing 
Wings of a great wind. 

no 



SAPPHICS 

So the goddess fled from her place, with awful 
Sound of feet and thunder of wings around her; 
While behind a clamour of singing women 
Severed the twilight. 

Ah the singing, ah the delight, the passion! 
All the Loves wept, listening; sick with anguish, 
Stood the crowned nine Muses about Apollo; 
Fear was upon them, 

While the tenth sang wonderful things they knew not* 
Ah the tenth, the Lesbian! the nine were silent, 
None endured the sound of her song for weeping: 
Laurel by laurel, 

Faded all their crowns; but about her forehead, 
Round her woven tresses and ashen temples 
White as dead snow, paler than grass in summer, 
Ravaged with kisses, 

Shone a light of fire as a crown for ever. 
Yea, almost the implacable Aphrodite 
Paused, and almost wept; such a song was that song, 
Yea, by her name too 

Called her, saying, 'Turn to me, O my Sappho 5 ; 
Yet she turned her face from the Loves, she saw not 
Tears for laughter darken immortal eyelids, 
Heard not about her 

Fearful fitful wings of the doves departing, 
Saw not how the bosom of Aphrodite 
Shook with weeping, saw not her shaken raiment, 
Saw not her hands wrung; 

in 



SAPPHICS 

Saw the Lesbians kissing across their smitten 
Lutes with lips more sweet than the sound of lute-strings. 
Mouth to mouth and hand upon hand, her chosen, 
Fairer than all men; 

Only saw the beautiful lips and fingers, 
Full of songs and kisses and little whispers, 
Full of musk; only beheld among them 
Soar, as a bird soars 

Newly fledged, her visible song, a marvel, 
Made of perfect sound and exceeding passion, 
Sweetly shapen, terrible, full of thunders, 
Clothed with the wind's wings. 

Then rejoiced she, laughing with love, and scattered 
Roses, awful roses of holy blossom; 
Then the Loves thronged sadly with hidden faces 
Round Aphrodite, 

Then the Muses, stricken at heart, were silent, 
Yea, the gods waxed pale; such a song was that song. 
All reluctant, all with a fresh repulsion, 
Fled from before her. 

All withdrew long since, and the land was barren, 
Full of fruitless women and music only. 
Now perchance, when winds are assuaged at sunset, 
Lulled at the dewfall. 

By the grey sea-side, unassuaged, unheard of, 
Unbeloved, unseen in the ebb of twilight, 
Ghosts of outcast women return lamenting, 
Purged not in Lethe, 

112 



SAPPHICS 

Clothed about with flame and with tears, and singing 
Songs that move the heart of the shaken heaven, 
Songs that break the heart of the earth with pity, 
Hearing, to hear them. 



113 



HENDECASYLLABICS 



In the month of the long decline of roses 

I, beholding the summer dead before me, 

Set my face to the sea and journeyed silent. 

Gazing eagerly where above the sea-mark 

Flame as fierce as the fervid eyes of lions 

Half divided the eyelids of the sunset; 

Till I heard as it were a noise of waters 

Moving tremulous under feet of angels 

Multitudinous, out of all the heavens; 

Knew the fluttering wind, the fluttered foliage, 

Shaken fitfully, full of sound and shadow; 

And saw, trodden upon by noiseless angels, 

Long mysterious reaches fed with moonlight, 

Sweet sad straits in a soft subsiding channel, 

Blown about by the lips of winds I knew not, 

Winds not born in the north nor any quarter, 

Winds not warm, with the south nor any sunshine; 

Heard between them a voice of exultation, 

*Lo, the summer is dead, the sun is faded, 

Even like as a leaf the year is withered, 

All the fruits of the day from all her branches 

Gathered, neither is any left to gather. 

All the flowers are dead, the tender blossoms, 

All are taken away; the season wasted, 

Like an ember among the fallen ashes. 

Now with light of the winter days, with moonlight, 

114 



HENDECASYLLABICS 

Light of snow, and the bitter light of hoarfrost, 
We bring flowers that fade not after autumn, 
Pale white chaplets and crowns of latter seasons, 
Fair false leaves (but the summer leaves were falser), 
Woven under the eyes of stars and planets 
When low light was upon the windy reaches 
Where the flower of foam was blown, a lily 
Dropt among the sonorous fruitless furrows 
And green fields of the sea that make no pasture: 
Since the winter begins, the weeping winter, 
All whose flowers are tears, and round his temples 
Iron blossom of frost is bound for ever. 9 



115 



BEFORE PARTING 



A month or twain to live on honeycomb 
Is pleasant; but one tires of scented time* 
Cold sweet recurrence of accepted rhyme, 
And that strong purple under juice and foam 
Where the wine's heart has burst; 
Nor feel the latter kisses like the first. 

Once yet, this poor one time; I will not pray 

Even to change the bitterness of it, 

The bitter taste ensuing on the sweet, 

To make your tears fall where your soft hair lay 

All blurred and heavy in some perfumed wise 

Over my face and eyes. 

And yet who knows what end the scythed wheat 
Makes of its foolish poppies* mouths of red? 
These were not sown, these are not harvested, 
They grow a month and are cast under feet 
And none has care thereof, 
As none has care of a divided love. 

I know each shadow of your lips by rote, 
Each change of love in eyelids and eyebrows; 
The fashion of fair temples tremulous 
With tender blood, and colour of your throat; 
I know not how love is gone out of this, 
Seeing that all was his* 

1 16 



BEFORE PARTING 

Love's likeness there endures upon all these: 

But out of these one shall not gather love. 

Day hath not strength nor the night shade enough 

To make love whole and fill his lips with ease, 

As some bee-builded cell 

Feels at filled lips the heavy honey swell. 

I know not how this last month leaves your hair 
Less full of purple colour and hid spice, 
And that luxurious trouble of closed eyes 
Is mixed with meaner shadow and waste care; 
And love, kissed out by pleasure, seems not yet 
Worth patience to regret. 



117 



THE SUNDEW 



A little marsh-plant, yellow green, 
And pricked at lip with tender red. 
Tread close, and either way you tread 
Some faint black water jets between 
Lest you should bruise the curious head. 

A live thing maybe; who shall know 2 
The summer knows and suffers it; 
For the cool moss is thick and sweet 
Each side, and saves the blossom so 
That it lives out the long June heat. 

The deep scent of the heather burns 
About it; breathless though it be, 
Bow down and worship; more than we 
Is the least flower whose life returns, 
Least weed renascent in the sea. 

We are vexed and cumbered in earth's sight 
With wants, with many memories; 
These see their mother what she is. 
Glad-growing, till August leave more bright 
The apple-coloured cranberries. 

Wind blows and bleaches the strong grass, 
Blown all one way to shelter it 

118 



THE SUNDEW 

From trample of strayed kine, with feet 
Felt heavier than the moorhen was, 
Strayed up past patches of wild wheat. 

You call it sundew: how it grows, 
If with its colour it have breath, 
If life taste sweet to it, if death 
Pain its soft petal, no man knows: 
Man has no sight or sense that saith* 

My sundew, grown of gentle days, 
In these green miles the spring begun 
Thy growth ere April had half done 
With the soft secret of her ways 
Or June made ready for the sun. 

red-lipped mouth of marsh-flower, 

1 have a secret halved with thee. 
The name that is love's name to me 
Thou knowest, and the face of her 
"Who is my festival to see. 

The hard sun, as thy petals knew, 
Coloured the heavy moss-water: 
Thou wert not worth green midsummer 
Nor fit to live to August blue, 
O sundew, not remembering her* 



119 



AUGUST 



There were four apples on the bough, 
Half gold half red, that one might know 
The blood was ripe inside the core; 
The colour of the leaves was more 
Like stems of yellow corn that grow 
Through all the gold June meadow's floor. 

The warm smell of the fruit was good 
To feed on, and the spilt green wood, 
With all its bearded lips and stains 
Of mosses in the cloven veins, 
Most pleasant, if one lay or stood 
In sunshine or in happy rains. 

There were four apples on the tree, 

Red stained through gold, that all might see 

The sun went warm from core to rind; 

The green leaves made the summer blind 

In that soft place they kept for me 

With golden apples shut behind. 

The leaves caught gold across the sun, 
And where the bluest air begun, 
Thirsted for song to help the heat; 
As I to feel my lady's feet 
Draw close before the day were done; 
Both lips grew dry with dreams of it. 

12,0 



AUGUST 

In the mute August afternoon 

They trembled to some undertune 

Of music in the silver air; 

Great pleasure was it to be there 

Till green turned duskier and the moon 

Coloured the corn-sheaves like gold hair. 

That August time it was delight 

To watch the red moons wane to white 

*Twixt grey seamed stems of apple-trees; 

A sense of heavy harmonies 

Grew on the growth of patient night, 

More sweet than shapen music is. 

But some three hours before the moon 
The air, still eager from the noon, 
Flagged after heat, not wholly dead; 
Against the stem I leant my head; 
The colour soothed me like a tune, 
Green leaves all round the gold and red. 

I lay there till the warm smell grew 
More sharp, when flecks of yellow dew 
Between the round ripe leaves had blurred 
The rind with stain and wet; I heard 
A wind that blew and breathed and blew, 
Too weak to alter its one word. 

The wet leaves next the gentle fruit 

Felt smoother, and the brown tree-root 

Felt the mould warmer: I too felt 

(As water feels the slow gold melt 

Right through it when the day burns mute) 

The peace of time wherein love dwelt. 

121 



AUGUST 

There were four apples on the tree, 
Gold stained on red that all might see 
The sweet blood filled them to the core: 
The colour of her hair is more 
Like stems of fair faint gold, that be 
Mown from the harvests middle-floor. 



"2,2, 



THE KING'S DAUGHTER 



We were ten maidens in the green corn, 

Small red leaves in the mill-water: 
Fairer maidens never were born, 

Apples of gold for the king's daughter. 

We were ten maidens by a well-head, 
Small white birds in the mill-water: 

Sweeter maidens never were wed, 
Rings of red for the king's daughter. 

The first to spin, the second to sing, 

Seeds of wheat in the mill- water; 
The third may was a goodly thing, 

White bread and brown for the king's daughter. 

The fourth to sew and the fifth to play, 

Fair green weed in the mill- water; 
The sixth may was a goodly may, 

White wine and red for the king's daughter. 

The seventh to woo, the eighth to wed, 

Fair thin reeds in the mill- water; 
The ninth had gold work on her head, 

Honey in the comb for the king's daughter. 

123 



THE KING S DAUGHTER 

The ninth had gold work round her hair, 
Fallen flowers in the mill- water; 

The tenth may was goodly and fair, 
Golden gloves for the king's daughter. 

"We were ten maidens in a field green, 

Fallen fruit in the mill- water; 
Fairer maidens never have been 

Golden sleeves for the king's daughter. 

By there comes the king's young son, 
A little wind in the mill- water; 

*Out often maidens ye'll grant me one', 
A crown of red for the king's daughter. 

'Out often mays ye'll give me the best', 

A. little rain in the mill- water; 
A bed of yellow straw for all the rest, 

A bed of gold for the king's daughter. 

He's ta'en out the goodliest, 

Rain that rains in the mill-water; 

A comb of yellow shell for all the rest, 
A comb of gold for the king's daughter. 

He's made her bed to the goodliest, 
"Wind and hail in the mill- water; 

A grass girdle for all the rest, 

A girdle of arms for the king's daughter. 

He's set his heart to the goodliest, 
Snow that snows in the mill-water; 

Nine little kisses for all the rest, 

An hundredfold for the king's daughter. 

124 



THE KING S DAUGHTER 

He's ta'en his leave at the goodliest, 

Broken boats in the mill- water; 
Golden gifts for all the rest. 

Sorrow of heart for the king's daughter. 

*Yell make a grave for my fair body 9 , 

Running rain in the mill-water; 
'And ye'll streek my brother at the side of me*, 

The pains of hell for the king's daughter. 



125 



AFTER DEATH 



The four boards of the coffin lid 
Heard all the dead man did. 

The first curse was in his mouth, 

Made of grave's mould and deadly drouth. 

The next curse was in his head, 
Made of God's work discomfited. 

The next curse was in his hands, 
Made out of two grave-bands. 

The next curse was in his feet, 
Made out of a grave-sheet. 

C I had fair coins red and white, 
And my name -was as great light; 

I had fair clothes green and red, 

And strong gold bound round my head. 

But no meat comes in my mouth, 
Now I fare as the worm doth; 

And no gold binds in my hair, 
Now I fare as the blind fare. 

12,6 



AFTER DEATH 

My live thews were of great strength, 
Now am I waxen a span's length* 

My live sides were full of lust, 
Now are they dried with dust/ 

The first board spake and said: 
*Is it best eating flesh or bread 5* 

The second answered it: 

*Is wine or honey the more sweet f 

The third board spake and said: 

*Is red gold worth a girl's gold head f 

The fourth made answer thus: 
C A11 these things are as one with us/ 

The dead man asked of them: 

c ls the green land stained brown with flame ? 

Have they hewn my son for beasts to eat, 
And my wife's body for beasts* meat 2 

Have they boiled my maid in a brass pan, 
Ajad built a gallows to hang my man f 

The boards said to him: 

*This is a lewd thing that ye deem. 

Your wife has gotten a golden bed, 
All the sheets are sewn with red. 

izy 



AFTER DEATH 

Your son has gotten a coat of silk 9 
The sleeves are soft as curded milk. 

Your maid has gotten a kirtle new, 
All the skirt has braids of blue. 

Your man has gotten both ring and glove, 
"Wrought well for eyes to love/ 

The dead man answered thus: 

* What good gift shall God give us 5* 

The boards answered him anon: 
'Flesh to feed hell's worm upon/ 



THE SEA-SWALLOWS 



This fell when Christmas lights were done, 
Red rose leaves will never make wine; 

But before the Easter lights begun; 

The ways are sair fra 5 the Till to the Tyne. 

Two lovers sat where the rowan blows 
And all the grass is heavy and fine, 

By the gathering place of the sea- swallows 
When the wind brings them over Tyne. 

Blossom of broom will never make bread, 
Red rose leaves will never make wine; 

Between her brows she is grown red 

That was full white in the fields by Tyne* 

*O what is this thing ye have on, 

Show me now, sweet daughter of mine?* 

*O father, this is my little son 

That I found hid in the sides of Tyne. 

*O what will ye give my son to eat, 

Red rose leaves will never make wine f 

- water and adder's meat, 
The ways are sair fra* the Till to the Tyne/ 

129 



THE SEA-SWALLOWS 

'Or what will ye get my son to wear, 
Red rose leaves will never make wine f 

*A weed and a web of nettle's hair, 

The ways are sair fra* the Till to the Tyne. 9 

*Or what will ye take to line his bed, 
Red rose leaves will never make wines* 

*Two black stones at the kirkwalFs head, 
The ways are sair fra 9 the Till to the Tyne.* 

*Or what will ye give my son for land, 
Red rose leaves will never make wine f 

'Three girl's paces of red sand, 

The ways are sair fira 9 the Till to the Tyne/ 

c Or what will ye give me for my son, 
Red rose leaves will never make wine f 

'Six times to kiss his young mouth on, 

The ways are sair fra* the Till to the Tyne.* 

*But what have ye done with the bearing-bread, 
And what have ye made of the washing- wine ? 

Or where have ye made your bearing-bed, 
To bear a son in the sides of Tynef 

*The bearing-bread is soft and new, 
There is no soil in the straining wine; 

The bed was made between green and blue, 
It stands full soft by the sides of Tyne. 

*The fair grass was my bearing-bread, 
The well-water my washing-wine; 

The low leaves were my bearing-bed, 
And that was best in the sides of Tyne/ 

130 



THE SEA-SWALLOWS 

e O daughter, if ye have done this thing, 

I wot the greater grief is mine; 
This was a bitter child-bearing* 

"When ye were got by the sides of Tyne. 

* About the time of sea-swallows 
That fly full thick by six and nine, 

Ye'll have my body out of the house, 
To bury me by the sides of Tyne. 

e Set nine stones by the wall for twain, 
Red rose leaves will never make wine; 

For the bed I take will measure ten, 

The ways are sair fra* the Till to the Tyne. 

*Tread twelve girl's paces out for three, 
Red rose leaves will never make wine; 

For the pit I made has taken me, 

The ways are sair fra* the Till to the Tyne.* 



131 



A CHRISTMAS CAROL 



Three damsels in the queen's chamber, 

The queen's mouth was most fair; 
She spake a word of God's mother 
As the combs went in her hair. 
Mary that is of might, 
Bring us to thy Son's sight. 

They held the gold combs out from her, 

A span's length ofFher head; 
She sang this song of God's mother 
And of her bearing-bed. 

Mary most full of grace, 
Bring us to thy Son's face. 

When she sat at Joseph's hand, 

She looked against her side; 
And either way from the short silk band 
Her girdle was all wried. 

Mary that all good may, 
Bring us to thy Son's way. 

Mary had three women for her bed, 

The twain were maidens clean; 
The first of them had white and red, 
The third had riven green. 
Mary that is so sweet, 
Bring us to thy Son's feet. 



A CHRISTMAS CAROL 

She had three women for her hair, 
Two were gloved soft and shod; 
The third had feet and fingers bare* 
She was the likest God. 

Mary that wleldeth land, 
Bring us to thy Son's hand. 

She had three women for her ease, 

The twain were good women: 
The first two were the two Maries* 
The third was Magdalen. 
Mary that perfect is, 
Bring us to thy Son's kiss. 

Joseph had three workmen in his stall, 

To serve him well upon; 
The first of them were Peter and Paul, 
The third of them was John. 
Mary, God*s handmaiden, 
Bring us to thy Son's ken. 

*If your child be none other man's, 

But if it be very mine, 
The bedstead shall be gold two spans, 
The bedfoot silver fine/ 

Mary that made God mirth, 
Bring us to thy Son's birth. 

c lf the child be some other man's, 

And if it be none of mine, 
The manger shall be straw two spans, 
Betwixen kine and kine.' 

Mary that made sin cease, 
Bring us to thy Son's peace. 

133 



A CHRISTMAS CAROL 

Christ was born upon, this wise, 

It fell on such a night, 
Neither with sounds of psalteries, 
Nor -with fire for light. 

Mary that is God's spouse, 
Bring us to thy Son's house. 

The star came out upon the east 

With a great sound and sweet: 
Kings gave gold to make him feast 
A.nd myrrh for him to eat* 
Mary, of thy sweet mood, 
Bring us to thy Son's good. 

He had two handmaids at his head, 

One handmaid at his feet; 
The twain of them were fair and red 
The third one was right sweet. 
Mary that is most wise, 
Bring us to thy Son's eyes. Amen. 



134 



THE MASQUE OF 
QUEEN BERSABE 

A Miracle-splay 



Knights mine, all that be in hall, 
I have a counsel to you all, 
Because of this thing God lets fall 

Among us for a sign. 
For some days hence as I did eat 
From kingly dishes my good meat, 
There flew a bird between my feet 

As red as any wine* 
This bird had a long bill of red 
And a gold ring above his head; 
Long time he sat and nothing said, 
Put softly down his neck and fed 

From the gilt patens fine: 
And as I marvelled at the last 
Me shut his two keen eyen fast 
And suddenly woxe big and brast 

Ere one should tell to nine* 

PRIMUS MILES 

Sir, note this that I will say; 
That Lord who maketh corn with hay 
And morrows each of yesterday, 
He hath you in. his hand. 

135 



THE MASQUE OF QUEEN BERSABE 

SECUNDUS MILES (Paganus quidam) 

By Satan I hold no such thing; 
For if wine swell within a king 
Whose ears for drink are hot and ring, 
The same shall dream of wine-bibbing 
Whilst he can lie or stand. 

QUEEN BERSABE 

Peace now, lords, for Godis head. 
Ye chirk as starlings that be fed 
And gape as fishes newly dead; 
The devil put your bones to bed, 
Lo, this is all to say. 

SECUNDUS MILES 

By Mahound, lords, I have good will 
This devil's bird to wring and spill; 
For now meseems our game goes ill, 
Ye have scant hearts to play. 

TERTIUS MILES 

Lo, sirs, this word is there said, 
That Urias the knight is dead 
Through some ill craft; by Poulis head, 
I doubt his blood hath made so red 
This bird that flew from the queen's bed 
Whereof ye have such fear. 

KING DAVID 

Yea, my good knave, and is it said 
That I can raise men from the dead I 
By God I think to have his head 

136 



THE MASQUE OF QUEEN BERSABE 

Who saith words of my lady's bed 
For any thief to hear. 
Etpercutiat eum in cagite. 

QUEEN BERSABE 

I wis men shall spit at me, 
And say it were but right for thee 
That one should hang thee on a tree; 
Ho! it were a fair thing to see 
The big stones bruise her false body; 
Fie! who shall see her deads 

KING DAVID 

I rede you have no fear of this, 
For as ye wot, the first good kiss 
I had must be the last of his; 
Now are ye queen of mine, I wis, 
And lady of a house that is 
Full rich of meat and bread. 

PRIMUS MILES 

I bid you make good cheer to be 
So fair a queen as all men see. 
And hold us for your lieges free; 
By Peter's soul that hath the key, 
Ye have good hap of it. 

SECUNDUS MILES 

I would that he were hanged and dead 
Who hath no joy to see your head 
With gold about it, barred on red; 
I hold him as a sow of lead 
That is so scant of wit 

137 



THE MASQUE OF QUEEN BERSABE 

Tune dicat NATHAN j?rope&?. 

O king, I have a word to thee; 
The child that is in Bersabe 
Shall wither without light to see; 
This word is come of God by me 

For sin that ye have done. 
Because herein ye did not right, 
To take the fair one lamb to smite 
That was of Urias the knight; 

Ye wist he had but one. 
Full many sheep I wot ye had, 
And many women, when ye bade 
To do your will and keep you glad; 
And a good crown about your head 

With gold to show thereon. 
This Urias had one poor house 
"With low-barred latoun shot- windows 
And scant of corn to fill a mouse; 
And rusty basnets for his brows* 

To wear them to the bone. 
Yea the roofs also, as men sain, 
W"ere thin to hold against the rain; 
Therefore what rushes were there lain 
Grew wet withouten foot of men; 
The stancheons were all gone in twain 

As sick man's flesh is gone. 
Nathless he had great joy to see 
The long hair of this Bersabe 
Fall round her lap and round her knee 
Even to her small soft feet, that be 
Shod now with crimson royally 

And covered with clean gold. 

138 



THE MASQUE OF QUEEN BERSABE 

Likewise great joy he had to kiss 
Her throat, where now the scarlet is 
.Against her little chin, I wis, 

That then was but cold. 
No scarlet then her kirtle had 
And little gold about it sprad; 
But her red mouth was always glad 
To kiss, albeit the eyes were sad 

With love they had to hold. 



SECUNDUS MILES 

How! old thie thy wits are lame; 

To clip such it is no shame: 

I rede you in the devil's name, 

Ye come not here to make men game; 

By Termagaunt that maketh grame, 

I shall to-bete thine head. 
Hie Diabolus capiat eum. 
This knave hath sharp fingers, perfay; 
Mahound you thank and keep alway, 
And give you good knees to pray; 
"What man hath no lust to play, 
The devil "wring his ears, I say; 
There is no more but wellaway, 

For now am I dead. 



KING DAVID 

Certes his mouth is wried and black, 
Full little pence be in his sack; 
This devil hath him by the back. 
It is no boot to lie. 



THE MASQUE OF QUEEN BERSABE 
NATHAN 

Sitteth now still and learn of me 
A little while and ye shall see 
The face of God's strength presently. 
All queens made as this Bersabe, 
All that were fair and foul ye be, 

Come hither; it am I. 

Et hie omnes cantabunt 



HERODIAS 

I am the queen Herodias. 

This headband of my temples was 

King Herod's gold band woven me, 
This broken dry staff in my hand 
Was the queen's staff of a great land 

Betwixen Perse and Samarie. 
For that one dancing of my feet, 
The fire is come in my green wheat, 

From one sea to the other sea. 



AHOLIBAH 

I am the queen Aholibah. 

My lips kissed dumb the word of Ah 

Sighed on strange lips grown sick thereby 
God wrought to me my royal bed; 
The inner work thereof was red, 

The outer work was ivory. 
My mouth's heat was the heat of flame 
For lust towards the kings that came 

With horsemen riding royally. 

140 



THE MASQUE OF QUEEN BERSABE 
CLEOPATRA 

I am the queen of Ethiope. 
Love bade my kissing eyelids ope 

That men beholding might praise love. 
My hair was wonderful and curled; 
My lips held fast the mouth o* the world 

To spoil the strength and speech thereof. 
The latter triumph in my breath 
Bowed down the beaten brows of death, 

Ashamed they had not wrath enough. 

ABIHAIL 

I am the queen of Tyrians, 

My hair was glorious for twelve spans, 

That dried to loose dust afterward. 
My stature was a strong man's length: 
My neck was like a place of strength 

Built with white walls, even and hard. 
Like the first noise of rain leaves catch 
One from another, snatch by snatch, 

Is my praise, hissed against and marred. 

AZUBAH 

I am the queen of Amorites. 
My face was like a place of lights 

With multitudes at festival. 
The glory of my gracious brows 
Was like God's house made glorious 

With colours upon either walL 
Between my brows and hair there was 
A white space like a space of glass 

With golden candles over all. 

141 



THE MASQUE OF QUEEN BERSABE 
AHOL,AH 

I am the queen of Amalek. 
There was no tender touch or fleck 

To spoil my body or bared feet. 
My words were soft like dulcimers, 
And the first sweet of grape-flowers 

Made each side of my bosom sweet. 
My raiment was as tender fruit 
Whose rind smells sweet of spice-tree root, 

Bruised balm-blossom and budded wheat 

AHINOAM 

I am the queen Ahinoam. 

Like the throat of a soft slain lamb 

Was my throat, softer veined than his: 
My lips were as two grapes the sun 
Lays his whole weight of heat upon 

Like a mouth heavy with a kiss: 
My hair's pure purple a wrought fleece, 
My temples therein as a piece 

Of a pomegranate's cleaving is. 

ATARAH 

I am the queen Sidonian. 

My face made faint the face of man, 

And strength was bound between my brow 
Spikenard was hidden in my ships, 
Honey and wheat and myrrh in strips, 

White wools that shine as colour does, 
Soft linen dyed upon the fold, 
Split spice and cores of scented gold, 

Cedar and broken calamus. 

142 



THE MASQUE OF QUEEN BERSABE 
SEMIRAMIS 

I am the queen. Semiramis. 
The whole world and the sea that is 

In fashion like a chrysopras. 
The noise of all men labouring, 
The priest's mouth tired through thanksgiving, 

The sound of love in the blood's pause, 
The strength of love in the blood's beat, 
All these were cast beneath my feet 

And all found lesser than I was. 

HESIONE 

I am the queen Hesione. 

The seasons that increased in me 

Made my face fairer than all men's. 
I had the summer in my hair; 
And all the pale gold autumn air 

W^as as the habit of my sense. 
My body was as fire that shone; 
God's beauty that makes all things one 
Was one among my handmaidens. 

GHRYSOTHEMIS 

I am the queen of Samothrace. 
God, making roses, made my face 

As a rose filled up full with red. 
My prows made sharp the straitened seas 
From Pontus to that Chersonese 

Whereon the ebbed Asian stream is shed. 
My hair was as sweet scent that drips; 
Love's breath begun about my Hps 

Kindled the lips of people dead. 

143 



THE MASQUE OF QUEEN BERSABE 
THOMYRIS 

I am the queen of Scythians. 

My strength was like no strength of man*s, 

My face like day, my breast like spring. 
My fame was felt in the extreme land 
That hath sunshine on the one hand 

And on the other star-shining. 
Yea, and the wind there fails of breath, 
Yea, and there life is waste like death; 

Yea, and there death is a glad thing. 

HARHAS 

I am the queen of Anakim. 

In the spent years whose speech is dim, 

"Whose raiment is the dust and death 
My stately body without stain 
Shone as the shining race of rain 

Whose hair a great wind scattereth, 
Now hath God turned my lips to sighs, 
Plucked off mine eyelids from mine eyes, 
And sealed with seals my way of breath. 

MYRRHA 

I am the queen Arabian. 

The tears wherewith mine eyelids ran 

Smelt like my perfumed eyelids* smell. 
A harsh thirst made my soft mouth hard, 
That ached with kisses afterward; 

My brain rang like a beaten bell. 
As tears on eyes, as fire on wood, 
Sin fed upon my breath and blood, 

Sin made my breasts subside and swell. 

144 



THE MASQUE OF QUEEN BERSABE 
PASIPHAE 

I am the queen Pasiphae. 

Not all the pure clean-coloured sea 

Could cleanse or cool my yearning veins; 
Nor any root nor herb that grew, 
Flag-leaves that let green water through, 

Nor washing of the dews and rains. 
From shame's pressed core I wrung the sweet 
Fruit's savour that was death to eat, 

Whereof no seed but death remains. 

SAPPHO 

I am the queen of Lesbians. 

My love, that had no part in man's. 

Was sweeter than all shape of sweet. 
The intolerable infinite desire 
Made my face pale like faded fire 

When the ashen pyre falls through with heat. 
My blood was hot wan wine of love, 
And my song's sound the sound thereof, 

The sound of the delight of it. 

MESSALINA 

I am the queen of Italy. 

These were the signs God set on me; 

A barren beauty subtle and sleek, 
Curled carven hair, and cheeks worn wan 
With fierce false lips of many a man, 

Large temples where the blood ran weak, 
A mouth athirst and amorous 
And hungering as the grave's mouth does 

That, being an-hungred, cannot speak. 

145 



THE MASQUE OF QUEEN BERSABE 
AMESTRIS 

I am the queen of Persians. 

My breasts were lordlier than bright swans, 

My body as amber fair and thin. 
Strange flesh was given my lips for bread, 
With poisonous hours my days were fed, 

And my feet shod with adder-skin. 
In Shushan toward Ecbatane 
I wrought my joys with tears and pain, 

My loves with blood and bitter sin. 

EPHRATH 

I am the queen of Rephaim. 

God, that some while refraineth him, 

Made in the end a spoil of me* 
My rumour was upon the world 
As strong sound of swoln water hurled 

Through porches of the straining sea. 
My hair was like the flag-flower, 
And my breasts carven goodlier 

Than beryl with chalcedony. 

PASITHEA 

I am the queen of Cypriotes. 

Mine oarsmen, labouring with brown throats. 

Sang of me many a tender thing. 
My maidens, girdled loose and braced 
With gold from bosom to white waist, 

Praised me between their wool-combing. 
All that praise Venus all night long 
With lips like speech and lids like song 

Praised me till song lost heart to sing. 

146 



THE MASQUE OF QUEEN BERSABE 
ALACIEJL 

I am the queen AlacieL 

My mouth was like that moist gold cell 

Whereout the thickest honey drips. 
Mine eyes were as a grey-green sea; 
The amorous blood that smote on me 

Smote to my feet and finger-tips. 
My throat was whiter than the dove, 
Mine eyelids as the seals of love, 

And as the doors of love my lips. 

ERIGONE 

I am the queen Erigone. 

The wild wine shed as blood on me 

Made my face brighter than a bride's. 
My large lips had the old thirst of earth, 
Mine arms the might of the old sea's girth 

Bound round the whole world's iron sides. 
Within mine eyes and in mine ears 
W^ere music and the wine of tears. 

And light, and thunder of the tides. 
Et hie exeant, et dicat Bersabe regina; 

Alas, God, for thy great pity 

And for the might that is in thee. 

Behold, I woful Bersabe 

Cry out with stoopings of my knee 

And thy wrath laid and bound on me 

Till I may see thy love. 
Behold, Lord, this child is grown 
Within me between bone and bone 
To make me mother of a son, 

147 



THE MASQUE OF QUEEN BERSABE 

Made of my body with strong moan; 
There shall not be another one 
That shall be made hereof* 



KING DAVID 

Lord God, alas, what shall I sain 2 
Lo, thou art as an hundred men 
Both to break and build again: 
The wild ways thou makest plain, 
Thine hands hold the hail and rain, 
And thy fingers both grape and grain; 
Of their largess we be all well fain, 

A.nd of their great pity: 
The sun thou madest of good gold, 
Of clean silver the moon cold, 
All the great stars thou hast told 
A.S thy cattle in thy fold 
Every one by his name of old; 
"Wind and -water thou hast in hold, 

Both the land and the long sea; 
Both the green sea and the land, 
Lord God, thou hast in hand, 
Both white water and grey sand; 
"Upon thy right or thy left hand 
There is no man that may stand; 

Lord, thou rue on me. 

wise Lord, if thou be keen 
To note things amiss that been, 

1 am not worth a shell of bean 

More than an old mare meagre and lean 
For all my wrong- doing with my queen, 
It grew not of our heartes clean, 

148 



THE MASQUE OF QUEEN BERSABE 

But it began of her body. 
For It fell in the hot May 
I stood within a paven way 
Built of fair bright stone, perfay, 
That is as fire of night and day 

And lighteth all my house. 
Therein be neither stones nor sticks 
Neither red nor white bricks, 
But for cubits five or six 
There is most goodly sardonyx 

And amber laid in rows. 
It goes round about my roofs, 
(If ye list ye shall have proofs) 
There is good space for horse and hoofs, 

Plain and nothing perilous. 
For the fair green weather *s heat* 
And for the smell of leaves sweet, 
It is no marvel, well ye weet, 

A man to waxen amorous. 
This I say now by my case 
That spied forth of that royal place; 
There I saw in no great space 
Mine own sweet, both body and face, 
Under the fresh boughs. 
In a water that was there 
She wesshe her goodly body bare 
And dried it with her owen hair: 
Both her arms and her knees fair, 

Both bosom and brows; 
Both shoulders and eke thighs 
Tho she wesshe upon this wise; 
Ever she sighed with little sighs, 
And ever she gave God thank. 



THE MASQUE OF QUEEN BERSABE 

Yea, God wot I can well see yet 
Both her breast and her sides all wet 
And her long hair withouten let 
Spread sideways Eke a drawing net; 
Full dear bought and full far fet 
Was that sweet thing there y-set; 
It were a hard thing to forget 
How both lips and eyen met, 

Breast and breath sank. 
So goodly a sight as there she was, 
Lying looking on her glass 
By wan water in green grass, 

Yet saw never man. 

So soft and great she was and bright 
With all her body waxen white, 
I woxe nigh blind to see the light 
Shed out of it to left and right; 
This bitter sin from that sweet sight 
Between us twain began* 

HATHAN 

Now, sir, be merry anon, 
For ye shall have a full wise son, 
Goodly and great of flesh and bone; 
There shall no king be such an one, 

I swear by Godis rood. 
Therefore, lord, be merry here, 
And go to meat withouten fear, 
A.nd hear a mass with goodly cheer; 
For to all folk ye shall be dear, 

And all folk of your blood. 

Et tune Meant Laudatnus* 
150 



ST DOROTHY 



It hath been seen and yet it shall be seen 

That out of tender mouths God's praise hath been 

Made perfect, and with wood and simple string 

He hath played music sweet as shawm-playing 

To please himself with softness of all sound; 

And no small thing but hath been sometime found 

Full sweet of use, and no such humbleness 

But God hath bruised withal the sentences 

And evidence of wise men witnessing; 

No leaf that is so soft a hidden thing 

It never shall get sight of the great sun; 

The strength often has been the strength of one, 

And lowliness has waxed imperious. 

There was in Rome a man Theophilus 
Of right great blood and gracious ways, that had 
All noble fashions to make people glad 
And a soft life of pleasurable days; 
He was a goodly man for one to praise, 
Flawless and whole upward from foot to head; 
His arms were a red hawk that alway fed 
On a small bird with feathers gnawed upon, 
Beaten and plucked about the bosom-bone 
Whereby a small round fleck like fire there was: 
They called it in their tongue lampadias; 
This was the banner of the lordly man. 
In many straits of sea and reaches wan 

151 



ST DOROTHY 

Full of quick wind, and many a shaken firth, 

It had seen fighting days of either earth, 

Westward or east of waters Gaditane 

(This was the place of sea-rocks under Spain 

Called after the great praise of Hercules) 

And north beyond the washing Pontic seas, 

Far windy Russian places fabulous, 

And salt fierce tides of storm-swoFn Bosphorus. 

Now as this lord came straying in Rome town 
He saw a little lattice open down 
And after it a press of maidens* heads 
That sat upon their cold small quiet beds 
Talking, and played upon short-stringed lutes; 
And other some ground perfume out of roots 
Gathered by marvellous moons in Asia 
Saffron and aloes and wild cassia, 
Coloured all through and smelling of the sun; 
And over all these was a certain one 
Clothed softly, with sweet herbs about her hair 
And bosom flowerful, her face more fair 
Than sudden-singing April in soft lands: 
Eyed like a gracious bird, and in both hands 
She held a psalter painted green and red. 

This Theophile laughed at the heart, and said 
Now God so help me hither and St Paul, 
As by the new time of their festival 
I have good will to take this maid to wife. 
And herewith fell to fancies of her life 
And soft half-thoughts that ended suddenly. 
This is man's guise to please himself, when he 
Shall not see one thing of his pleasant things, 
Nor with outwatch of many travailings 
Come to be eased of the least pain he hath 

152 



ST DOROTHY 

For all his love and all his foolish wrath 

And all the heavy manner of his mind. 

Thus is he like a fisher fallen blind 

That casts his nets across the boat awry 

To strike the sea, but lo, he striketh dry 

And plucks them back all broken for his pain 

And bites his beard and casts across again 

And reaching wrong slips over in the sea. 

So hath this man a strangled neck for fee, 

For all his cost he chuckles in his throat. 

This Theophile that little hereof wote 

Laid wait to hear of her what she might be: 

Men told him she had name of Dorothy, 

And was a lady of a worthy house. 

Thereat this knight grew inly glorious 

That he should have a love so fair of place. 

She was a maiden of most quiet face, 

Tender of speech, and had no hardihood 

But was nigh feeble of her fearful blood; 

Her mercy in her was so marvellous 

From her least years, that seeing her school-fellows 

That read beside her stricken with a rod, 

She would cry sore and say some word to God 

That he would ease her fellow of his pain. 

There is no touch of sun or fallen rain 

That ever fell on a more gracious thing. 

In middle Rome there was in stone-working 
The church of Venus painted royally. 
The chapels of it were some two or three, 
In each of them her tabernacle was 
And a wide window of six feet in glass 
Coloured with all her works in red and gold. 
The altars had bright cloths and cups to hold 

I* 153 



ST DOROTHY 

The wine of Venus for the services, 

Made out of honey and crushed wood-berries 

That shed sweet yellow through the thick wet red, 

That on high days was borne upon the head 

Of Venus* priest for any man to drink; 

So that in drinking he should fall to think 

On some fair face, and in the thought thereof 

Worship, and such should triumph in his love. 

For this soft wine that did such grace and good 

Was new trans-shaped and mixed with love's own blood, 

That in the fighting Trojan time was bled; 

For which came such a woe to Diomed 

That he was stifled after in hard sea. 

And some said that this wine-shedding should be 

Made of the falling of Adonis* blood, 

That curled upon the thorns and broken wood 

And round the gold silk shoes on Venus* feet; 

The taste thereof was as hot honey sweet 

And in the mouth ran soft and riotous. 

This was the holiness of Venus' house. 

It was their worship, that in August days 
Twelve maidens should go through those Roman ways 
Naked, and having gold across their brows 
And their hair twisted in short golden rows, 
To minister to Venus in this wise: 
And twelve men chosen in their companies 
To match these maidens by the altar-stair, 
All in one habit, crowned upon the hair. 
Among these men was chosen Theophile. 

This knight went out and prayed a little while, 
Holding queen Venus by her hands and knees: 
I will give thee twelve royal images 
Cut in glad gold, with marvels of wrought stone 

154 



ST DOROTHY 

For thy sweet priests to lean and pray upon, 
Jasper and hyacinth and chrysopras, 
And the strange Asian thalamite that was 
Hidden twelve ages under heavy sea 
Among the little sleepy pearls, to be 
A shrine lit over with soft candle-flame 
Burning all night red as hot brows of shame. 
So thou wilt be my lady without sin. 
Goddess that art all gold outside and in, 
Help me to serve thee in thy holy way. 
Thou knowest, Love, that in my bearing day 
There shone a laughter in the singing stars 
Round the gold-ceiled bride-bed wherein Mars 
Touched thee and had thee in your kissing wise. 
Now therefore, sweet, kiss thou my maiden's eyes 
That they may open graciously towards me; 
And this new fashion of thy shrine shall be 
As soft with gold as thine own happy head. 

The goddess, that was painted with face red 
Between two long green tumbled sides of sea, 
Stooped her neck sideways, and spake pleasantly: 
Thou shalt have grace as thou art thrall of mine. 
And with this came a savour of shed wine 
And plucked-out petals from a rose's head: 
And softly with slow laughs of lip she said, 
Thou shalt have favour ail thy days of me. 

Then came Theophilus to Dorothy, 
Saying: O sweet, if one should strive or speak 
Against God's ways, he gets a beaten cheek 
For all his wage and shame above all men. 
Therefore I have no will to turn again 
When God saith *go', lest a worse thing fall out. 
Then she, misdoubting lest he went about 

155 



ST DOROTHY 

To catch her wits, made answer somewhat thus: 

I have no will, my lord Theophilus, 

To speak against this worthy word of yours; 

Knowing how God's will in all speech endures, 

That save by grace there may no thing be said. 

Then Theophile waxed light from foot to head, 

And softly fell upon this answering. 

It is well seen you are a chosen thing 

To do God service in his gracious way. 

I will that you make haste and holiday 

To go next year upon the Venus stair, 

Covered none else, but crowned upon your hair, 

And do the service that a maiden doth. 

She said: but I that am Christ's maid were loth 

To do this thing that hath such bitter name. 

Thereat his brows were beaten with sore shame 

And he came off and said no other word. 

Then his eyes chanced upon his banner-bird, 

And he fell fingering at the staff of it 

And laughed for wrath and stared between his feet, 

And out of a chafed heart he spake as thus: 

Lo, how she japes at me Theophilus, 

Feigning herself a fool and hard to love; 

Yet in good time for all she boasteth of 

She shall be like a little beaten bird. 

And while his mouth was open in that word 

He came upon the house Janiculum, 

Where some went busily, and other some 

Talked in the gate called the gate glorious. 

The emperor, which was one Gabalus, 

Sat over all and drank chill wine alone. 

To whom is come Theophilus anon, 

And said as thus: Beau sire, Dieu vous aide. 

156 



ST DOROTHY 

And afterward sat under him, and said 

All this thing through as ye have wholly heard. 

This Gabalus laughed thickly in his beard. 
Yea, this is righteousness and maiden rule. 
Truly, he said, a maid is but a fool. 
And japed at them as one full villainous, 
In a lewd wise, this heathen Gabalus, 
And sent his men to bind her as he bade. 
Thus have they taken Dorothy the maid, 
And haled her forth as men hale pick-purses: 
A little need God knows they had of this, 
To hale her by her maiden gentle hair. 
Thus went she lowly, making a soft prayer, 
As one who stays the sweet wine in his mouth, 
Murmuring with eased lips, and is most loth 
To have done wholly with the sweet of it. 

Christ king, fair Christ, that knowest all men's wit 
And all the feeble fashion of my ways, 

perfect God, that from all yesterdays 
Abidest whole with morrows perfected, 

1 pray thee by thy mother's holy head 
Thou help me to do right, that I not slip: 
I have no speech nor strength upon my lip, 
Except thou help me who art wise and sweet. 
Do this too for those nails that clove thy feet, 
Let me die maiden after many pains. 
Though I be least among thy handmaidens, 
Doubtless I shall take death more sweetly thus. 

Now have they brought her to King Gabalus, 
Who laughed in all his throat some breathing-whiles. 
By God, he said, if one should leap two miles, 
He were not pained about the sides so much. 
This were a soft thing for a man to touch. 

157 



ST DOROTHY 

Shall one so chafe that hath such little bones ? 

And shook his throat with thick and chuckled moans 

For laughter that she had such holiness. 

What aileth thee, wilt thou do services 2 

It were good fare to fare as Venus doth, 

Then said this lady with her maiden mouth, 
Shamefaced, and something paler in the cheek: 
Now, sir, albeit my wit and will to speak 
Give me no grace in sight of worthy men, 
For all my shame yet know I this again, 
I may not speak, nor after downlying 
Rise up to take delight in lute-playing, 
Nor sing nor sleep, nor sit and fold my hands, 
But my soul in some measure understands 
God's grace laid like a garment over me, 
For this fair God that out of strong sharp sea 
Lifted the shapely and green-coloured land, 
And hath the weight of heaven in his hand 
As one might hold a bird, and under him 
The heavy golden planets beam by beam 
Building the feasting-chambers of his house, 
And the large world he holdeth with his brows. 
And with the light of them astonisheth 
All place and time and face of life and death 
And motion of the north wind and the south, 
And is the sound within his angel's mouth 
Of singing words and words of thanksgiving, 
And is the colour of the latter spring 
And heat upon the summer and the sun, 
And is beginning of all things begun 
And gathers in him all things to their end, 
And with the fingers of his hand doth bend 
The stretched-out sides of heaven like a sail* 

158 



ST DOROTHY 

And with his breath he maketh the red pale 
And fills -with blood faint faces of men dead. 
And with the sound between his lips are fed 
Iron and fire and the white body of snow, 
And blossom of all trees in places low, 
And small bright herbs about the little hills, 
And fruit pricked softly with birds* tender bills, 
And flight of foam about green fields of sea, 
And fourfold strength of the great winds that be 
Moved always outward from beneath his feet, 
And growth of grass and growth of sheaved wheat 
And all green flower of goodly-growing lands; 
And all these things he gathers with his hands 
And covers all their beauty with his wings; 
The same, even God that governs all these things, 
Hath set my feet to be upon his ways. 
Now therefore for no painfulness of days 
I shall put off this service bound on me, 
Also, fair sir, ye know this certainly, 
How God was in his flesh full chaste and meek 
And gave his face to shame, and either cheek 
Gave up to smiting of men tyrannous. 

And here with a great voice this Gabalus 
Cried out and said: By God's blood and his bones, 
This were good game betwixen night and nones 
For one to sit and hearken to such saws: 
I were as lief fall in some big beast's jaws 
As hear these women's jaw-teeth chattering, 
By God a woman is the harder thing, 
One may not put a hook into her mouth. 
Now by St Luke I am so sore adrouth 
For all these saws I must needs drink again: 
But I pray God deliver all us men 

159 



ST DOROTHY 

From all such noise of women and their heat. 
That Is a noble scripture, well I weet, 
That likens women to an empty can; 
When God said that he was a full wise man. 
I trow no man may blame him as for that. 

And herewithal he drank a draught, and spat, 
And said: Now shall I make an end hereof. 
Come near all men and hearken for God's love, 
And ye shall hear a jest or twain, God wot. 
And spake as thus with mouth full thick and hot; 
But thou do this thou shalt be shortly slain. 
Lo, sir, she said, this death and all this pain 
I take in penance of my bitter sins. 
Yea, now, quoth Gabalus, this game begins. 
Lo, without sin one shall not live a span. 
Lo, this is she that would not look on man 
Between her fingers folded in thwart wise. 
See how her shatne hath smitten in her eyes 
That was so clean she had not heard of shame. 
Certes, he said, by Gabalus my name, 
This two years back I was not so well pleased. 
This were good mirth for sick men to be eased 
And rise up whole and laugh at hearing of. 
I pray thee show us something of thy love, 
Since thou wast maid thy gown is waxen wide. 
Yea, maid I am, she said, and somewhat sighed, 
As one who thought upon the low fair house 
Where she sat working, with soft bended brows 
Watching her threads, among the school-maidens. 
And she thought well now God had brought her thence 
She should not come to sew her gold again. 

Then cried King Gabalus upon his men 
To have her forth and draw her with steel gins. 

160 



ST DOROTHY 

And as a man hag-ridden beats and grins 
And bends his body sidelong in his bed, 
So wagged he with his body and knave's head, 
Gaping at her, and blowing with his breath. 
And in good time he gat an evil death 
Out of his lewdness with his cursed wives: 
His bones were hewn asunder as with knives 
For his misliving, certes it is said. 
But all the evil wrought upon this maid, 
It were full hard for one to handle it. 
For her soft blood was shed upon her feet, 
And all her body's colour bruised and faint. 
But she, as one abiding God's great saint, 
Spake not nor wept for all this travail hard. 
^Wherefore the king commanded afterward 
To slay her presently in all men's sight. 
And it was now an hour upon the night 
And winter-time, and a few stars began. 
The weather was yet feeble and all wan 
For beating of a weighty wind and snow. 
And she came walking in soft wise and slow, 
And many men with faces piteous. 
Then came this heavy cursing Gabalus, 
That swore full hard into his drunken beard; 
And faintly after without any word 
Came Theophile some paces off the king. 
And in the middle of this "wayfaring 
Full tenderly beholding her he said: 

There is no word of comfort with men dead 
Nor any face and colour of things sweet; 
But always with lean cheeks and lifted feet 
These dead men lie all aching to the blood 
With bitter cold, their brows withouteii hood 

161 



ST DOROTHY 

Beating for chill, their bodies swathed full thin. 

Alas, what hire shall any have herein 

To give his life and get such bitterness S 

Also the soul going forth bodiless 

Is hurt with naked cold, and no man saith 

If there be house or covering for death 

To hide the soul that is discomforted. 

Then she beholding him a little said: 
Alas, fair lord* ye have no wit of this; 
For on one side death is full poor of bliss 
And as ye say full sharp of bone and lean: 
But on the other side is good and green 
And hath soft flower of tender-coloured hair 
Grown on his head, and a red mouth as fair 
As may be kissed with lips; thereto his face 
Is as God's face, and in a perfect place 
Full of all sun and colour of straight boughs 
And waterheads about a painted house 
That hath a mile of flowers either way 
Outward from it, and blossom-grass of May 
Thickening on many a side for length of heat, 
Hath God set death upon a noble seat 
Covered with green and flowered in the fold, 
In likeness of a great king grown full old 
And gentle with new temperance of blood; 
And on his brows a purfled purple hood, 
They may not carry any golden thing; 
And plays some tune with subtle fingering 
On a smaE cithern, full of tears and sleep 
And heavy pleasure that is quick to weep 
And sorrow with the honey in her mouth; 
And for this might of music that he doth 
Are all souls drawn toward him with great love 

162, 



ST DOROTHY 

And weep for sweetness of the noise thereof 
And bow to him with worship of their knees; 
And all the field is thick with companies 
Of fair-clothed men that play on shawms and lutes 
And gather honey of the yellow fruits 
Between the branches waxen soft and wide: 
And all this peace endures in either side 
Of the green land, and God beholdeth all. 
And this is girdled with a round fair wall 
Made of red stone and cool with heavy leaves 
Grown out against it, and green blossom cleaves 
To the green chinks* and lesser wail- weed sweet. 
Kissing the crannies that are split with heat, 
And branches where the summer draws to head. 

And Theophile burnt in the cheek, and said: 
Yea, could one see it, this were marvellous. 
I pray you, at your coming to this house, 
Give me some leaf of all those tree- branches; 
Seeing how so sharp and white our weather is, 
There is no green nor gracious red to see. 

Yea, sir, she said, that shall I certainly. 
And from her long sweet throat without a fleck 
Undid the gold, and through her stretched-out neck 
The cold axe clove, and smote away her head: 
Out of her throat the tender blood full red 
Fell suddenly through all her long soft hair. 
And with good speed for hardness of the air 
Each man departed to his house again. 

Lo, as fair colour in the face of men 
At seed-time of their blood, or in such wise 
As a thing seen increaseth in men's eyes, 
Caught first far off by sickly fits of sight 
So a word said, if one shall hear aright, 

163 



ST DOROTHY 

Abides against the season of its growth. 
This Theophile went slowly, as one doth 
That is not sure for sickness of his feet; 
And counting the white stonework of the street, 
Tears fell out of his eyes for wrath and love, 
Making him weep more for the shame thereof 
Than for true pain: so went he half a mile. 
And women mocked him, saying: Theophile, 
Lo, she is dead, what shall a woman have 
That loveth such an one 2 so Christ me save, 
I were as lief to love a man new-hung. 
Surely this man has bitten on his tongue, 
This makes him sad and writhled in his face. 
And when they came upon the paven place 
That was called sometime the place amorous 
There came a child before Theophilus 
Bearing a basket, and said suddenly: 
Fair sir, this is my mistress Dorothy 
That sends you gifts; and with this he was gone. 
In all this earth there is not such an one 
For colour and straight stature made so fair. 
The tender growing gold of his pure hair 
Was as wheat growing, and his mouth as flame. 
God called him Holy after his own name; 
With gold cloth like fire burning he was clad. 
But for the fair green basket that he had, 
It was filled up with heavy white and red; 
Great roses stained still where the first rose bled, 
Burning at heart for shame their heart withholds: 
And the sad colour of strong marigolds 
That have the sun to kiss their Hps for love; 
The flower that Venus* hair is woven of, 
The colour of fair apples in the sun, 

164 



ST DOROTHY 

Late peaches gathered when the heat was done 
And the slain air got breath; and after these 
The fair faint-headed poppies drunk with ease, 
And heaviness of hollow lilies red, 

Then cried they all that saw these things, and said 
It was God's doing, and was marvellous. 
And in brief while this knight Theophilus 
Is waxen full of faith, and witnesseth 
Before the king of God and love and death, 
For which the king bade hang him presently. 
A gallows of a goodly piece of tree 
This Gabalus hath made to hang him on. 
Forth of this world lo Theophile is gone 
With a wried neck, God give us better fare 
Than his that hath a twisted throat to wear; 
But truly for his love God that him brought 
There where his heavy body grieves him nought 
Nor all the people plucking at his feet; 
But in his face his lady's face is sweet, 
And through his lips her kissing lips are gone: 
God send him peace, and joy of such an one. 

This is the story of St Dorothy. 
I will you of your mercy pray for me 
Because I wrote these sayings for your grace, 
That I may one day see her in the face. 



165 



THE TWO DREAMS 
(From Boccaccio) 

I will that if I say a heavy thing 

Your tongues forgive me; seeing ye know that spring 

Has flecks and fits of pain to keep her sweet, 

And walks somewhile with winter-bitten feet* 

Moreover it sounds often well to let 

One string, when ye play music, keep at fret 

The whole song through; one petal that is dead 

Confirms the roses, be they white or red; 

Dead sorrow is not sorrowful to hear 

As the thick noise that breaks mid weeping were; 

The sick sound aching in a lifted throat 

Turns to sharp silver of a perfect note; 

And though the rain falls often, and with rain 

Late autumn falls on the old red leaves like pain, 

I deem that God is not disquieted* 

Also while men are fed with wine and bread, 

They shall be fed with sorrow at his hand. 

There grew a rose-garden in Florence land 
More fait than many; all red summers through 
The leaves smelt sweet and sharp of rain, and blew 
Sideways with tender wind; and therein fell 
Sweet sound wherewith the green waxed audible, 
As a bird's will to sing disturbed his throat 
And set the sharp wings forward like a boat 

166 



THE TWO DREAMS 

Pushed through soft water, moving his brown side 
Smooth-shapen as a maid's, and shook with pride 
His deep -warm bosorn, till the heavy sun's 
Set face of heat stopped all the songs at once, 
The ways were clean to walk and delicate; 
And when the windy white of March grew late, 
Before the trees took heart to face the sun 
With ravelled raiment of lean \vinter on, 
The roots were thick and hot with hollow grass. 

Some roods away a lordly house there was. 
Cool with broad courts and latticed passage wet 
From rush-flowers and lilies ripe to set, 
Sown close among the strewings of the floor; 
And either wall of the slow corridor 
Was dim with deep device of gracious things; 
Some angel's steady mouth and weight of wings 
Shut to the side; or Peter with straight stole 
And beard cut black against the aureole 
That spanned his head from nape to crown; thereby 
Mary's gold hair, thick to the girdle-tie 
Wherein was bound a child with tender feet; 
Or the broad cross with blood nigh brown on It. 

Within this house a righteous lord abode, 
Ser Averardo; patient of his mood, 
And just of judgment; and to child he had 
A maid so sweet that her mere sight made glad 
Men sorrowing, and unbound the brows of hate; 
And where she came, the Hps that pain made strait 
Waxed warm and wide, and from untender grew 
Tender as those that sleep brings patience to. 
Such long locks had she, that with knee to chin 
She might have wrapped and warmed her feet therein. 
Right seldom fell her face on weeping wise; 

167 



THE TWO DREAMS 

Gold hair she had, and golden-coloured eyes, 
Filled with clear light and fire and large repose 
Like a fair hound's; no man there is but knows 
Her face was white, and thereto she was tall; 
In no wise lacked there any praise at all 
To her most perfect and pure maidenhood; 
No sin I think there was in all her blood. 

She, where a gold grate shut the roses in, 
Dwelt daily through deep summer weeks, through greei 
Flushed hours of rain upon the leaves; and there 
Love made him room and space to worship her 
With tender worship of bowed knees, and wrought 
Such pleasure as the pained sense palates not 
For weariness, but at one taste undoes 
The heart of its strong sweet, is ravenous 
Of all the hidden honey; words and sense 
Fail through the tune's imperious prevalence. 

In a poor house this lover kept apart, 
Long communing with patience next his heart 
If love of his might move that face at all, 
Tuned evenwise with colours musical; 
Then after length of days he said thus: c Love, 
For love's own sake and for the love thereof 
Let no harsh words untune your gracious mood; 
For good it were, if anything be good, 
To comfort me in this pain's plague of mine; 
Seeing thus, how neither sleep nor bread nor wine 
Seems pleasant to me, yea, no thing that is 
Seems pleasant to me; only I know this, 
Love's ways are sharp for palms of piteous feet 
To travel, but the end of such is sweet: 
Now do with me as seemeth you the best/ 
She mused a little, as one holds his guest 

168 



THE TWO DREAMS 

By the hand musing, with her face borne down: 
Then said: *Yea, though such bitter seed be sown 
Have no more care of all that you have said; 
Since if there is no sleep will bind your head, 
Lo, I am fain to help you certainly; 
Christ knoweth, sir, if I would have you die; 
There is no pleasure when a man is dead/ 
Thereat he kissed her hands and yellow head 
And clipped her fair long body many times; 
I have no wit to shape in written rhymes 
A scanted tithe of this great joy they had. 

They were too near love's secret to be glad 
As whoso deems the core will surely melt 
From the warm fruit his lips caress, hath felt 
Some bitter kernel where the teeth shut hard: 
Or as sweet music sharpens afterward, 
Being half disrelished both for sharp and sweet; 
As sea-water, having killed over-heat 
In a man's body, chills it with faint ache; 
So their sense, burdened only for love's sake, 
Failed for pure love; yet so time served their wit. 
They saved each day some gold reserves of it, 
Being wiser in love's riddle than such be 
Whom fragments feed with his chance charity. 
All things felt sweet were felt sweet overmuch; 
The rose-thorn's prickle dangerous to touch, 
And flecks of fire in the thin leaf-shadows; 
Too keen the breathed honey of the rose, 
Its red too harsh a weight on feasted eyes; 
They were so far gone in love's histories, 
Beyond all shape and colour and mere breath, 
Where pleasure has for kinsfolk sleep and death, 
And strength of soul and body waxen blind 

M 169 



THE TWO DREAMS 

For weariness, and flesh entoiled with mind, 
When the keen edge of sense foretasteth sin. 

Even this green place the summer caught them in 
Seemed half deflowered and sick with beaten leaves 
In their strayed eyes; these gold flower-fumed eves 
Burnt out to make the sun's love-offering, 
The midnoon's prayer, the rose's thanksgiving, 
The trees' weight burdening the strengthless air, 
The shape of her stilled eyes, her coloured hair, 
Her body's balance from the moving feet 
All this, found fair, lacked yet one grain of sweet 
It had some warm weeks back: so perisheth 
On May's new lip the tender April breath: 
So those same walks the wind sowed lilies in 
All April through, and all their latter kin 
Of languid leaves whereon the Autumn blows 
The dead red raiment of the last year's rose 
The last year's laurel, and the last year's love, 
Fade, and grow things that death grows weary of. 

What man will gather in red summer-time 
The fruit of some obscure and hoary rhyme 
Heard last midwinter, taste the heart in it, 
Mould the smooth semitones afresh, refit 
The fair limbs ruined, flush the dead blood through 
With colour, make all broken beauties new 
For love's new lesson shall not such find pain 
When the marred music labouring in his brain 
Frets him with sweet sharp fragments, and lets slip 
One word that might leave satisfied his lip 
One touch that might put fire in all the chords 2 
This was her pain: to miss from all sweet words 
Some taste of sound, diverse and delicate 
Some speech the old love found out to compensate 

170 



THE TWO DREAMS 

For seasons of shut lips and drowsiness 

Some grace, some word the old love found out to bless 

Passionless months and undeUghted weeks. 

The flowers had lost their summer scented cheeks, 

Their lips were no more sweet than daily breath: 

The year was plagued with instances of death. 

So fell it, these were sitting in cool grass 
With leaves about, and many a bird there was 
Where the green shadow thickliest impleached 
Soft fruit and writhen spray and blossom bleached 
Dry in the sun or washed with rains to white: 
Her girdle was pure silk, the bosom bright 
With purple as purple water and gold wrought in. 
One branch had touched with dusk her lips and chin, 
Made violet of the throat, abashed with shade 
The breast's bright plaited work: but nothing frayed 
The sun's large kiss on the luxurious hair. 
Her beauty was new colour to the air, 
And music to the silent many birds. 
Love was an-hungred for some perfect words 
To praise her with; but only her low name 
* Andrevuola* came thrice, and thrice put shame 
In her clear cheek, so fruitful with new red 
That for pure love straightway shame's self was dead. 

Then with lids gathered as who late had wept 
She began saying: 'I have so little slept 
My lids drowse now against the very sun; 
Yea, the brain aching with a dream begun 
Beats like a fitful blood; kiss but both brows. 
And you shall pluck my thoughts grown dangerous 
Almost away.* He said thus, kissing them: 
*O sole sweet thing that God is glad to name, 
My one gold gift, if dreams be sharp and sore 

171 



THE TWO DREAMS 

Shall not the waking time increase much more 

With taste and sound, sweet eyesight or sweet scent ? 
Has any heat too hard and insolent 
Burnt bare the tender married leaves, undone 
The maiden grass shut under from the sun ? 
Where in this world is room enough for painf 

The feverish finger of love had touched again 
Her lips with happier blood; the pain lay meek 
In her fair face, nor altered lip nor cheek 
With pallor or with pulse; but in her mouth 
Love thirsted as a man wayfaring doth, 
Making it humble as weak hunger is. 
She lay close to him, bade do this and this, 
Say that, sing thus: then almost weeping-ripe 
Crouched, thenlaughedlow. As one that fain would wipe 
The old record out of old things done and dead, 
She rose, she heaved her hands up, and waxed red 
For wilful heart and blameless fear of blame; 
Saying 'Though my wits be weak, this is no shame 
For a poor maid whom love so punisheth 
With heats of hesitation and stopped breath 
That with my dreams I live yet heavily 
For pure sad heart and faith's humility. 
Now be not wroth and I will shew you this, 

*Methought our lips upon their second kiss 
Met in this place, and a fair day we had 
And fair soft leaves that waxed and were not sad 
With shaken rain or bitten through with drouth; 
When I, beholding ever how your mouth 
Waited for mine, the throat being fallen back, 
Saw crawl thereout a live thing flaked with black 
Specks of brute slime and leper-coloured scale, 
A devil's hide with foul flame-writhen grail 

172 



THE TWO BREAMS 

Fashioned where hell's heat festers loathsomest; 
And that brief speech may ease me of the rest, 
Thus were you slain and eaten of the thing. 
My waked eyes felt the new day shuddering 
On their low lids, felt the whole east so beat, 
Pant with close pulse of such a plague-struck heat, 
As if the palpitating dawn drew breath 
For horror, breathing between life and death, 
Till the sun sprang blood-bright and violent/ 
So finishing, her soft strength wholly spent, 
She gazed each way, lest some brute-hooved thing, 
The timeless travail of hell's childbearing, 
Should threat upon the sudden: whereat he, 
For relish of her tasted misery 
And tender little thornprick of her pain, 
Laughed with mere love. What lover among men 
But hath his sense fed sovereignly 'twixt whiles 
With tears and covered eyelids and sick smiles 
And soft disaster of a pained face 2 
What pain, established in so sweet a place, 
But the plucked leaf of it smells fragrantly? 
What colour burning man's wide-open eye 
But may be pleasurably seen? what sense 
Keeps in its hot sharp extreme violence 
No savour of sweet things? The bereaved blood 
And emptied flesh in their most broken mood 
Fail not so wholly, famish not when thus 
Past honey keeps the starved lip covetous. 
Therefore this speech from a glad mouth began, 
Breathed in her tender hair and temples wan 
Like one prolonged kiss while the lips had breath: 
'Sleep, that abides in vassalage of death 
And in death's service wears out half his age, 

173 



THE TWO DREAMS 

Hath his dreams full of deadly vassalage, 
Shadow and sound of things ungracious; 
Fair shallow faces, hooded bloodless brows, 
And mouths past kissing; yea, myself have had 
As harsh a dream as holds your eyelids sad. 

'This dream I tell you came three nights ago; 
In full mid sleep I took a whim to know 
How sweet things might be, so I turned and thought; 
But save my dream all sweet availed me not. 
First came a smell of pounded spice and scent 
Such as God ripens in some continent 
Of utmost amber in the Syrian sea; 
And breaths as though some costly rose could be 
Spoiled slowly, wasted by some bitter fire 
To burn the sweet out leaf by leaf, and tire 
The flower's poor heart with heat and waste, to make 
Strong magic for some perfumed woman's sake. 
Then a cool naked sense beneath my feet 
Of bud and blossom; and sound of veins that beat 
As if a lute should play of its own heart 
And fearfully, not smitten of either part; 
And all my blood it filled with sharp and sweet 
As gold swoln grain fills out the husked wheat; 
So I rose naked from the bed, and stood 
Counting the mobile measure in my blood 
Some pleasant while, and through each limb there came 
Swift little pleasures pungent as a flame, 
Felt in the thrilling flesh and veins as much 
As the outer curls that feel the comb's first touch 
Thrill to the roots and shiver as from fire; 
And blind between my dream and my desire 
I seemed to stand and held my spirit still 
Lest this should cease. A child whose fingers spill 

174 



THE TWO DREAMS 

Honey from cells forgotten of the bee 

Is less afraid to stir the hive and see 

Some wasp's bright back inside, than I to feel 

Some finger-touch disturb the flesh like steel. 

I prayed thus; Let me catch a secret here 

So sweet, it sharpens the sweet taste of fear 

And takes the mouth with edge of wine; I would 

Have here some colour and smooth shape as good 

As those in heaven whom the chief garden hides 

With low grape-blossom veiling their white sides 

And lesser tendrils that so bind and blind 

Their eyes and feet, that If one come behind 

To touch their hair they see not, neither fly; 

This would I see in heaven and not die. 

So praying, I had nigh cried out and knelt, 

So wholly my prayer filled me: till I felt 

In the dumb night's warm weight of glowing gloom 

Somewhat that altered all my sleeping-room 

And made It like a green low place wherein 

Maids mix to bathe: one sets her small warm chin 

Against a ripple, that the angry pearl 

May flow like flame about her: the next curl 

Dips in some eddy coloured of the sun 

To wash the dust well out; another one 

Holds a straight ankle In her hand and swings 

With lavish body sidelong, so that rings 

Of sweet fierce water, swollen and splendid, fail 

All round her fine and floated body pale, 

Swayed flower-fashion, and her balanced side 

Swerved edgeways lets the weight of water slide, 

As taken in some underflow of sea 

Swerves the banked gold of sea-flowers; but she 

Pulls down some branch to keep her perfect head 

175 



THE TWO DREAMS 

Clear of the river: even from wall to bed, 

I tell you, was my room transfigured so. 

Sweet, green and warm It was, nor could one know 

If there were walls or leaves, or If there was 

No bed's green curtain, but mere gentle grass. 

There were set also hard against the feet 

Gold plates with honey and green grapes to eat, 

With the cool water's noise to hear in rhymes: 

And a wind warmed me full of furze and limes 

And all hot sweets the heavy summer fills 

To the round brim of smooth cup-shapen hills. 

Next the grave walking of a woman's feet 

Made my veins hesitate, and gracious heat 

Made thick the lids and leaden on mine eyes: 

And I thought ever, surely it were wise 

Not yet to see her: this may last (who knows ?) 

Five minutes; the poor rose Is twice a rose 

Because it turns a face to her, the wind 

Sings that way; hath this woman ever sinned, 

I wonder ? as a boy with apple-rind, 

I played with pleasures, made them to my mind, 

Changed each ere tasting. When she came Indeed 

First her hair touched me, then I grew to feed 

On the sense of her hand; her mouth at last 

Touched me between the cheek and lip and past 

Over my face with kisses here and there 

Sown in and out across the eyes and hair. 

Still I said nothing; till she set her face 

More close and harder on the kissing-place, 

And her mouth caught like a snake's mouth, and stung 

So faint and tenderly, the fang scarce clung 

More than a bird's foot: yet a wound it grew, 

A great one, let this red mark witness you 

176 



THE TWO DREAMS 

Under the left breast; and the stroke thereof 
So clove my sense that I woke out of love 
And knew not what this dream was nor had wit; 
But now God knows if I have skill of it/ 
Hereat she laid one palm against her lips 
To stop their trembling; as when water slips 
Out of a beak-mouthed vessel with faint noise 
And chuckles in the narrowed throat and cloys 
The carven rims with murmuring, so came 
Words in her lips with no word right of them, 
A beaten speech thick and disconsolate, 
Till his smile ceasing waxed compassionate 
Of her sore fear that grew from anything 
The sound of the strong summer thickening 
In heated leaves of the smooth apple-trees: 
The day's breath felt about the ash-branches, 
And noises of the noon whose weight still grew 
On the hot heavy-headed flowers, and drew 
Their red mouths open till the rose-heart ached; 
For eastward all the crowding rose was slaked 
And soothed with shade: but westward all its growth 
Seemed to breathe hard with heat as a man doth 
Who feels his temples newly feverous. 
And even with such motion in her brows 
As that man hath in whom sick days begin, 
She turned her throat and spake, her voice being thin 
As a sick man's, sudden and tremulous; 
'Sweet, if this end be come indeed on us, 
Let us love more*; and held his mouth with hers. 
As the first sound of flooded hill- waters 
Is heard by people of the meadow-grass, 
Or ever a wandering waif of ruin pass 
With whirling stones and foam of the brown stream 

177 



THE TWO DREAMS 

Flaked with fierce yellow: so beholding him 

She felt before teats came her eyelids wet. 

Saw the face deadly thin where life was yet, 

Heard his throat's harsh last moan before it clomb: 

And he, with close mouth passionate and dumb, 

Burned at her lips: so lay they without speech, 

Each grasping other, and the eyes of each 

Fed in the other's face: till suddenly 

He cried out with a little broken cry 

This word, *O help me, sweet, I am but dead/ 

And even so saying, the colour of fair red 

Was gone out of his face, and his blood's beat 

Fell, and stark death made sharp his upward feet 

And pointed hands: and without moan he died. 

Pain smote her sudden in the brows and side, 

Strained her lips open and made burn her eyes: 

For the pure sharpness of her miseries 

She had no heart's pain, but mere body's wrack, 

But at the last her beaten blood drew back 

Slowly upon her face, and her stunned brows 

Suddenly grown aware and piteous 

Gathered themselves, her eyes shone, her hard breath 

Came as though one nigh dead came back from death; 

Her Hps throbbed, and life trembled through her hair. 

And in brief while she thought to bury there 
The dead man that her love might lie with him 
In a sweet bed under the rose-roots dim 
And soft earth round the branched apple-trees, 
Full of hushed heat and heavy with great ease, 
And no man entering divide him thence. 
Wherefore she bade one of her handmaidens 
To be her help to do upon this wise. 
And saying so the tears out of her eyes 

178 



THE TWO DREAMS 

Fell without noise and comforted her heart: 
Yea, her great pain eased of the sorest part 
Began to soften in her sense of it. 
There under all the little branches sweet 
The place was shapen of his burial; 
They shed thereon no thing funereal, 
But coloured leaves of latter rose- blossom, 
Steins of soft grass, some withered red and some 
Fair and flesh-blooded; and spoil splendider 
Of marigold and great spent sunflower. 

And afterward she came back without word 
To her own house; two days went, and the third 
Went, and she showed her father of this thing. 
And for great grief of her soul's travailing 
He gave consent she should endure in peace 
Till her life's end; yea, till her time should cease, 
She should abide in fellowship of pain. 
And having lived a holy year or twain 
She died of pure waste heart and weariness. 
And for love's honour in her love*s distress 
This word was written over her tomb's head: 
'Here dead she lieth, for whose sake Love is dead/ 



179 



THE YEAR OF LOVE 



There were four loves that one by one, 
Following the seasons and the sun, 
Passed over without tears, and fell 
.Away without farewell. 

The first was made of gold and tears, 
The next of aspen-leaves and fears, 
The third of rose-boughs and rose-roots, 

The last love of strange fruits. 

These were the four loves faded. Hold 

Some minutes fast the time of gold 
When our lips each way clung and clove 
To a face full of love. 

The tears inside our eyelids met, 
Wrung forth with kissing, and wept wet 
The faces cleaving each to each 
Where the blood served for speech. 

The second, with low patient brows 
Bound under aspen-coloured boughs 
And eyes made strong and grave with sleep 
And yet too weak to weep 



1 80 



THE YEAR OF LOVE 

The third, with eager mouth at ease 
Fed from late autumn honey, lees 
Of scarce gold left in latter cells 
scattered flower-smells 



Hair sprinkled over with spoilt sweet 
Of ruined roses, wrists and feet 
Slight-swathed, as grassy girdled sheaves 
Hold in stray poppy-leaves 

The fourth, with lips whereon has bled 
Some great pale fruit's slow colour, shed 
From the rank bitter husk whence drips 
Faint blood between her lips 

IVtade of the heat of whole great Junes 
Burning the blue dark round their moons 
(Each like a mown red marigold) 
So hard the flame keeps hold 

These are burnt thoroughly away. 
Only the first holds out a day 
Beyond these latter loves that were 
IVtade of mere heat and air. 

And now the time Is winterly 
The first love fades too: none -will see, 
"When April warms the world anew, 
The place wherein love grew. 



181 



ESTRILD'S SONG 



I wist, quoth Spring to the swallow, 

That earth could forget me, kissed 
By summer and lured to follow 
Down ways that I know not, I, 
My heart would have waxed not high, 
Mid-March would have seen me die 
Had I wist/ 

*Had I wist, O Spring, said the swallow, 

That hope was a sunlit mist, 

And the faint light heart of it hollow, 

Thy woods had not heard me sing, 

Thy winds had not known my wing 

It had failed ere thine did, Spring, 
Had I wist/ 



TRIADS 



The -word of the sun to the sky, 
The word of the wind to the sea, 

The word of the moon to the night, 
^Wliat may it be? 

II 

The sense to the flower of the fly, 
The sense of the bird to the tree, 

The sense to the cloud of the light, 
Wlio can tell me 2 

ill 

The song of the fields to the kye, 
The song of the lime to the bee, 

The song of the depth to the height, 

knows all three? 



183 



A LYKE-WAKE SONG 



Fair of face* full of pride 9 

Sit ye down, by a dead man's side. 

Ye sang songs a* the day: 

Sit down at night in the red worm's way. 

Proud ye were a* day long: 
Yell be but lean at evensong. 

Ye had gowd kells on your hair: 

Nae man kens "what ye were. 

Ye set scorn by the silken stuff: 
Now the grave is clean enough. 

Ye set scorn by the rubis ring: 
Now the worm is a salt sweet thing. 

Fine gold and blithe fair face. 
Ye are come to a grimly place. 

Gold hair and glad grey een 
Nae man kens if ye have been. 



184 



SESTINA 



I saw my soul at rest upon a day 

As a bird sleeping in the nest of night, 

Among soft leaves that give the starlight way 
To touch its wings but not its eyes with light 

So that it knew as one in visions may s 
And knew not as men waking, of delight. 

This was the measure of my soul's delight; 

It had no power of joy to fly by day. 
Nor part in the large lordship of the light; 

But in a secret moon-beholden way 
Had all its will of dreams and pleasant night. 

And all the love and life that sleepers may. 

But such life's triumph as men waking may 
It might not have to feed its faint delight 

Between the stars by night and sun by day, 
Shut up with green leaves and a little light; 

Because its way was as a lost star's way, 
A world's not wholly known of day or night. 

All loves and dreams and sounds and gleams of night 
Made it all music that such minstrels may, 

And all they had they gave it of delight; 
But in the full face of the fire of day 

What place shall be for any starry light, 
What part of heaven in all the wide sun's way 2 

N 185 



SESTINA 

Yet the soul woke not, sleeping by the way, 

Watched as a nut sling of the large-eyed night, 
And sought no strength nor knowledge of the day, 

Nor closer touch conclusive of delight, 
Nor mightier joy nor truer than dreamers may, 

Nor more of song than they, nor more of light. 

For who sleeps once and sees the secret light 
Whereby sleep shows the soul a fairer way 

Between the rise and rest of day and night, 
Shall care no more to fare as all men may, 

But be his place of pain or of delight, 

There shall he dwell, beholding night as day. 

Song, have thy day and take thy fill of light 
Before the night be fallen across thy way; 
Sing while he may, man hath no long delight. 



1 86 



AVE ATQUE VALE 

IN MEMORY OF CHARLES BAUDELAIRE 

Norn demons pour tant lui porter guelques jleurs, 
Les morts, les pauvres worts, ont de gran&ts douleurs, 
Et quand Octolre souffle, emondeur des vieux arlres, 
Son mnt mllancolique a I'entour de leurs marbres; 
Certes, Us doivent trouver les vivants Uen ingrats. 

LES FLEURS DU MAL 



Shall I strew on thee rose or rue or laurel, 
Brother, on this that was the veil of thee 2 
Or quiet sea-flower moulded by the sea, 

Or simplest growth of meadow-sweet or sorrel, 
Such as the summer-sleepy Dryads weave, 
Waked up by snow-sofi sudden rains at eve 3 

Or wilt thou rather, as on earth before, 
Half-faded fiery blossoms, pale with heat 
And full of bitter summer, but more sweet 

To thee than gleanings of a northern shore 
Trod by no tropic feet? 

II 

For always thee the fervid languid glories 
Allured of heavier suns in mightier skies; 
Thine ears knew all the wandering watery sighs 

Where the sea sobs round Lesbian promontories, 

187 



AVE ATQUE VALE 

The barren kiss of piteous wave to wave 

That knows not where is that Leucadian grave 
Which hides too deep the supreme head of song. 

Ah, salt and sterile as her kisses were, 

The wild sea winds her and the green gulfs bear 
Hither and thither, and vex and work her wrong, 

Blind gods that cannot spare. 

in 

Thoo sawest, in thine old singing season, brother* 
Secrets and sorrows unbeheld of us: 
Fierce loves, and lovely leaf-buds poisonous, 

Bare to thy subtler eye, but for none other 

Blowing by night in some unbreathed-in clime; 
The hidden harvest of luxurious time, 

Sin without shape, and pleasure without speech; 
And where strange dreams in a tumultuous sleep 
Make the shut eyes of stricken spirits weep; 

And with each face thou sawest the shadow on each, 

Seeing as men sow men reap. 

IV 

O sleepless heart and sombre soul unsleeping, 
That were athirst for sleep and no more life 
And no more love, for peace and no more strife! 

Now the dim gods of death have in their keeping 
Spirit and body and all the springs of song, 
Is it well now where love can do no wrong, 

Where stingless pleasure has no foam or fang 
Behind the unopening closure of her lips 2 
Is it not well where soul from body slips 

And flesh from bone divides without a pang 
As dew from flower-bell drips? 

188 



AVE ATQUE VALE 

V 
It Is enough, the end and the beginning 

Are one thing to thee, who art past the end. 

O hand unclasped of unbeholden friend, 
For thee no fruits to pluck, no palms for winning, 

No triumph and no labour and no lust. 

Only dead yew-leaves and a little dust. 
O quiet eyes wherein the light saith nought, 

Whereto the day is dumb, nor any night 

With obscure finger silences your sight, 
Nor in your speech the sudden soul speaks thought, 

Sleep, and have sleep for light. 

VI 

Now all strange hours and all strange loves are over, 
Dreams and desires and sombre songs and sweet, 
Hast thou found place at the great knees and feet 

Of some pale Titan- woman like a lover, 
Such as thy vision here solicited, 
Under the shadow of her fair vast head, 

The deep division of prodigious breasts, 
The solemn slope of mighty limbs asleep, 
The weight of awful tresses that still keep 

The savour and shade of old-world pine-forests 
Where the wet hill- winds weep 2 

VII 

Hast thou found any likeness for thy vision? 

O gardener of strange flowers, what bud, what bloom, 
Hast thou found sown, what gathered in the gloom ? 

What of despair, of rapture, of derision, 
What of life is there, what of ill or goods 
Are the fruits grey like dust or bright like blood 2 

189 



AVE ATQUE VALE 

Does the dim ground grow any seed of ours, 

The faint fields quicken any terrene root, 

In low lands where the sun and moon are mute 
And all the stars keep silences Are there flowers 
At all, or any fruits 



VIII 

Alas, but though my flying song flies after, 
O sweet strange elder singer, thy more fleet 
Singing, and footprints of thy fleeter feet, 

Some dim derision of mysterious laughter 
From the blind tongueless warders of the dead, 
Some gainless glimpse of Proserpine's veiled head, 

Some little sound of unregarded tears 
Wept by effaced unprofitable eyes, 
And from pale mouths some cadence of dead sighs 

These only, these the hearkening spirit hears, 
Sees only such things rise. 



IX 

Thou art far too far for wings of words to follow, 
Far too far off for thought or any prayer. 
What ails us with thee, who art wind and air 5 

What ails us gazing where all seen is hollow? 
Yet with some fancy, yet with some desire, 
Dreams pursue death as winds a flying fire, 

Our dreams pursue our dead and do not find. 
Still, and more swift than they, the thin flame flies 
The low light fails us in elusive skies, 

Still the foiled earnest ear is deaf, and blind 
Are still the eluded eyes. 

190 



AVE ATQUE VALE 
X 

Not thee, O never thee, In all time's changes, 
Not thee, but this the sound of thy sad soul, 
The shadow of thy swift spirit, this shut scroll 

I lay my hand on, and not death estranges 
My spirit from communion of thy song 
These memories and these melodies that throng 

Veiled porches of a Muse funereal 

These I salute, these touch, these clasp and fold 
As though a hand were in my hand to hold, 

Or through mine ears a mourning musical 
Of many mourners rolled. 

XI 

I among these, I also, in such station 

As when the pyre was charred, and piled the sods, 
And offering to the dead made, and their gods, 

The old mourners had, standing to make libation, 
I stand, and to the gods and to the dead 
Do reverence without prayer or praise, and shed 

Offering to these unknown, the gods of gloom, 
And what of honey and spice my seedlands bear, 
And what I may of fruits in this chilled air, 

And lay, Orestes-Eke, across the tomb 
A curl of severed hair. 

XII 

But by no hand nor any treason stricken, 

Not like the low-lying head of Him, the King, 
The flame that made of Troy a ruinous thing, 
Thou liest and on this dust no tears could quicken 
There fall no tears like theirs that all men hear 
Fall tear by sweet imperishable tear 

191 



AVE ATQUE VALE 

Down the opening leaves of holy poets 9 pages. 

Thee not Orestes, not Electra mourns, 
But bending us-ward with memorial urns 
The most high Muses that fulfil all ages 
Weep, and our God's heart yearns. 



XIII 

For, sparing of his sacred strength, not often 
Among us darkling here the lord of light 
Makes manifest his music and his might 

In hearts that open and in lips that soften 

With the soft flame and heat of songs that shine. 
Thy Hps indeed he touched with bitter wine, 

And nourished them indeed with bitter bread, 
Yet surely from his hand thy soul's food came, 
The fire that scarred thy spirit at his flame 

Was lighted, and thine hungering heart he fed 
Who feeds our hearts with fame. 



XIV 

Therefore he too now at thy soul's sunsetting, 
God of all suns and songs, he too bends down 
To mix his laurel with thy cypress crown, 

And save thy dust from blame and from forgetting. 
Therefore he too, seeing all thou wert and art, 
Compassionate, with sad and sacred heart, 

Mourns thee of many his children the last dead, 
And hallows with strange tears and alien sighs 
Thine unmelodious mouth and sunless eyes, 

And over thine irrevocable head 
Sheds light from the under skies. 

192 



AVE ATQZJE VALE 
XV 

And one weeps with him in the ways Lethean, 
And stains with tears her changing bosom chill, 
That obscure Venus of the hollow hill, 

That thing transformed which was the Cytherean, 
With lips that lost their Grecian laugh divine 
Long since, and face no more called Erycine; 

A ghost, a bitter and luxurious god. 

Thee also with fair flesh and singing spell 
Did she, a sad and second prey, compel 

Into the footless places once more trod, 
And shadows hot from hell. 



XVI 

And now no sacred staff shall break in blossom, 
No choral salutation lure to light 
A spirit sick with perfume and sweet night 

And love's tired eyes and hands and barren bosom. 
There is no help for these things; none to mend, 
And none to mar; not all our songs, O friend, 

Will make death clear or make life durable. 
Howbeit with rose and ivy and wild vine 
And with wild notes about this dust of thine 

At least I fill the place where white dreams dwell 
And wreathe an unseen shrine. 



XVII 

Sleep, and if life was bitter to thee, pardon, 
If sweet, give thanks, thou hast no more to live; 
And to give thanks is good, and to forgive. 

Out of the mystic and the mournful garden 

193 



AVE ATQUE VALE 

Where all day through thine hands In barren braid 
Wove the sick flowers of secrecy and shade, 
Green buds of sorrow and sin, and remnants grey, 
Sweet-smelling, pale with poison, sanguine-hearted, 

Passions that sprang from sleep and thoughts that 

started, 

Shall death not bring us all as thee one day 

Among the days departed 2 

XVIII 

For thee, O now a silent soul, my brother, 
Take at my hands this garland, and farewell. 
Thin is the leaf, and chill the wintry smell, 

And chill the solemn earth, a fatal mother, 
With sadder than the Niobean womb, 
And in the hollow of her breasts a tomb. 

Content thee, howsoever, whose days are done; 
There lies not any troublous thing before, 
Nor sight nor sound to war against thee more, 

For whom all winds are quiet as the sun 
All waters as the shore. 



194 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 
The Argument 

ALTHAEA, daughter of Thestius and Eurythemis, 
queen of Calydon, being with child of Meleager her first- 
born son, dreamed that she brought forth a brand burn- 
Ing; and upon his birth came the three Fates and prophe- 
sied of him three things, namely these: that he should 
have great strength of his hands, and good fortune in this 
life, and that he should live no longer when the brand 
then in the fire were consumed: wherefore his mother 
plucked it forth and kept it by her. And the child being 
a man grown sailed with Jason after the fleece of gold, 
and won himself great praise of all men living; and when 
the tribes of the north and west made war upon AetoHa, 
he fought against their army and scattered it. But Arte- 
mis, having at the first stirred up these tribes to war 
against Oeneus king of Calydon, because he had offered 
sacrifice to all the gods saving her alone, but her he had 
forgotten to honour, was yet more wroth because of the 
destruction of this army, and sent upon the land of Caly- 
don a wild boar which slew many and wasted all their 
increase, but him could none slay, and many went 
against him and perished. Then were all the chief men 
of Greece gathered together, and among them Atalanta 
daughter of lasius the Arcadian, a virgin; for whose sake 
Artemis let slay the boar, seeing she favoured the maiden 
greatly; and Meleager having despatched it gave the spoil 

195 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

thereof to Atalanta, as one beyond measure enamoured 
of her; but the brethren of Althaea his mother, Toxeus 
and Plexippus, with such others as misliked that she 
only should bear off the praise whereas many had borne 
the labour, laid wait for her to take away her spoil; but 
Meleager fought against them and slew them: whom 
when Althaea their sister beheld and knew to be slain of 
her son, she waxed for wrath and sorrow Hke as one mad, 
and taking the brand whereby the measure of her son's 
life was meted to him, she cast it upon a fire; and with 
the wasting thereof his life likewise wasted away, that 
being brought back to his father's house he died in a 
brief space; and his mother also endured not long after 
for very sorrow; and this was his end, and the end of that 
hunting. 

The Persons 

Chief Huntsman Atalanta 

Chorus Toxeus 

Althaea Plexippus 

Meleager Herald 

Oeneus Messenger 

Second Messenger 



196 



ATALANTA IN CAJLYDON 
CHIEF HUNTSMAN 

Maiden, and mistress of the months and stars 

Now folded in the flowerless fields of heaven, 

Goddess whom all gods love with threefold heart, 

Being treble In thy divided deity, 

A light for dead men and dark hours, a foot 

Swift on the hills as morning, and a hand 

To all things fierce and fleet that roar and range 

Mortal, with gentler shafts than snow or sleep; 

Hear now and help and lift no violent hand, 

But favourable and fair as thine eye's beam 

Hidden and shown in heaven; for I all night 

Amid the king's hounds and the hunting men 

Have wrought and worshipped toward thee; nor shall man 

See goodlier hounds or deadlier edge of spears; 

But for the end, that lies unreached at yet 

Between the hands and on the knees of gods. 

O fair-faced sun, killing the stars and dews 

And dreams and desolation of the night! 

Rise up, shine, stretch thine hand out, with thy bow 

Touch the most dimmest height of trembling heaven, 

And burn and break the dark about thy ways, 

Shot through and through with arrows; let thine hair 

Lighten as flame above that flameless shell 

Which was the moon, and thine eyes fill the world 

And thy lips kindle with swift beams; let earth 

Laugh, and the long sea fiery from thy feet 

Through all the roar and ripple of streaming springs 

And foam in reddening flakes and flying flowers 

Shaken from hands and blown from lips of nymphs 

Whose hair or breast divides the wandering wave 

With salt close tresses cleaving lock to lock, 

197 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

All gold, or shuddering and unfurrowed snow; 

And all the winds about thee with their wings, 

And fountain-heads of all the watered world; 

Each horn of Achelous, and the green 

Euenus, wedded with the straitening sea. 

For in fair time thou comest; come also thou, 

Twin-born with him, and virgin, Artemis, 

And give our spears their spoil, the wild boar's hide, 

Sent in thine anger against us for sin done 

And bloodless altars without wine or fire. 

Him now consume thou; for thy sacrifice 

With sanguine-shining steam divides the dawn, 

And one, the maiden rose of all thy maids, 

Arcadian Atalanta, snowy-souled, 

Fair as the snow and footed as the wind, 

From Ladon and well-wooded Maenalus 

Over the firm hills and the fleeting sea 

Hast thou drawn hither, and many an armed king, 

Heroes, the crown of men, like gods in fight. 

Moreover out of all the Aetolian land, 

From the full-flowered Letantian pasturage 

To what of fruitful field the son of Zeus 

Won from the roaring river and labouring sea 

When the wild god shrank in his horn and fled 

And foamed and lessened through his wrathful fords 

Leaving clear lands that steamed with sudden sun, 

These virgins with the lightening of the day 

Bring thee fresh wreaths and their own sweeter hair, 

Luxurious locks and flower-like mixed with flowers, 

Clean offering, and chaste hymns; but me the time 

Divides from these things; whom do thou not less 

Help and give honour, and to mine hounds good speed, 

And edge to spears, and luck to each man's hand. 

198 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 
CHORUS 

When the hounds of spring are on winter's traces, 
The mother of months in meadow or plain 

Fills the shadows and windy places 
With lisp of leaves and ripple of rain; 

And the brown bright nightingale amorous 

Is half assuaged for Itylus, 

For the Thracian ships and the foreign faces, 
The tongueless vigil, and all the pain, V 

Come with bows bent and with emptying of quivers, 

Maiden most perfect, lady of light, 
With a noise of winds and many rivers, 

With a clamour of waters, and with might; 
Bind on thy sandals, O thou most fleet, 
Over the splendour and speed of thy feeg\ 
For the faint east quickens, the wan west shivers, 

Round the feet of the day and the feet of the night. 

Where shall we find her, how shall we sing to her, 
Fold our hands round her knees, and cling ITj 

O that man's heart were as fire and could sprmg to her, 
Fire, or the strength of the streams that spring! 

For the stars and the winds are unto her 

As raiment, as songs of the harp-player; 

For the risen stars and the fallen cling to her, 
\And the south-west wind and the west wind slng*j 

For winter's rains and rains are over. 

And all the season of snows and sins; 
The days dividing lover and lover, 

The light that loses, the night that wins; 

199 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

And time remembered is grief forgotten, 

And frosts are slain and flowers begotten* 
And in green underwood and cover 
Blossom by blossom the spring begins. 

The full streams feed on flower of rushes, 
Ripe grasses trammel a travelling foot, 
The faint fresh flame of the young year flushes 

From leaf to flower and flower to fruit; 
And fruit and leaf are as gold and fire, 
And the oat is heard above the lyre, 
And the hoofed heel of a satyr crushes 
The chestnut-husk at the chestnut-root. 



And Pan by noon and Bacchus by night, 
Fleeter of foot than the fleet-foot kid, 

Follows with dancing and fills with delight 

The Maenad and the Bassarid; 
And soft as lips that laugh and hide 
The laughing leaves of the trees divide, 
And screen from seeing and leave in sight 

The god pursuing, the maiden hid. 

The ivy falls with the Bacchanal's hair 

Over her eyebrows hiding her eyes; 
The wild vine slipping down leaves bare 
Her bright breast shortening into sighs; 
The wild vine slips with the weight of its leaves 
But the berried ivy catches and cleaves 
To the limbs th$; glitter, the feet that scare 
The wolf that follows* the fawn that flies. 

200 



ATALANTA IN 

ALTHAEA 

What do ye singing 5 what Is this ye sing 2 

CHORUS 

Flowers bring we, and pure lips that please the gods, 
And raiment meet for service: lest the day 
Turn sharp with all its honey In our lips. 

ALTHAEA 

Night, a black hound, follows the white fawn day, 
Swifter than dreams the white flown feet of sleep; 
Will ye pray back the night with any prayers ? 
And though the spring put back a little while 
Winter, and snows that plague all men for sin, 
And the iron time of cursing, yet I know 
Spring shall be ruined with the rain, and storm 
Eat up like fire the ashen autumn days. 
I marvel what men do with prayers awake 
Who dream and die with dreaming; any god, 
Yea the least god of all things called divine, 
Is more than sleep and waking; yet we say, 
Perchance by praying a man shall match his god* 
For if sleep have no mercy, and man's dreams 
Bite to the blood and burn into the bone, 
What shall this man do waking? By the gods, 
He shall not pray to dream sweet things tonight, 
Having dreamt once more bitter things than death* 

CHORUS 

Queen, but what is it that hath burnt thine heart? 
For thy speech flickers like a blown-out flame. 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 
ALTHAEA 

Look, ye say well, and know not what ye say; 

For all my sleep Is turned into a fire, 
And all my dreams to stuff that kindles it. 

CHORUS 

Yet one doth well being patient of the gods. 

ALTHAEA 

Yea, lest they smite us with some four-foot plague. 

CHORUS 
But when time spreads find out some herb for it, 

ALTHAEA 

And with their healing herbs infect our blood. 

CHORUS 

What ails thee to be jealous of their ways 2 

ALTHAEA 

What if they give us poisonous drinks for wine 2 

CHORUS 

They have their will; much talking mends it not. 

ALTHAEA 

And gall for milk, and cursing for a prayer? 

CHORUS 

Have they not given life, and the end of life? 

202 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 
ALTHAEA 

Lo, where they heal, they help not; thus they do, 
They mock us with a little piteousness, 
And we say prayers, and weep; but at the last, 
Sparing awhile, they smite and spare no whit. 



CHORUS 

Small praise man gets dispraising the high gods: 
What have they done that thou dishonourest them? 



ALTHAEA 

First Artemis for all this harried land 
I praise not, and for wasting of the boar 
That mars with tooth and tusk and fiery feet 
Green pasturage and the grace of standing corn 
And meadow and marsh with springs and unblown 

leaves, 

Flocks and swift herds and all that bite sweet grass, 
I praise her not; what things are these to praise ? 



CHORUS 

But when the king did sacrifice, and gave 

Each god fair dues of wheat and blood and wine, 

Her not with bloodshed nor burnt-offering 

Revered he, nor with salt or cloven cake; 

Wherefore being wroth she plagued the land; but now 

Takes off from us fate and her heavy things. 

Which deed of these twain were not good to praise 2 

For a just deed looks always either way 

With blameless eyes, and mercy is no fault. 

203 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

ALTHAEA 

Yea, but a curse she hath sent above all these 

To hurt us where she healed us; and hath lit 

Fire where the old fire went out, and where the wind 

Slackened, hath blown on us with deadlier air. 

CHORUS 

What storm is this that tightens all our sail I 

ALTHAEA 

Love, a thwart sea-wind full of rain and foam. 

CHORUS 
Whence blown, and born under what stormier star ? 

ALTHAEA 

Southward across Euenus from the sea. 

CHORUS 

Thy speech turns toward Arcadia like blown wind. 

ALTHAEA 

Sharp as the north sets when the snows are out. 

CHORUS 

Nay, for this maiden hath no touch of love. 

ALTHAEA 

I would she had sought in some cold gulf of sea 
Love, or in dens where strange beasts lurk, or fire, 
Or snows on the extreme hills, or iron land 
Where no spring is; I would she had sought therein 
And found, or ever love had found her here. 

204 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 
CHORUS 

She is holier than all holy days or things, 

The sprinkled water or fume of perfect fire; 

Chaste, dedicated to pure prayers, and filled 

With higher thoughts than heaven; a maiden clean, 

Pure iron, fashioned for a sword; and man 

She loves not; what should one such do with love ? 



ALTHAEA 

Look you, I speak not as one light of wit, 
But as a queen speaks, being heart-vexed; for oft 
I hear my brothers wrangling in mid hall, 
And am not moved; and my son chiding them, 
And these things nowise move me, but I know 
Foolish and wise men must be to the end, 
And feed myself with patience; but this most, 
This moves me, that for wise men as for fools 
Love is one thing, an evil thing, and turns 
Choice words and wisdom into fire and air. 
And in the end shall no joy come, but grief, 
Sharp words and soul's division and fresh tears 
Flower- wise upon the old root of tears brought forth, 
Fruit-wise upon the old flower of tears sprung up, 
Pitiful sighs, and much regrafied pain. 
These things are in my presage, and myself 
Am part of them and know not; but in dreams 
The gods are heavy on me, and all the fates 
Shed fire across my eyelids mixed with night, 
And burn me blind, and disilluminate 
My sense of seeing, and my perspicuous soul 
Darken with vision; seeing I see not, hear 
And hearing am not holpen, but mine eyes 

205 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

Stain many tender broideries in the bed 
Drawn up about my face that I may weep 
And the king wake not; and my brows and lips 
Tremble and sob in sleeping, like swift flames 
That tremble, or water when it sobs with heat 
Kindled from under; and my tears fill my breast 
And speck the fair dyed pillows round the king 
With barren showers and salter than the sea, 
Such dreams divide me dreaming; for long since 
I dreamed that out of this my womb had sprung 
Fire and a firebrand; this was ere my son, 
Meleager, a goodly flower in fields of fight, 
Felt the light touch him coming forth, and wailed 
Childlike; but yet he was not; and in time 
I bare him, and my heart was great; for yet 
So royally was never strong man born, 
Nor queen so nobly bore as noble a thing 
As this my son was: such a birth God sent 
And such a grace to bear it.(Then came in 
Three weaving women, and span each a thread, 
Saying This for strength and That for luck, and one 
Saying Till the brand upon the hearth burn down, 
So long shall this man see good days and live/] 
And I with gathered raiment from the bed 
Sprang, and drew forth the brand, and cast on it 
Water, and trod the flame bare-foot, and crushed 
With naked hand spark beaten out of spark 
And blew against and quenched it; for I said, 
These are the most high Fates that dwell with us, 
And we find favour a little in their sight, 
A little, and more we miss o 9 and much time 
Foils us; howbeit they have pitied me, O son, 
And thee most piteous, thee a tenderer thing 

206 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

Than any flower of fleshly seed alive. 

Wherefore I kissed and hid him with my hands, 

And covered under arms and hair, and wept, 

And feared to touch him with my tears, and laughed; 

So light a thing was this man, grown so great 

Men cast their heads back, seeing against the sun 

Blaze the armed man carven on his shield, and hear 

The laughter of little bells along the brace 

Ring, as birds singing or flutes blown, and watch, 

High up, the cloven shadow of either plume 

Divide the bright light of the brass, and make 

His helmet as a windy and wintering moon 

Seen through blown cloud and plume-like drift, when 

ships 

Drive, and men strive with all the sea, and oars 
Break, and the beaks dip under, drinking death; 
Yet was he then but a span long, and moaned 
With inarticulate mouth inseparate words, 
And with blind lips and fingers wrung my breast 
Hard, and thrust out with foolish hands and feet, 
Murmuring; but those grey women with bound hair 
Who fright the gods frighted not him; he laughed 
Seeing them, and pushed out hands to feel and haul 
Distaff and thread, intangible; but they 
Passed, and I hid the brand, and in my heart 
Laughed likewise, having all my will of heaven. 
But now I know not if to left or right 
The gods have drawn us hither; for again 
I dreamt, and saw the black brand burst on fire 
As a branch bursts in flower, and saw the flame 
Fade flower-wise, and Death came and with dry lips 
Blew the charred ash into my breast; and Love 
Trampled the ember and crushed it with swift feet. 

207 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

This I have also at heart; that not for me, 

Not for me only or son of mine, O girls, 

The gods have wrought life, and desire of life, 

Heart's love and heart's division; but for all 

There shines one sun and one wind blows till night. 

And when night comes the wind sinks and the sun, 

And there is no light after, and no storm, 

But sleep and much forgetfulness of things. 

In such wise I gat knowledge of the gods 

Years hence, and heard high sayings of one most wise, 

Eurythemis my mother, who beheld 

With eyes alive and spake with lips of these 

As one on earth disfleshed and disallied 

From breath or blood corruptible; such gifts 

Time gave her, and an equal soul to these 

And equal face to all things; thus she said. 

But whatsoever intolerable or glad 

The swift hours weave and unweave, I go hence 

Full of mine own soul, perfect of myself, 

Toward mine and me sufficient; and what chance 

The gods cast lots for and shake out on us, 

That shall we take, and that much bear withal. 

And now, before these gather to the hunt, 

I will go arm my son and bring him forth, 

Lest love or some man's anger work him harm. 

CHORUS 

Before the beginning of years 
There came to the making of man 

Time, with a gift of tears; 
Grief, with a glass that ran; 

Pleasure, with pain for leaven; 
Summer, with flowers that fell; 

208 



ATALANTA IN 

Remembrance fallen from heaven, 

And madness risen from hell; 
Strength without hands to smite; 

Love that endures for a breath: 
Night, the shadow of light. 

And life, the shadow of death, 

.And the high gods took in hand 

Fire, and the falling of tears, 
And a measure of sliding sand 

From under the feet of the years; 
And froth and drift of the sea; 

And dust of the labouring earth; 
And bodies of things to be 

In the houses of death and of birth; 
And wrought with weeping and laughter, 

And fashioned with loathing and love 
"With life before and after 

And death beneath and above, 
For a day and a night and a morrow, 

That his strength might endure for a span 
"With travail and heavy sorrow, 

The holy spirit of man. 

From the ^vinds of the north and the south 

They gathered as unto strife; 
They breathed upon his mouth, 

They filled his body with life; 
Eyesight and speech they wrought 

For the veils of the soul therein, 
A time for labour and thought, 

A time to serve and to sin; 
They gave him light in his ways, 

2,09 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

And love, and a space for delight, 
And beauty and length of days, 

And night, and sleep in the night, 
His speech is a burning fire; 

With his Hps he travaileth; 
In his heart is a blind desire, 

In his eyes foreknowledge of death; 
He weaves, and is clothed with derision; 

Sows, and he shall not reap; 
His life is a watch or a vision 

Between a sleep and a sleep. 



MELEAGER 

O sweet new heaven and air without a star, 
Fair day, be fair and welcome, as to men 
With deeds to do and praise to pluck from thee. 
Come forth a child, born with clear sound and light, 
With laughter and swift limbs and prosperous looks; 
That this great hunt with heroes for the hounds 
May leave thee memorable and us well sped. 



ALTHAEA 

Son, first I praise thy prayer, then bid thee speed; 
But the gods hear men's hands before their lips, 
And heed beyond all crying and sacrifice 
Light of things done and noise of labouring men. 
But thou, being armed and perfect for the deed, 
Abide; for like rain-flakes in a wind they grow, 
The men thy fellows, and the choice of the world, 
Bound to root out the tusked plague, and leave 
Thanks and safe days and peace in Calydon. 

210 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 
MELEAGER 

For the whole city and all the low-lying land 
Flames, and the soft air sounds with them that come; 
The gods give all these fruit of all their works. 

ALTHAEA 

Set thine eye thither and fix thy spirit and say 

Whom there thou knowest; for sharp mixed shadow and 

wind 

Blown up between the morning and the mist, 
With steam of steeds and flash of bridle or wheel, 
And fire, and parcels of the broken dawn, 
And dust divided by hard light, and spears 
That shine and shift as the edge of wild beasts* eyes, 
Smite upon mine; so fiery their blind edge 
Burns, and bright points break up and baffle day. 

MELEAGER 

The first, for many I know not, being far off, 
Peleus the Larissaean, couched with whom 
Sleeps the white sea-bred wife and silver-shod, 
Fair as fled foam, a goddess; and their son 
Most swift and splendid of men's children born, 
Most like a god, full of the future fame. 

ALTHAEA 

Who are these shining like one sundered stars 

MELEAGER 

Thy sister's sons, a double flower of men. 

211 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

ALTHAEA 

O sweetest kin to me In all the world, 
O twin-born blood of Leda, gracious heads 
Like kindled lights In untempestuous heaven, 
Fair flower-like stars on the Iron foam of fight, 
With what glad heart and kindliness of soul, 
Even to the staining of both eyes with tears 
And kindling of warm eyelids with desire, 
A great way off I greet you, and rejoice 
Seeing you so fair, and moulded like as gods. 
Far off ye come, and least In years of these, 
But lordliest, but worth love to look upon. 

MELEAGER 

Even such (for sailing hither I saw far hence, 
And where Eurotas hollows his moist rock 
Nigh Sparta with a strenuous-hearted stream) 
Even such I saw their sisters; one swan- white, 
The little Helen, and less fair than she 
Fair Clytaemnestra, grave as pasturing fawns 
Who feed and fear some arrow; but at whiles, 
As one smitten with love or wrung with joy, 
She laughs and lightens with her eyes, and then 
Weeps; whereat Helen, having laughed, weeps too, 
And the other chides her, and she being chid speaks 

nought, 

But cheeks and Hps and eyelids kisses her, 
Laughing; so fate they, as in their bloomless bud 
And full of unblown life, the blood of gods. 

ALTHAEA 

Sweet days befall them and good loves and lords, 
And tender and temperate honours of the hearth, 

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ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

Peace, and a perfect life and blameless bed. 
But who shows next an eagle wrought In gold, 
That flames and beats broad wings against the sun 
And with void mouth gapes after emptier prey 5 

MELEAGER 

Know by that sign the reign of Telamon 
Between the fierce mouths of the encountering brine 
On the strait reefs of twice-washed Salamis. 

ALTHAEA 

For like one great of hand he bears himself^ 
Vine-chapleted, with savours of the sea, 
Glittering as wine and moving as a wave. 
But who girt round there roughly follows him 2 

MELEAGER 

Ancaeus, great of hand, an iron bulk, 
Two-edged for fight as the axe against his arm, 
Who drives against the surge of stormy spears 
Full-sailed; him Cepheus follows, his twin-born, 
Chief name next his of all Arcadian men. 

ALTHAEA 

Praise be with men abroad; chaste lives with us, 
Home-keeping days and household reverences. 

MELEAGER 

Next by the left unsandalled foot know thou 
The sail and oar of this Aetolian land, 
Thy brethren, Toxeus and the violent-souled 
Plexippus, over-swift with hand and tongue; 
For hands are fruitful, but the ignorant mouth 
Blows and corrupts their work with barren breath, 

213 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 
ALTHAEA 

Speech too bears fruit, being worthy; and air blows down 

Things poisonous, and high-seated violences. 

And with charmed words and songs have men put out 

Wild evil, and the fire of tyrannies. 

MELEAGER 

Yea, all things have they, save the gods and love. 

ALTHAEA 

Love thou the law and cleave to things ordained. 

MELEAGER 

Law lives upon their lips whom these applaud. 

ALTHAEA 

How sayest thou these 2 what god applauds new things 2 

MELEAGER 

Zeus, who hath fear and custom under foot. 

ALTHAEA 

But loves not laws thrown down and lives awry. 

MELEAGER 

Yet is not less himself than his own law. 

ALTHAEA 

Nor shifts and shuffles old things up and down. 

MELEAGER 

But what he will remoulds and discreates. 

214 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 
ALTHAEA 

Much, but not this, that each thing live its life. 

MELEAGER 

Nor only live, but lighten and lift up higher. 

ALTHAEA 

Pride breaks itself, and too much gained is gone. 

MELEAGER 

Things gained are gone, but great things done endure. 

ALTHAEA 

Child, if a man serve law through all his life 
And with his whole heart worship, him all gods 
Praise; but who loves it only with his lips, 
And not in heart and deed desiring it 
Hides a perverse will with obsequious words, 
Him heaven infatuates and his twin-born fate 
Tracks, and gains on him, scenting sins far off, 
And the swift hounds of violent death devour. 
Be man at one with equal-minded gods, 
So shall he prosper; not through laws torn up, 
Violated rule and a new face of things. 
A woman armed makes war upon herself, 
Unwomanlike, and treads down use and wont 
And the sweet common honour that she hath, 
Love, and the cry of children, and the hand 
Trothplight and mutual mouth of marriages, 
This doth she, being unloved; whom if one love, 
Not fire nor iron and the wide-mouthed wars 
Are deadlier than her lips or braided hair. 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

For of the one comes poison, and a curse 

Falls from the other and burns the lives of men. 

But them, son, be not filled with evil dreams, 

Nor with desire of these things; for with time 

Blind love burns out; but if one feed it full 

Till some discolouring stain dyes all his life, 

He shall keep nothing praiseworthy, nor die 

The sweet wise death of old men honourable, 

Who have lived out all the length of all their years 

Blameless, and seen well-pleased the face of gods, 

And without shame and without fear have wrought 

Things memorable, and while their days held out 

In sight of all men and the sun's great light 

Have gat them glory and given of their own praise 

To the earth that bare them and the day that bred, 

Home friends and far-off hospitalities, 

And filled with gracious and memorial fame 

Lands loved of summer or washed by violent seas, 

Towns populous and many unfooted ways, 

And alien lips and native with their own. 

But when white age and venerable death 

Mow down the strength and life within their limbs, 

Drain out the blood and darken their clear eyes, 

Immortal honour is on them, having past 

Through splendid life and death desirable 

To the clear seat and remote throne of souls, 

Lands indiscoverable in the unheard-of west, 

Round which the strong stream of a sacred sea 

Rolls without wind for ever, and the snow 

There shows not her white wings and windy feet, 

Nor thunder nor swift rain saith anything, 

Nor the sun burns, but all things rest and thrive; 

And these, filled full of days, divine and dead, 

216 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

Sages and singers fiery from the god. 
And such as loved their land and all things good 
And, best beloved of best men, liberty, 
Free lives and lips, free hands of men free-born, 
And whatsoever on earth was honourable 
And whosoever of all the ephemeral seed, 
Live there a life no liker to the gods 
But nearer than their life of terrene days. 
Love thou such life and look for such a death. 
But from the light and fiery dreams of love 
Spring heavy sorrows and a sleepless life, 
Visions not dreams, whose lids no charm shall close 
Nor song assuage them waking; and swift death 
Crushes with sterile feet the unripening ear, 
Treads out the timeless vintage; whom do thou 
Eschewing embrace the luck of this thy life, 
Not without honour; and it shall bear to thee 
Such fruit as men reap from spent hours and wear, 
Few men, but happy; of whom be thou, O son, 
Happiest, if thou submit thy soul to fate, 
And set thine eyes and heart on hopes high-born 
And divine deeds and abstinence divine. 
So shalt thou be toward all men all thy days 
As light and might communicable, and burn 
From heaven among the stars above the hours, 
And break not as a man breaks nor burn down: 
For to whom other of all heroic names 
Have the gods given his life in hand as thine ? 
And gloriously hast thou lived, and made thy life 
To me that bare thee and to all men born 
Thankworthy, a praise for ever; and hast won fame 
When wild wars broke all round thy father's house, 
And the mad people of windy mountain ways 
P 2,17 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

Laid spears against us like a sea, and all 

Aetolia thundered with ThessaBan hoofs; 

Yet these, as wind baffles the foam, and beats 

Straight back the relaxed ripple, didst thou break 

And loosen all their lances, till undone 

And man from man they fell; for ye twain stood 

God against god, Ares and Artemis, 

And thou the mightier; wherefore she unleashed 

A sharp-toothed curse thou too shalt overcome; 

For in the greener blossom of thy life 

Ere the full blade caught flower, and when time gave 

Respite, thou didst not slacken soul nor sleep, 

But with great hand and heart seek praise of men 

Out of sharp straits and many a grievous thing, 

Seeing the strange foam of undivided seas 

On channels never sailed in, and by shores 

Where the old winds cease not blowing, and all the night 

Thunders, and day is no delight to men. 

CHORUS 

Meleager, a noble wisdom and fair words 

The gods have given this woman; hear thou these. 

MELEAGER 

mother, I am not fain to strive in speech 
Nor set my mouth against thee, who art wise 
Even as they say and full of sacred words. 
But one thing I know surely, and cleave to this; 
That though I be not subtle of wit as thou 

Nor womanlike to weave sweet words, and melt 
Mutable minds of wise men as with fire, 

1 too, doing justly and reverencing the gods, 
Shall not want wit to see what things be right. 

218 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

For whom they love and whom reject, being gods, 

There is no man but seeth, and in good time 

Submits himself, refraining all his heart. 

And I too as thou sayest have seen great things; 

Seen otherwhere, but chiefly when the sail 

First caught between stretched ropes the roaring west, 

And all our oars smote eastward, and the wind 

First flung round faces of seafaring men 

White splendid snow-flakes of the sundering foam, 

And the first furrow in virginal green sea 

Followed the plunging ploughshare of hewn pine, 

And closed, as when deep sleep subdues man's breath 

Lips close and heart subsides; and closing, shone 

Sunlike with many a Nereid's hair, and moved 

Round many a trembling mouth of doubtful gods, 

Risen out of sunless and sonorous gulfs 

Through waning water and into shallow light, 

That watched us; and when flying the dove was snared 

As with men's hands, but we shot after and sped 

Clear through the irremeable Symplegades; 

And chiefliest when hoar beach and herbless cHff 

Stood out ahead from Colchis, and we heard 

Clefts hoarse with wind, and saw through narrowing reefs 

The lightning of the intolerable wave 

Flash, and the white wet flame of breakers burn 

Far under a kindling south wind, as a lamp 

Burns and bends all its blowing flame one way; 

Wild heights untravelled of the wind, and vales 

Cloven seaward by their violent streams, and white 

With bitter flowers and bright salt scurf of brine; 

Heard sweep their sharp swift gales, and bowing bkdwise 

Shriek with birds' voices, and with furious feet 

Tread loose the long skirts of a storm; and saw 

219 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

The whole white Euxine clash together and fall 

Full-mouthed, and thunderous from a thousand throats: 

Yet we drew thither and won the fleece and won 

Medea, deadlier than the sea; but there 

Seeing many a wonder and fearful things to men 

I saw not one thing like this one seen here, 

Most fair and fearful, feminine, a god, 

Faultless; whom I that love not, being unlike, 

Fear, and give honour, and choose from all the gods. 



OENEUS 

Lady, the daughter of Thestius, and thou, son, 
Not ignorant of your strife nor light of wit, 
Scared with vain dreams and fluttering like spent fire, 
I come to judge between you, but a king 
Full of past days and wise from years endured. 
Nor thee I praise, who art fain to undo things done: 
Nor thee, who art swift to esteem them overmuch. 
For what the hours have given is given, and this 
Changeless; howbeit these change, and in good time 
Devise new things and good, not one thing still. 
Us have they sent now at our need for help 
Among men armed a woman, foreign born, 
Virgin, not like the natural flower of things 
That grows and bears and brings forth fruit and dies; 
Unlovable, no light for a husband's house, 
Espoused; a glory among unwedded girls, 
And chosen of gods who reverence maidenhood. 
These too we honour in honouring her; but thou, 
Abstain thy feet from following, and thine eyes 
From amorous touch; nor set towards her thine heart, 
Son, lest hate bear no deadlier fruit than love. 

220 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 
ALTHAEA 

O king, them art wise, but wisdom halts; and just, 
But the gods love not justice more than fate, 
And smite the righteous and the violent mouth, 
And mix with insolent blood the reverent man's, 
And bruise the holier as the lying lips. 
Enough; for wise words fail me, and my heart 
Takes fire and trembles flamewise, O my son, 

child, for thine head's sake; mine eyes wax thick, 
Turning toward thee, so goodly a weaponed man, 
So glorious; and for love of thine own eyes 

They are darkened, and tears burn them, fierce as fire, 
And my lips pause and my soul sinks with love. 
But by thine hand, by thy sweet life and eyes, 
By thy great heart and these clasped knees, O son, 

1 pray thee that thou slay me not with thee. 
For there was never a mother woman-born 
Loved her sons better; and never a queen of men 
More perfect in her heart toward whom she loved. 
For what lies light on many and they forget, 
Small things and transitory as a wind o* the sea, 

I forget never; I have seen thee all thine years 

A man in arms, strong and a joy to men 

Seeing thine head glitter and thine hand burn its way 

Through a heavy and iron furrow of sundering spears; 

But always also a flower of three suns old, 

The small one thing that lying drew down my life 

To lie with thee and feed thee; a child and weak, 

Mine, a delight to no man, sweet to me. 

Who then sought to thee 5 who gat help 2 who knew 

If thou wert goodly? nay, no man at all. 

Or what sea saw thee, or sounded with thine oar, 

221 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

Child 5 or what strange land shone with war through 

thee? 

But fair for me thou wert, O little life, 
Fruitless, the fruit of mine own flesh, and blind, 
More than much gold, ungrown, a foolish flower. 
For silver nor bright snow nor feather of foam 
Was whiter, and no gold yellower than thine hair, 

child, my child; and now thou art lordlier grown, 
Not lovelier, nor a new thing in mine eyes, 

1 charge thee by thy soul and this my breast, 
Fear thou the gods and me and thine own heart, 
Lest all these turn against thee; for who knows 
What wind upon what wave of altering time 
Shall speak a storm and blow calamity? 

And there is nothing stabile in the world 
But the gods break it; yet not less, fair son, 
If but one thing be stronger, if one endure, 
Surely the bitter and the rooted love 
That burns between us, going from me to thee, 
Shall more endure than all things. What dost thou, 
Following strange loves ? why wilt thou kill mine hearts 
Lo, I talk wild and windy words, and fall 
From my clear wits, and seem of mine own self 
Dethroned, dispraised, disseated; and my mind, 
That was my crown, breaks, and mine heart is gone, 
And I am naked of my soul, and stand 
Ashamed, as a mean woman; take thou thought: 
Live if thou wilt, and if thou wilt not, look, 
The gods have given thee life to lose or keep, 
Thou shalt not die as men die, but thine end 
Fallen upon thee shall break me unaware. 



222 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 
MELEAGER 

Queen, my whole heart is molten with thy tears. 
And my limbs yearn with pity of thee, and love 
Compels with grief mine eyes and labouring breath; 
For what thou art I know thee, and this thy breast 
And thy fair eyes I worship, and am bound 
Toward thee in spirit and love thee in all my souL 
For there is nothing terribler to men 
Than the sweet face of mothers, and the might. 
But what shall be let be; for us the day 
Once only lives a little, and is not found. 
Time and the fruitful hour are more than we, 
And these lay hold upon us; but thou, God, 
Zeus, the sole steersman of the helm of things, 
Father, be swift to see us, and as thou wilt 
Help: or if adverse, as thou wilt, refrain. 

CHORUS 
We have seen thee, O Love, thou art fair; thou art 

goodly, O Love; 

Thy wings make light in the air as the wings of a dove. 
Thy feet are as winds that divide the stream of the sea; 
Earth is thy covering to hide thee, the garment of thee. 
Thou art swift and subtle and blind as a flame of fire; 
Before thee the laughter, behind thee the tears of desire; 
And twain go forth beside thee, a man with a maid; 
Her eyes are the eyes of a bride whom delight makes afraid; 
As the breath in the buds that stir is her bridal breath: 
But Fate is the name of her; and his name is Death. 

For an evil blossom was born 

Of sea-foam and the frothing of blood, 

223 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

Blood-red and bitter of fruit, 

And the seed of it laughter and tears, 
And the leaves of it madness and scorn; 
A bitter flower from the bud, 
Sprung of the sea without root, 

Sprung without graft from the years. 

The weft of the world was untorn 

That is woven of the day on the night, 
The hair of the hours was not white 

Nor the raiment of time overworn, 
When a wonder, a world's delight, 

A perilous goddess was born; 

And the waves of the sea as she came 

Clove, and the foam at her feet, 

Fawning, rejoiced to bring forth 
A fleshly blossom, a flame 

Filling the heavens with heat 

To the cold white ends of the north. 

And in air the clamorous birds, 
And men upon earth that hear 
Sweet articulate words 

Sweetly divided apart, 
And in shallow and channel and mere 
The rapid and footless herds, 

Rejoiced, being foolish of heart. 

For all they said upon earth, 

She is fair, she is white like a dove, 

And the life of the world in her breath 
Breathes, and is born at her birth; 

.224 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

For they knew thee for mother of love* 
And knew thee not mother of death. 



hadst thou to do being born, 
Mother, when winds were at ease, 
As a flower of the springtime of corn* 

A. flower of the foam of the seas 2 
For bitter thou wast from thy birth, 

Aphrodite, a mother of strife; 
For before thee some rest was on earth, 

A little respite from tears, 
A. little pleasure of life; 
For life was not then as thou art, 

But as one that waxeth in years 
Sweet-spoken, a fruitful wife; 

Earth had no thorn, and desire 
No sting, neither death any dart; 

W"hat hadst thou to do amongst these, 

Thou, clothed with a burning fire, 
Thou, girt with sorrow of heart, 

Thou, sprung of the seed of the seas 
As an ear from a seed of corn, 

As a brand plucked forth of a pyre, 
As a ray shed forth of the morn, 

For division of soul and disease, 
For a dart and a sting and a thorn 2 
What ailed thee then to be born? 

"Was there not evil enough, 

Mother, and anguish on earth 
Born with a man at his birth, 

Wastes underfoot, and above 

Storm out of heaven and dearth 

2,2.$ 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

Shaken down from the shining thereof^ 

^Wrecks from afar overseas 
And peril of shallow and firth, 

And tears that spring and increase 
In the barren places of mirth, 
That thou, having wings as a dove, 
Being girt with desire for a girth, 

That thou must come after these, 
That thou must lay on him love 2 

Thou shouldst not so have been born: 
But death should have risen with thee, 
Mother, and visible fear, 

GrieC and the wringing of hands, 
And noise of many that mourn; 
The smitten bosom, the knee 
Bowed, and in each man's ear 
A cry as of perishing lands, 
A moan as of people in prison, 
A tumult of infinite griefs; 

And thunder of storm on the sands, 
And wailing of wives on the shore; 
And under thee newly arisen 

Loud shoals and shipwrecking reefs, 

Fierce air and violent light; 
Sail rent and sundering oar, 

Darkness, and noises of night; 
Clashing of streams in the sea, 
Wave against wave as a sword. 
Clamour of currents, and foam; 
Rains making ruin on earth, 
"Winds that wax ravenous and roam 
As wolves in a wolfish horde; 

226 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

Fruits growing faint in the tree, 

And blind things dead in their birth; 
Famine, and blighting of corn, 
"When thy time was come to be born. 

All these we know of; but thee 
"Who shall discern or declare? 
In the uttermost ends of the sea 

The light of thine eyelids and hair, 
The light of thy bosom as fire 

Between the wheel of the sun 
And the flying flames of the air? 

"Wilt thou turn thee not yet nor have pity, 
But abide with despair and desire 
.And the crying of armies undone, 

Lamentation of one with another 
And breaking of city by city; 
The dividing of friend against friend, 

The severing of brother and brother; 
"Wilt thou utterly bring to an end ? 
Have mercy, mother! 

For against all men from of old 

Thou hast set thine hand as a curse, 
And cast out gods from their places. 
These things are spoken of thee. 
Strong kings and goodly with gold 
Thou hast found out arrow's to pierce, 
And made their kingdoms and races 

As dust and surf of the sea. 
All these, overburdened with woes 

And with length of their days waxen weak, 
Thou slewest; and sentest moreover 
Upon Tyro an evil thing, 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

Rent hair and a fetter and blows 
Making bloody the flower of the cheek, 
Though she lay by a god as a lover, 

Though fair, and the seed of a king. 
For of old, being full of thy fire, 
She endured not longer to wear 
On her bosom a saffron vest, 

On her shoulder an ashwood quiver; 
Being mixed and made one through desire 
With Enipeus, and all her hair 
Made moist with his mouth, and her breast 
Filled full of the foam of the river. 

ATALANTA 

Sun, and clear light among green hills, and day 
Late risen and long sought after, and you just gods 
Whose hands divide anguish and recompense, 
But first the sun's white sister, a maid in heaven, 
On earth of all maids worshipped hail, and hear, 
And witness with me if not without sign sent, 
Not without rule and reverence, I a maid 
Hallowed, and huntress holy as whom I serve, 
Here in your sight and eyeshot of these men 
Stand, girt as they toward hunting, and my shafts 
Drawn; wherefore all ye stand up on my side, 
If I be pure and all ye righteous gods, 
Lest one revile me, a woman, yet no wife, 
That bear a spear for spindle, and this bow strung 
For a web woven; and with pure lips salute 
Heaven, and the face of all the gods, and dawn 
Filling with maiden flames and maiden flowers 
The starless fold o the stars, and making sweet 
The warm wan heights of the air, moon-trodden ways 

228 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

And breathless gates and extreme hills of heaven. 

Whom, having offered water and bloodless gifts. 

Flowers, and a golden circlet of pure hair, 

Next Artemis I bid be favourable 

And make this day all golden, hers and ours, 

Gracious and good and white to the unblamed end. 

But thou, O well-beloved, of all my days 

Bid it be fruitful, and a crown for all, 

To bring forth leaves and bind round all my hair 

With perfect chaplets woven for thine of thee. 

For not without the word of thy chaste mouth, 

For not without law given and clean command, 

Across the white straits of the running sea 

From Elis even to the Acheloian horn, 

I with clear winds came hither and gentle gods, 

Far off my father's house, and left uncheered 

lasius, and uncheered the Arcadian hills 

And all their green-haired waters, and all woods 

Disconsolate, to hear no horn of mine 

Blown, and behold no flash of swift white feet. 

MELEAGER 

For thy name's sake and awe toward thy chaste head, 

O holiest Atalanta, no man dares 

Praise thee, though fairer than whom all men praise, 

And godlike for thy grace of hallowed hair 

And holy habit of thine eyes, and feet 

That make the blown foam neither swift nor white 

Though the wind winnow and whirl it; yet we praise 

Gods, found because of thee adorable 

And for thy sake praiseworthiest from all men: 

Thee therefore we praise also, thee as these, 

Pure, and a light lit at the hands of gods. 

229 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 
TOXEUS 

How long will ye whet spears with eloquence, 
Fight, and kill beasts dry-handed with sweet words 2 
Cease, or talk still and slay thy boars at home. 

PLEXIPPUS 

Why, if she ride among us for a man, 

Sit thou for her and spin; a man grown girl 

Is worth a woman weaponed; sit thou here. 

MELEAGER 

Peace, and be wise; no gods love idle speech. 

PLEXIPPUS 
Nor any man a man's mouth woman-tongued. 

MELEAGER 

For my lips bite not sharper than mine hands. 

PLEXIPPUS 
Nay, both bite soft, but no whit softly mine. 

MELEAGER 

Keep thine hands clean; they have time enough to stain. 

PLEXIPPUS 
For thine shall rest and wax not red today. 

MELEAGER 

Have all thy will of words; talk out thine heart. 

230 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 
ALTHAEA 

Refrain your lips, O brethren, and my son. 

Lest words turn snakes and bite you uttering them. 

TOXEUS 

Except she give her blood before the gods, 
What profit shall a maid be among men? 

PLEXIPPUS 

Let her come crowned and stretch her throat for a knife, 

Bleat out her spirit and die, and so shall men 

Through her too prosper and through prosperous gods, 

But nowise through her living; shall she live 

A flower-bud of the flower-bed, or sweet fruit 

For kisses and the honey-making mouth, 

And play the shield for strong men and the spear 2 

Then shall the heifer and her mate lock horns, 

And the bride overbear the groom, and men 

Gods; for no less division sunders these; 

Since all things made are seasonable in rime, 

But if one alter unseasonable are all. 

But thou, O Zeus, hear me that I may slay 

This beast before thee and no man halve with me 

Nor woman, lest these mock thee, though a god, 

Who hast made men strong, and thou being wise be held 

Foolish; for wise is that thing which endures. 

ATALANTA 

Men, and the chosen of all this people, and thou, 
King, I beseech you a little bear with me. 
For if my life be shameful that I live, 
Let the gods witness and their wrath; but these 

231 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

Cast no such word against me. Thou, O mine, 

O holy, O happy goddess, if I sin 

Changing the words of women and the works 

For spears and strange men's faces, hast not thou 

One shaft of all thy sudden seven that pierced 

Seven through the bosom or shining throat or side, 

All couched about one mother's loosening knees, 

All holy bom, engraffed of Tantalus? 

But if toward any of you I am overbold 

That take thus much upon me, let him think 

How I, for all my forest holiness, 

Fame, and this armed and iron maidenhood, 

Pay thus much also; I shall have no man's love 

For ever, and no face of children born 

Or feeding lips upon me or fastening eyes 

For ever, nor being dead shall kings my sons 

Mourn me and bury, and tears on daughters* cheeks 

Burn; but a cold and sacred Hfe, but strange, 

But far from dances and the back-blowing torch, 

Far off from flowers or any bed of man, 

Shall my life be for ever: me the snows 

That face the first o* the morning, and cold hills 

Full of the land-wind and sea-travelling storms 

And many a wandering wing of noisy nights 

That know the thunder and hear the thickening wolves- 

Me the utmost pine and footless frost of woods 

That talk with many winds and gods, the hours 

Re-risen, and white divisions of the dawn, 

Springs thousand-tongued with the intermitting reed 

And streams that murmur of the mother snow 

Me these allure, and know me; but no man 

Knows, and my goddess only. Lo now, see 

If one of all you these things vex at all. 

232 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

Would God that any of you had all the praise 

And I no manner of memory when I die, 

So might I show before her perfect eyes 

Pure, whom I follow, a maiden to my death. 

But for the rest let all have all they will; 

For is it a grief to you that I have part, 

Being woman merely, in your male might and deeds 

Done by main strength 2 yet in my body is throned 

As great a heart, and in my spirit, O men, 

I have not less of godlike. Evil it were 

That one a coward should mix with you, one hand 

Fearful, one eye abase itself; and these 

Well might ye hate and well revile, not me. 

For not the difference of the several flesh 

Being vile or noble or beautiful or base 

Makes praiseworthy, but purer spirit and heart 

Higher than these meaner mouths and limbs, that feed, 

Rise, rest, and are and are not; and for me, 

What should I say ? but by the gods of the world 

And this my maiden body, by all oaths 

That bind the tongue of men and the evil will, 

I am not mighty- minded, nor desire 

Crowns, nor the spoil of slain things nor the fame; 

Feed ye on these, eat and wax fat; cry out, 

Laugh, having eaten, and leap without a lyre, 

Sing, mix the wind with clamour, smite and shake 

Sonorous timbrels and tumultuous hair, 

And fill the dance up with tempestuous feet, 

For I will none; but having prayed my prayers 

And made thank-offering for prosperities, 

I shall go hence and no man see me more. 

What thing is this for you to shout me down, 

What, for a man to grudge me this my life 

Q 233 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

As it were envious of all yours, and I 

A thief of reputations; nay, for now, 

If there be any highest in heaven, a god 

Above all thrones and thunders of the gods 

Throned, and the wheel of the world roll under him, 

Judge he between me and all of you, and see 

If I transgress at all: but ye, refrain 

Transgressing hands and reinless mouths, and keep 

Silence, lest by much foam of violent words 

And proper poison of your lips ye die. 

OENEUS 

O flower of Tegea, maiden, fleetest foot 
And holiest head of women, have good cheer 
Of thy good words: but ye, depart with her 
In peace and reverence, each with blameless eye 
Following his fate; exalt your hands and hearts, 
Strike, cease not, arrow on arrow and wound on wound, 
And go with gods and with the gods return. 

CHORUS 

Who hath given man speech I or who hath set therein 
A thorn for peril and a snare for sin I 
For in the word his life is and his breath, 

And in the word his death, 
That madness and the infatuate heart may breed 

From the word's womb the deed 
And life bring one thing forth ere all pass by, 
Even one thing which is ours yet cannot die 
Death. Hast thou seen him ever anywhere, 
Time's twin-born brother, imperishable as he 
Is perishable and plaintive, clothed with care 

234 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

And mutable as sand, 

But death Is strong and full of blood and fair 
And perdurable and like a lord of land 2 
Nay, time thou seest not, death thou wilt not see 
Till life's right hand be loosened from thine hand 

And thy life- days from thee. 

For the gods very subtly fashion 

Madness with sadness upon earth: 
Not knowing in any wise compassion, 

Nor holding pity of any worth; 
And many things they have given and taken, 

And wrought and ruined many things; 
The firm land have they loosed and shaken, 

And sealed the sea with all her springs; 
They have wearied time with heavy burdens 

And vexed the lips of life with breath: 
Set men to labour and given them guerdons, 

Death, and great darkness after death: 
Put moans into the bridal measure 

And on the bridal wools a stain 
And circled pain about with pleasure, 

And girdled pleasure about with pain; 
And strewed one marriage-bed with tears and fire 
For extreme loathing and supreme desire. 

What shall be done with all these tears of ours 2 

Shall they make watersprings in the fair heaven 
To bathe the brows of morning 2 or like flowers 
Be shed and shine before the starriest hours, 

Or made the raiment of the weeping Seven 2 
Or rather, O our masters, shall they be 
Food for the famine of the grievous sea, 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

A great well-head of lamentation 
Satiating the sad gods 2 or fall and flow 
Among the years and seasons to and fro, 

And wash their feet with tribulation 
And fill them full with grieving ere they go I 

Alas, our lords, and yet alas again, 
Seeing all your iron heaven is gilt as gold 

But all we smite thereat in vain; 
Smite the gates barred with groanings manifold, 

But all the floors are paven with our pain. 
Yea, and with weariness of lips and eyes, 
With breaking of the bosom, and with sighs, 

We labour, and are clad and fed with grief 
And filled with days we would not fain behold 
And nights we would not hear of; we wax old, 

All we wax old and wither like a leaf. 
We are outcast, strayed between bright sun and moon; 

Our light and darkness are as leaves of flowers, 
Black flowers and white, that perish; and the noon 

As midnight, and the night as daylight hours. 

A little fruit a little while is ours, 
And the worm finds it soon. 

But up in heaven the high gods one by one 
Lay hands upon the draught that quickeneth, 

Fulfilled with all tears shed and all things done, 
And stir with soft imperishable breath 
The bubbling bitterness of life and death, 

And hold it to our lips and laugh; but they 

Preserve their lips from tasting night or day, 
Lest they too change and sleep, the fates that spun, 

The lips that made us and the hands that slay; 
Lest all these change, and heaven bow down to none, 

236 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

Change and be subject to the secular sway 

And terrene revolution of the sun. 
Therefore they thrust it from them, putting time away. 

I would the wine of time, made sharp and sweet 
With multitudinous days and nights and tears 
And many mixing savours of strange years, 
Were no more trodden of them under feet, 

Cast out and spilt about their holy places: 
That life were given them as a fruit to eat 
And death to drink as water; that the light 
Might ebb, drawn backward from their eyes, and night 

Hide for one hour the imperishable faces. 
That they might rise up sad in heaven, and know 
Sorrow and sleep, one paler than young snow, 
One cold as blight of dew and ruinous rain; 
Rise up and rest and suffer a little, and be 
Awhile as all things born with us and we, 

And grieve as men, and like slain men be slain. 

For now we know not of them; but one saith 

The gods are gracious, praising God; and one, 
When hast thou seen ? or hast thou felt his breath 

Touch, nor consume thine eyelids as the sun, 
Nor fill thee to the lips with fiery death 2 

None hath beheld him, none 
Seen above other gods and shapes of things, 
Swift without feet and flying without wings, 
Intolerable, not clad with death or life, 

Insatiable, not known of night or day, 
The lord of love and loathing and of strife 

Who gives a star and takes a sun away; 
Who shapes the soul, and makes her a barren wife 

237 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

To the earthly body and grievous growth of clay; 
Who turns the large limbs to a little flame 

And binds the great sea with a little sand; 
Who makes desire, and slays desire with shame; 

Who shakes the heaven as ashes in his hand; 
Who, seeing the light and shadow for the same. 

Bids day waste night as fire devours a brand, 
Smites without sword, and scourges without rod; 

The supreme evi! 9 God. 
Yea, with thine hate, O God, thou hast covered us, 

One saith, and hidden our eyes away from sight, 
And made us transitory and hazardous, 

Light things and slight; 

Yet have men praised thee, saying, He hath made man 
thus, 

And he doeth right. 

Thou hast kissed us, and hast smitten; thou hast laid 
Upon us with thy left hand life, and said, 
Live: and again thou hast said, Yield up your breath, 
And with thy right hand laid upon us death. 
Thou hast sent us sleep, and stricken sleep with dreams, 

Saying, Joy is not, but love of joy shall be; 
Thou hast made sweet springs for all the pleasant streams, 

In the end thou hast made them bitter with the sea. 
Thou hast fed one rose with dust of many men; 

Thou hast marred one face with fire of many tears; 
Thou hast taken love, and given us sorrow again; 

With pain thou hast filled us full to the eyes and ears. 
Therefore because thou art strong, our father, and we 

Feeble; and thou art against us, and thine hand 
Constrains us in the shallows of the sea 

And breaks us at the limits of the land; 
Because thou hast bent thy lightnings as a bow, 

238 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

And loosed the hours like arrows; and let fall 
Sins and wild words and many a winged woe 

And wars among us, and one end of all; 
Because thou hast made the thunder, and thy feet 

Are as a rushing water when the skies 
Break, but thy face as an exceeding heat 

And flames of fire the eyelids of thine eyes; 
Because thou art over all who are over us; 

Because thy name is life and our name death; 
Because thou art cruel and men are piteous, 

And our hands labour and thine hand scattereth; 
Lo, with hearts rent and knees made tremulous, 

Lo, with ephemeral lips and casual breath, 

At least we witness of thee ere we die 
That these things are not otherwise, but thus; 

That each man in his heart sigheth, and saith, 

That all men even as I, 
All we are against thee, against thee, O God most high. 

But ye, keep ye on earth 

Your lips from over-speech, 
Loud words and longing are so little worth; 

And the end is hard to reach, 
For silence after grievous things is good, 

And reverence, and the fear that makes men whole, 
And shame, and righteous governance of blood, 

And lordship of the soul. 

But from sharp words and wits men pluck no fruit, 
And gathering thorns they shake the tree at root; 
For words divide and rend; 
But silence is most noble till the end. 

ALTHAEA 

I heard within the house a cry of news 

239 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

And came forth eastward hither, where the dawn 
Cheers first these warder gods that face the sun 
And next our eyes unrisen; for unaware 
Came clashes of swift hoofs and trampling feet 
And through the windy pillared corridor 
Light sharper than the frequent flames of day 
That daily fill it from the fiery dawn; 
Gleams, and a thunder of people that cried out, 
And dust and hurrying horsemen; lo their chief. 
That rode with Oeneus rein by rein, returned. 
What cheer, O herald of my lord the king 5 

HERALD 

Lady, good cheer and great; the boar is slain. 

CHORUS 
Praised be all gods that look towards Calydon. 

ALTHAEA 

Good news and brief; but by whose happier hand 2 

HERALD 

A maiden's and a prophet's and thy son's. 

ALTHAEA 

Well fare the spear that severed him and life. 

HERALD 

Thine own, and not an alien, hast thou blest. 

ALTHAEA 

Twice be thou too for my sake blest and his. 

240 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 
HERALD 

At the king's word I rode afoam for thine. 

ALTHAEA 

Thou sayest he tarrieth till they bring the spoil? 

HERALD 

Hard by the quarry, where they breathe, O queen. 

ALTHAEA 

Speak thou their chance; but some bring flowers and 

crown 

These gods and all the lintel, and shed wine, 
Fetch sacrifice and slay; for heaven is good. 

HERALD 

Some furlongs northward where the brakes begin 

West of that narrowing range of warrior hills 

Whose brooks have bled with battle when thy son 

Smote Acarnania, there all they made halt, 

And with keen eye took note of spear and hound, 

Royally ranked; Laertes island-born, 

The young Gerenian Nestor, Panopeus, 

And Cepheus and Ancaeus, mightiest thewed, 

Arcadians; next, and evil-eyed of these, 

Arcadian Atalanta, with twain hounds 

Lengthening the leash, and under nose and brow 

Glittering with lipless tooth and fire-swift eye; 

But from her white braced shoulder the plumed shafts 

Rang, and the bow shone from her side; next her 

Meleager, like a sun in spring that strikes 

Branch into leaf and bloom into the world, 

241 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

A glory among men meaner; Iphicles, 

And following him that slew the biform bull 

Pirithous, and divine Eurytion, 

And, bride-bound to the gods, Aeacides. 

Then Telamon his brother, and Argive-born 

The seer and sayer of visions and of truth, 

Amphiaraus; and a four-fold strength, 

Thine, even thy mother's and thy sister's sons. 

And recent from the roar of foreign foam 

Jason, and Dryas twin-begot with war, 

A blossom of bright battle, sword and man 

Shining; and Idas, and the keenest eye 

Of Lynceus, and Admetus twice-espoused, 

And Hippasus and Hyleus, great in heart. 

These having halted bade blow horns, and rode 

Through woods and waste lands cleft by stormy streams, 

Past yew-trees and the heavy hair of pines, 

And where the dew is thickest under oaks, 

This way and that; but questing up and down 

They saw no trail nor scented; and one said, 

Plexippus, Help, or help not, Artemis, 

And we will flay thy boarskin with male hands; 

But saying, he ceased and said not that he would, 

Seeing where the green ooze of a sun-struck marsh 

Shook with a thousand reeds untunable, 

And in their moist and multitudinous flower 

Slept no soft sleep, with violent visions fed, 

The blind bulk of the immeasurable beast. 

And seeing, he shuddered with sharp lust of praise 

Through all his limbs, and launched a double dart. 

And missed; for much desire divided him, 

Too hot of spirit and feebler than his will, 

That his hand failed, though fervent; and the shaft, 

242 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

Sundering the rushes, in a tamarisk stem 

Shook, and stuck fast; then all abode save one, 

The Arcadian Atalanta; from, her side 

Sprang her hounds, labouring at the leash, and slipped, 

And plashed ear-deep with plunging feet; but she 

Saying, Speed it as I send it for thy sake, 

Goddess, drew bow and loosed; the sudden string 

Rang, and sprang inward, and the waterish air 

Hissed, and the moist plumes of the songless reeds 

Moved as a wave which the wind moves no more. 

But the boar heaved half out of ooze and slime 

His tense flank trembling round the barbed wound, 

Hateful; and fiery with invasive eyes 

And bristling with intolerable hair 

Plunged, and the hounds clung, and green flowers and 

white 

Reddened and broke all round them where they came. 
And charging with sheer tusk he drove, and smote 
Hyleus; and sharp death caught his sudden soul, 
And violent sleep shed night upon his eyes. 
Then Peleus, with strong strain of hand and heart, 
Shot; but the sidelong arrow slid, and slew 
His comrade born and loving countryman, 
Under the left arm smitten, as he no less 
Poised a like arrow; and bright blood brake afoam, 
And falling, and weighed back by clamorous arms, 
Sharp rang the dead limbs of Eurytion. 
Then one shot happier, the Cadmean seer, 
Amphiaraus; for his sacred shaft 
Pierced the red circlet of one ravening eye 
Beneath the brute brows of the sanguine boar, 
Now bloodier from one slain; but he so galled 
Sprang straight, and rearing cried no lesser cry 

243 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

Than thunder and the roar of wintering streams 
That mix their own foam with the yellower sea; 
And as a tower that falls by fire in fight 
With ruin of walls and all its archery, 
And breaks the iron flower of war beneath, 
Crushing charred limbs and molten arms of men; 
So through crushed branches and the reddening brake 
Clamoured and crashed the fervour of his feet, 
And trampled, springing sideways from the tusk, 
Too tardy a moving mould of heavy strength, 
Ancaeus; and as flakes of weak- winged snow 
Break, all the hard thews of his heaving limbs 
Broke, and rent flesh fell every way, and blood 
Flew, and fierce fragments of no more a man. 
Then all the heroes drew sharp breath, and gazed, 
And smote not; but Meleager, but thy son, 
Right in the wild way of the coming curse 
Rock-rooted, fair with fierce and fastened Hps, 
Clear eyes, and springing muscle and shortening limb 
With chin aslant indrawn to a tightening throat, 
Grave, and with gathered sinews, like a god 
Aimed on the left side his well-handled spear 
Grasped where the ash was knottiest hewn, and smote, 
And with no missile wound, the monstrous boar 
Right in the hairiest hollow of his hide 
Under the last rib, sheer through bulk and bone, 
Deep in; and deeply smitten, and to death, 
The heavy horror with his hanging shafts 
Leapt, and fell furiously, and from raging lips 
Foamed out the latest wrath of all his life. 
And all they praised the gods with mightier heart, 
Zeus and all gods, but chiefliest Artemis, 
Seeing; but Meleager bade whet knives and flay, 

244 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

Strip and stretch out the splendour of the spoil; 

And hot and horrid from the work all these 

Sat, and drew breath and drank and made great cheer 

And washed the hard sweat off their calmer brows. 

For much sweet grass grew higher than grew the reed, 

And good for slumber, and every holier herb, 

Narcissus, and the low-lying inelilote, 

And all of goodliest blade and bloom that springs 

Where, hid by heavier hyacinth, violet buds 

Blossom and burn; and fire of yellower flowers 

And light of crescent lilies, and such leaves 

As fear the Faun's and know the Dryad's foot; 

Olive and Ivy and poplar dedicate, 

And many a well-spring overwatched of these. 

There now they rest; but me the king bade bear 

Good tidings to rejoice this town and thee. 

Wherefore be glad, and all ye give much thanks, 

For fallen is all the trouble of Calydon. 

ALTHAEA 

Laud ye the gods; for this they have given is good. 
And what shall be they hide until their time. 
Much good and somewhat grievous hast thou said, 
And either well; but let all sad things be, 
Till all have made before the prosperous gods 
Burnt- offering, and poured out the floral wine. 
Look fair, O gods, and favourable; for we 
Praise you with no false heart or flattering mouth, 
Being merciful, but with pure souls and prayer. 

HERALD 

Thou hast prayed well; for whoso fears not these, 
But once being prosperous waxes huge of heart, 
Him shall some new thing unaware destroy. 

245 



INT 



CHORUS 

O that I now, I too were 
By deep wells and w'ater- floods, 
Streams of ancient hills, and where 
All the wan green places bear 
Blossoms cleaving to the sod, 
Fruitless fruit, and grasses fair, 
Or such darkest ivy-buds 
.As divide thy yellow hair, 
Bacchus, and their leaves that nod 
Round thy fawnskin brush the bare 
Snow-soft shoulders of a god; 
There the year is sweet, and there 
Earth is full of secret springs, 
And the fervent rose-cheeked hours, 
Those that marry dawn and noon, 
There are sunless, there look pale 
In dim leaves and hidden air, 
Pale as grass or latter flowers 
Or the wild vine*s wan wet rings 
Full of dew beneath the moon, 
And all day the nightingale 
Sleeps, and all night sings; 
There in cold remote recesses 
That nor alien eyes assail, 
Feet, nor imminence of wings, 
ISTor a wind nor any tune, 
Thou, O queen and holiest, 
Flower the whitest of all things, 
'With reluctant lengthening tresses 
And with sudden splendid breast 
Save of maidens unbeholden, 



There are wont to enter, there 

Thy divine swift limbs and. golden 

JMalden growth of unbound hair, 

Bathed In waters white, 

Shine, and many a mald*s by thee 

In moist woodland or the hilly 

Flo\verless brakes where \vells abound 

Out of all men*s sight; 

Or In lower pools that see 

All their marges clothed all round 

"W r ith the Innumerable lily, 

^Whence the golden-girdled bee 

Flits through flowering rush to fret 

^White or duskier violet, 

Fair as those that In far years 

^7Ith their buds left luminous 

_A.nd their little leaves made wet, 

From the warmer dew of tears, 

Mother's tears in extreme need, 

Hid the limbs of lamus, 

Of thy brothers seed; 

For his heart was piteous 

Toward him, even as thine heart now 

Pitiful toward us; 

Thine, O goddess, turning hither 

A. benignant blameless brow; 

Seeing enough of evil done 

J^nd lives withered as leaves wither 

In the blasting of the sun; 

Seeing enough of hunters dead* 

Ruin enough of all our year, 

Herds and harvests slain and shed, 

Herdsmen stricken many an one, 



ATAJLA1STTA IN 

Fruits and flocks consumed together, 

And great length of deadly days. 

Yet with reverent lips and fear 

Turn we toward thee, turn and praise 

For this lightening of clear weather 

And prosperities begun. 

For not seldom, when all air 

As bright water without breath 

Shines, and when men fear not, fate 

"Without thunder unaware 

Breaks, and brings down death. 

Joy with grief ye great gods give. 

Good with bad, and overbear 

All the pride of us that live, 

All the high estate, 

As ye long since overbore, 

As in old time long before, 

Many a strong man and a great, 

All that were. 

But do thou, sweet, otherwise, 

Having heed of all our prayer, 

Taking note of all our sighs; 

^7e beseech thee by thy light, 

By thy bow, and thy sweet eyes, 

And the kingdom of the night, 

Be thou favourable and fair; 

By thine arrows and thy might 

And Orion overthrown; 

By the maiden thy delight, 

By the indissoluble zone 

And the sacred hair. 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 
MESSENGER 

Maidens, if ye will sing now, shift your song, 
Bow down, cry, wail for pity; is this a time 
For singing 2 nay, for strewing of dust and ash, 
Rent raiment, and for bruising of the breast. 

CHORUS 

What new thing wolf-like lurks behind thy words 3 
What snake's tongue in thy lips 5 what fire in the eyes ? 

MESSENGER 

Bring me before the queen and I will speak. 

CHORUS 

Lo, she comes forth as from thank-offering made. 

MESSENGER 

A barren offering for a bitter gift. 

ALTHAEA 

What are these borne on branches, and the face 
Covered 2 no mean men living, but now slain 
Such honour have they, if any dwell with death. 

MESSENGER 

Queen, thy twain brethren and thy mother's sons. 

ALTHAEA 

Lay down your dead till I behold their blood 
If it be mine indeed, and I will weep. 

MESSENGER 

Weep if thou wilt, for these men shall no more. 
R 249 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

ALTHAEA 

O brethren, O my father's sons, of me 
Well loved and well reputed, I should weep 
Tears dearer than the dear blood drawn from you 
But that I know you not uncomforted, 
Sleeping no shameful sleep, however slain, 
For my son surely hath avenged you dead. 

MESSENGER 

Nay, should thine own seed slay himself, O queen 2 

ALTHAEA 

Thy double word brings forth a double death. 

MESSENGER 

Know this then singly, by one hand they fell. 

ALTHAEA 

What mutterest thou with thine ambiguous mouth 2 

MESSENGER 

Slain by thy son's hand; is that saying so hard 2 

ALTHAEA 

Our time is come upon us: it is here. 

CHORUS 

O miserable, and spoiled at thine own hand. 

ALTHAEA 

Wert thou not called Meleager from this womb ? 

CHORUS 

A grievous huntsman hath it bred to thee. 

250 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 
ALTHAEA 

Wert thou born fire, and shalt thou not devours 

CHORUS 

The fire thou madest, will it consume even thee? 

ALTHAEA 

My dreams are fallen upon me; burn thou too. 
CHORUS 

Not without God are visions born and die. 

ALTHAEA 

The gods are many about me; I am one. 

CHORUS 
She groans as men wrestling with heavier gods. 

ALTHAEA 

They rend me, they divide me, they destroy, 

CHORUS 
Or one labouring in travail of strange births. 

ALTHAEA 

They are strong, they are strong; I am broken, and these 

prevail. 

CHORUS 

The god is great against her; she will die, 

251 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 
ALTHAEA 

Yea, but not now; for my heart too is great. 
I would I were not here in sight of the sun. 
But thou, speak all thou sawest, and I will die. 

MESSENGER 

O queen, for queenlike hast thou borne thyself, 

A little word may hold so great mischance. 

For in division of the sanguine spoil 

These men thy brethren wrangling bade yield up 

The boar's head and the horror of the hide 

That this might stand a wonder in Calydon, 

Hallowed; and some drew toward them; but thy son 

With great hands grasping all that weight of hair 

Cast down the dead heap clanging and collapsed 

At female feet, saying This thy spoil not mine, 

Maiden, thine own hand for thyself hath reaped, 

And all this praise God gives thee: she thereat 

Laughed, as when dawn touches the sacred night 

The sky sees laugh and redden and divide 

Dim lips and eyelids virgin of the sun, 

Hers, and the warm slow breasts of morning heave, 

Fruitful, and flushed with flame from lamp-lit hours, 

And maiden undulation of clear hair 

Colour the clouds; so laughed she from pure heart, 

Lit with a low blush to the braided hair, 

And rose-coloured and cold like very dawn, 

Golden and godlike, chastely with chaste lips, 

A faint grave laugh; and all they held their peace, 

And she passed by them. Then one cried Lo now, 

Shall not the Arcadian shoot out lips at us, 

Saying all we were despoiled by this one girl? 

252 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

And all they rode against her violently 
And cast the fresh crown from her hair, and now 
They had rent her spoil away, dishonouring her, 
Save that Meleager, as a tame lion chafed, 
Bore on them, broke them, and as fire cleaves wood 
So clove and drove them, smitten in twain; but she 
Smote not nor heaved up hand; and this man first, 
Plexippus, crying out This for love's sake, sweet, 
Drove at Meleager, who with spear straightening 
Pierced his cheek through; then Toxeus made for him, 
Dumb, but his spear spake; vain and violent words. 
Fruitless; for him too stricken through both sides 
The earth felt falling, and his horse's foam 
Blanched thy son's face, his slayer; and these being slain, 
None moved nor spake; but Oeneus bade bear hence 
These made of heaven infatuate in their deaths, 
Foolish; for these would baffle fate, and fell. 
And they passed on, and all men honoured her, 
Being honourable, as one revered of heaven. 

ALTHAEA 

What say you, women 5 is all this not well done 2 

CHORUS 
No man doth well but God hath part in him. 

ALTHAEA 

But no part here; for these my brethren born 

Ye have no part in, these ye know not of 

As I that was their sister, a sacrifice 

Slain in their slaying. I would I had died for these; 

For this man dead walked with me, child by child, 

253 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

And made a weak staff for my feebler feet 

With his own tender wrist and hand, and held 

And led me softly and shewed me gold and steel 

And shining shapes of mirror and bright crown 

And all things fair; and threw light spears, and brought 

Young hounds to huddle at my feet and thrust 

Tame heads against my little maiden breasts 

And please me with great eyes; and those days went 

And these are bitter and I a barren queen 

And sister miserable, a grievous thing 

And mother of many curses; and she too, 

My sister Leda, sitting overseas 

With fair fruits round her, and her faultless lord, 

Shall curse me, saying A sorrow and not a son, 

Sister, thou barest, even a burning fire, 

A brand consuming thine own soul and me. 

But ye now, sons of Thestius, make good cheer, 

For ye shall have such wood to funeral fire 

As no king hath; and flame that once burnt down 

Oil shall not quicken or breath relume or wine 

Refresh again; much costlier than fine gold, 

And more than many lives of wandering men. 

CHORUS 

O queen, thou hast yet with thee love- worthy things, 
Thine husband, and the great strength of thy son. 

ALTHAEA 

Who shall get brothers for me while I live I 
Who bear them 5 who bring forth in lieu of these? 
Are not our fathers and our brethren one, 
And no man like them? are not mine here slain 2 

254 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

Have we not hung together, he and I, 

Flowerwise feeding as the feeding bees, 

With mother- milk for honey 2 and this man too, 

Dead, with my son's spear thrust between his sides, 

Hath he not seen us, later born than he, 

Laugh with lips filled, and laughed again for love 3 

There were no sons then in the world, nor spears, 

Nor deadly births of women; but the gods 

Allowed us, and our days were clear of these. 

I would I had died unwedded, and brought forth 

No swords to vex the world; for these that spake 

Sweet words long since and loved me will not speak 

Nor love nor look upon me; and all my life 

I shall not hear nor see them living men. 

But I too living, how shall I now live 5 

What life shall this be with my son, to know 

What hath been and desire what will not be, 

Look for dead eyes and listen for dead lips, 

And kill mine own heart with remembering them, 

And with those eyes that see their slayer alive 

Weep, and wring hands that clasp him by the hand? 

How shall I bear my dreams of them, to hear 

False voices, feel the kisses of false mouths 

And footless sound of perished feet, and then 

Wake and hear only it may be their own hounds 

Whine masterless in miserable sleep, 

And see their boar-spears and their beds and seats 

And all the gear and housings of their lives 

And not the men 5 shall hounds and horses mourn, 

Pine with strange eyes, and prick up hungry ears, 

Famish and fail at heart for their dear lords, 

And I not heed at all 5 and those blind things 

Fall off from life for love's sake, and I live* 

255 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

Surely some death is better than some life, 

Better one death for him and these and me. 

For if the gods had slain them it may be 

I had endured it; if they had fallen by war 

Or by the nets and knives of privy death 

And by hired hands while sleeping, this thing too 

I had set my soul to suffer; or this hunt, 

Had this despatched them under tusk or tooth 

Torn, sanguine, trodden, broken; for all deaths 

Or honourable or with facile feet avenged 

And hands of swift gods following, all save this, 

Are bearable; but not for their sweet land 

Fighting, but not a sacrifice, lo these 

Dead; for I had not then shed all mine heart 

Out at mine eyes: then either with good speed, 

Being just, I had slain their slayer atoningly, 

Or strewn with flowers their fire and on their tombs 

Hung crowns, and over them a song, and seen 

Their praise outflame their ashes: for all men, 

All maidens, had come thither, and from pure lips 

Shed songs upon them, from heroic eyes 

Tears; and their death had been a deathless life; 

But now, by no man hired nor alien sword, 

By their own kindred are they fallen, in peace, 

After much peril, friendless among friends, 

By hateful hands they loved; and how shall mine 

Touch these returning red and not from war, 

These fatal from the vintage of men's veins, 

Dead men my brethren? how shall these wash off 

No festal stains of undeBghtful wine, 

How mix the blood, my blood on them, with me, 

Holding mine hand ? or how shall I say, son, 

That am no sister? but by night and day 

256 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

Shall we not sit and hate each other, and think 
Things hate-worthy 5 not live with shamefast eyes, 
Brow-beaten, treading soft with fearful feet, 
Each unupbraided, each without rebuke 
Convicted, and without a word reviled 
Each of another 5 and I shall let thee live 
And see thee strong and hear men for thy sake 
Praise me, but these thou wouldest not let live 
No man shall praise for ever 5 these shall lie 
Dead, unbeloved, unholpen, all through thee ? 
Sweet were they toward me living, and mine heart 
Desired them, but was then well satisfied, 
That now is as men hungered; and these dead 
I shall want always to the day I die. 
For all things else and all men may renew; 
Yea, son for son the gods may give and take, 
But never a brother or sister any more. 

CHORUS 

Nay, for the son lies close about thine heart, 

Full of thy milk, warm from thy womb, and drains 

Life and the blood of life and all thy fruit, 

Eats thee and drinks thee as who breaks bread and eats, 

Treads wine and drinks, thyself, a sect of thee; 

And if he feed not, shall not thy flesh faint 5 

Or drink not, are not thy lips dead for thirst! 

This thing moves more than all things, even thy son* 

That thou cleave to him; and he shall honour thee, 

Thy womb that bare him and the breasts he knew, 

Reverencing most for thy sake all his gods. 

ALTHAEA 

But these the gods too gave me, and these my son, 

257 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

Not reverencing his gods nor mine own heart 

Nor the old sweet years nor all venerable things, 

But cruel, and in his ravin like a beast, 

Hath taken away to slay them: yea, and she, 

She the strange woman, she the flower, the sword, 

Red from spilt blood, a mortal flower to men, 

Adorable, detestable even she 

Saw with strange eyes and with strange lips rejoiced, 

Seeing these mine own slain of mine own, and me 

Made miserable above all miseries made, 

A grief among all women in the world, 

A name to be washed out with all men's tears. 

CHORUS 

Strengthen thy spirit; is this not also a god, 
Chance, and the wheel of all necessities? 
Hard things have fallen upon us from harsh gods, 
Whom lest worse hap rebuke we not for these. 

ALTHAEA 

My spirit is strong against itself and I 
For these things* sake cry out on mine own soul 
That it endures outrage, and dolorous days, 
And life, and this inexpiable impotence. 
Weak am I, weak and shameful; my breath drawn 
Shames me, and monstrous things and violent gods. 
What shall atone ? what heal me ? what bring back 
Strength to the foot, light to the face ? what herb 
Assuage me 5 what restore me? what release? 
What strange thing eaten or drunken, O great gods, 
Make me as you or as the beasts that feed, 
Slay and divide and cherish their own hearts ? 
For these ye show us; and we less than these 

258 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

Have not wherewith to live as all these things 
Which all their lives fare after their own kind 
As who doth well rejoicing; but we ill, 
Weeping or laughing, we whom eyesight fails. 
Knowledge and light efface and perfect heart, 
And hands we lack, and wit; and all our days 
Sin, and have hunger, and die infatuated. 
For madness have ye given us and not health, 
And sins whereof we know not; and for these 
Death, and sudden destruction unaware. 
What shall we say now 5 what thing comes of us ? 

CHORUS 

Alas, for all this all men undergo. 

ALTHAEA 

Wherefore I will not that these twain, O gods, 
Die as a dog dies, eaten of creeping things, 
Abominable, a loathing; but though dead 
Shall they have honour and such funereal flame 
As strews men's ashes in their enemies' face 
And blinds their eyes who hate them: lest men say, 
*Lo, how they lie, and living had great kin, 
And none of these hath pity of them, and none 
Regards them lying, and none is wrung at heart, 
None moved in spirit for them, naked and slain, 
Abhorred, abased, and no tears comfort them:' 
And in the dark this grieve Eurythemis, 
Hearing how these her sons come down to her 
Unburied, unavenged, as kinless men, 
And had a queen their sister. That were shame 
Worse than this grief. Yet how to atone at all 
I know not; seeing the love of my born son, 

259 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

A new-made mother's new-born love, that grows 
From the soft child to the strong man, now soft 
Now strong as either, and still one sole same love, 
Strives with me, no light thing to strive withal; 
This love is deep, and natural to man's blood, 
And ineffaceable with many tears. 
Yet shall not these rebuke me though I die, 
Nor she in that waste world with all her dead, 
My mother, among the pale flocks fallen as leaves, 
Folds of dead people, and alien from the sun; 
Nor lack some bitter comfort, some poor praise, 
Being queen, to have borne her daughter like a queen, 
Righteous; and though mine own fire burn me too, 
She shall have honour and these her sons, though dead. 
But all the gods will, all they do, and we 
Not all we would, yet somewhat; and one choice 
We have, to live and do just deeds and die. 

CHORUS 

Terrible words she communes with, and turns 

Swift fiery eyes in doubt against herself, 

And murmurs as who talks in dreams with death. 

ALTHAEA 

For the unjust also dieth, and him all men 
Hate, and himself abhors the unrighteousness, 
And seeth his own dishonour intolerable. 
But I being just, doing right upon myself, 
Slay mine own soul, and no man born shames me. 
For none constrains nor shall rebuke, being done, 
What none compelled me doing; thus these things fare. 
Ah, ah, that such things should so fare; ah me, 
That I am found to do them and endure, 

260 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

Chosen and constrained to choose, and bear myself 

Mine own wound through mine own flesh to the heart 

Violently stricken, a spoiler and a spoil, 

A ruin ruinous, fallen on mine own son. 

Ah, ah, for me too as for these; alas, 

For that is done that shall be, and mine hand 

Full of the deed, and full of blood mine eyes, 

That shall see never nor touch anything 

Save blood unstanched and fire unquenchable. 

CHORUS 

What wilt thou do 5 what ails thee? for the house 
Shakes ruinously; wilt thou bring fire for it 5 

ALTHAEA 

Fire in the roofs, and on the lintels fire. 

Lo ye, who stand and weave, between the doors, 

There; and blood drips from hand and thread, and stains 

Threshold and raiment and me passing in 

Flecked with the sudden sanguine drops of death. 

CHORUS 

Alas that time is stronger than strong men, 
Fate than all gods: and these are fallen on us. 

ALTHAEA 

A little since and I was glad; and now 
I never shall be glad or sad again. 

CHORUS 

Between two joys a grief grows unaware. 

261 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 
ALTHAEA 

A little while and I shall laugh; and then 
I shall weep never and laugh not any more. 

CHORUS 

What shall be said 5 for words are thorns to grief. 
Withhold thyself a little and fear the gods. 

ALTHAEA 

Fear died when these were slain; and I am as dead, 
And fear is of the living; these fear none* 

CHORUS 

Have pity upon all people for their sake. 

ALTHAEA 

It is done now; shall I put back my day? 

CHORUS 
An end is come, an end; this is of God. 

ALTHAEA 

I am fire, and burn myself; keep clear of fire. 

CHORUS 
The house is broken, is broken; it shall not stand, 

ALTHAEA 

Woe, woe for him that breaketh; and a rod 
Smote it of old, and now the axe is here. 

262 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 



CHORUS 

Not as with sundering of the earth 
Nor as with cleaving of the sea 
Nor fierce fbreshadowings of a birth 
Nor flying dreams of death to be 
Nor loosening of the large world's girth 
And quickening of the body of night, 

And sound of thunder in men's ears 
And fire of lightning in men's sight, 
Fate, mother of desires and fears, 
Bore unto men the law of tears; 
But sudden, an unfathered flame, 

And broken out of night, she shone, 
She, without body, without name, 

In days forgotten and foregone; 
And heaven rang round her as she came 
Like smitten cymbals, and lay bare; 

Clouds and great stars, thunders and snows, 
The blue sad fields and folds of air, 

The life that breathes, the life that grows* 
All wind, all fire, that burns or blows, 
Even all these knew her: for she is great; 

The daughter of doom, the mother of death, 
The sister of sorrow-; a lifelong weight 

That no man's finger lighteneth, 
Nor any god can lighten fate; 
A landmark seen across the way 

Where one race treads as the other trod; 
An evil sceptre, an evil stay, 

Wrought for a staff, wrought for a rod, 
The bitter jealousy of God. 

263 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

For death is deep as the sea, 

And fate as the waves thereof. 
Shall the waves take pity on thee 

Or the south wind offer thee love ? 
Wilt thou take the night for thy day 
Or the darkness for light on thy way, 

Till thou say in thine heart Enough ? 
Behold, thou art over fair, thou art over wise; 
The sweetness of spring in thine hair, and the light in 

thine eyes. 
The light of the spring in thine eyes, and the sound in 

thine ears; 
Yet thine heart shall wax heavy with sighs and thine 

eyelids with tears. 
Wilt thou cover thine hair with gold, and with silver 

thy feet? 
Hast thou taken the purple to fold thee, and made thy 

mouth sweet? 
Behold, when thy face is made bare, he that loved thee 

shall hate; 

Thy face shall be no more fair at the fall of thy fate. 
For thy life shall fall as a leaf and be shed as the rain; 
And the veil of thine head shall be grief; and the crown 

shall be pain. 

ALTHAEA 

Ho, ye that wail, and ye that sing, make way 
Till I be come among you. Hide your tears, 
Ye little weepers, and you laughing lips, 
Ye laughers for a little; lo, mine eyes 
That outweep heaven at rainiest, and my mouth 
That laughs as gods laugh at us. Fate's are we, 
Yet fate is ours a breathing-space; yea, mine, 

264 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

Fate is made mine for ever; he is my son, 

My bedfellow, my brother. You strong gods* 

Give place unto me; I am as any of you, 

To give life and to take life. Thou, old earth, 

That hast made man and unmade; thou whose mouth 

Looks red from the eaten fruits of thine own womb; 

Behold me with what lips upon what food 

I feed and fill my body; even with flesh 

Made of my body. Lo, the fire I lit 

I burn with fire to quench it; yea, with flame 

I burn up even the dust and ash thereof. 

CHORUS 
Woman, what fire is this thou burnest with 2 

ALTHAEA 

Yea to the bone, yea to the blood and all. 

CHORUS 

For this thy face and hair are as one fire. 

ALTHAEA 

A tongue that licks and beats upon the dust. 

CHORUS 
And in thine eyes are hollow light and heat. 

ALTHAEA 

Of flame not fed with hand or frankincense. 

CHORUS 

I fear thee for the trembling of thine eyes, 
s 265 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 
ALTHAEA 

Neither with love they tremble nor for fear. 

CHORUS 
And thy mouth shuddering like a shot bird. 

ALTHAEA 

Not as the bride's mouth when man kisses it 

CHORUS 

Nay, but what thing is this thing thou hast done I 

ALTHAEA 

Look, I am silent, speak your eyes for me. 

CHORUS 

I see a faint fire lightening from the hall. 

ALTHAEA 

Gaze, stretch your eyes, strain till the lids drop off. 

CHORUS 

Flushed pillars down the flickering vestibule. 

ALTHAEA 

Stretch with your necks like birds: cry, chirp as they. 

CHORUS 
And a long brand that blackens: and white dust. 

ALTHAEA 

O children, what Is this ye see? your eyes 
Are blinder than night's face at fall of moon. 
That is my son, my flesh, my fruit of life, 

266 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

My travail, and the year's weight of my womb, 
Meleager, a fire enkindled of mine hands 
And of mine hands extinguished; this is he. 

CHORUS 

gods, what word has flown out at thy mouth ? 

ALTHAEA 

1 did this and I say this and I die. 

CHORUS 

Death stands upon the doorway of thy lips, 
And in thy mouth has death set up his house. 

ALTHAEA 

death, a little, a little while, sweet death, 
Until I see the brand burnt down and die. 

CHORUS 

She reels as any reed under the wind, 

And cleaves unto the ground with staggering feet. 

ALTHAEA 

Girls, one thing will I say and hold my peace. 

1 that did this will weep not nor cry out* 
Cry ye and weep: I will not call on gods, 
Call ye on them; I will not pity man, 
Shew ye your pity. I know not if I live; 
Save that I feel the fire upon my face 
And on my cheek the burning of a brand. 
Yea the smoke bites me, yea I drink the steam 
With nostril and with eyelid and with lip 
Insatiate and intolerant; and mine hands 

267 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

Burn, and fire feeds upon mine eyes; I reel 

As one made drank with living, whence he draws 

Drunken delight; yet I, though mad for joy, 

Loathe my long living and am waxen red 

As with the shadow of shed blood; behold, 

I am kindled with the flames that fade in him, 

I am swollen with subsiding of his veins, 

I am flooded with his ebbing; my lit eyes 

Flame with the falling fire that leaves his Hds 

Bloodless; my cheek is luminous with blood 

Because his face is ashen. Yet, O child, 

Son, first-born, fairest O sweet mouth, sweet eyes, 

That drew my life out through my suckling breast, 

That shone and clove mine heart through O soft knees 

Clinging, O tender treadings of soft feet, 

Cheeks warm with little kissings O child, child, 

What have we made each other ? Lo, I felt 

Thy weight cleave to me, a burden of beauty, O son, 

Thy cradled brows and loveliest loving lips, 

The floral hair, the little lightening eyes, 

And all thy goodly glory; with mine hands 

Delicately I fed thee, with my tongue 

Tenderly spake, saying, Verily in God's time, 

For all the little likeness of thy limbs, 

Son, I shall make thee a kingly man to fight, 

A lordly leader; and hear before I die, 

'She bore the goodliest sword of all the world/ 

Oh! Oh! For all my life turns round on me; 

I am severed from myself, my name is gone, 

My name that was a healing, it is changed, 

My name is a consuming. From this time, 

Though mine eyes reach to the end of all these things, 

My lips shall not unfasten till I die. 

268 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 
SEMI'CHORUS 

She has filled with sighing the city, 
And the ways thereof with tears; 

She arose, she girdled her sides, 

She set her face as a bride's; 

She wept, and she had no pity; 
Trembled, and felt no fears. 

SEMI'CHORUS 

Her eyes were clear as the sun, 
Her brows were fresh as the day; 

She girdled herself with gold, 

Her robes were manifold; 

But the days of her worship are done, 
Her praise is taken away. 

SEMI'CHORTJS 

For she set her hand to the fire, 

"With her mouth she kindled the same; 

As the mouth of a flute-player, 

So was the mouth of her; 

With the might of her strong desire 
She blew the breath of the flame. 



SEMI'CHORTJS 

She set her hand to the wood, 
She took the fire in her hand; 

As one who is nigh to death, 

She panted with strange breath; 

She opened her lips unto blood, 

She breathed and kindled the brand. 

269 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 
SEMI'CHORUS 

As a wood-dove newly shot, 

She sobbed and lifted her breast; 

She sighed and covered her eyes, 

Filling her lips with sighs; 

She sighed, she withdrew herself not, 
She refrained not, taking not rest. 

SEMI'CHORUS 

But as the wind which is drouth, 

And as the air which is death, 
As storm that severeth ships, 
Her breath severing her lips, 
The breath came, forth of her mouth 

And the fire came forth of her breath. 

SECOND MESSENGER 

Queen, and you maidens, there is come on us 
A thing more deadly than the face of death; 
Meleager the good lord is as one slain. 

SEMI'CHORUS 

Without sword, without sword is he stricken; 
Slain, and slain without hand* 

SECOND MESSENGER 

For as keen ice divided of the sun 

His limbs divide, and as thawed snow the flesh 

Thaws from off all his body to the hair* 

SEMI/CHORUS 

He wastes as the embers quicken; 
With the brand he fades as a brand. 

270 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 
SECOND MESSENGER 

Even while they sang and all drew hither and he 
Lifted both hands to crown the Arcadian's hair 
And fix the looser leaves, both hands fell down. 

SEMI'CHORUS 

With rending of cheek and of hair 
Lament ye, mourn for him, weep. 

SECOND MESSENGER 

Straightway the crown slid off and smote on earth, 
First fallen; and he, grasping his own hair, groaned 
And cast his raiment round his face and fell. 

SEMIxCHORUS 

Alas for visions that were, 

And soothsayings spoken in sleep. 

SECOND MESSENGER 

But the king twitched his reins in and leapt down 
And caught him, crying out twice *O child* and 

thrice, 
So that men's eyelids thickened with their tears. 

SEMI'CHORUS 

Lament with a long lamentation, 
Cry, for an end is at hand. 

SECOND MESSENGER 

O son, he said, son, lift thine eyes, draw breath, 

Pity me; but Meleager with sharp lips 

Gasped, and his face waxed like as sunburnt grass. 

271 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 
SEMI'CHORUS 

Cry aloud, O thou kingdom, O nation, 

O stricken, a ruinous land. 

SECOND MESSENGER 

Whereat king Oeneus, straightening feeble knees, 
With feeble hands heaved up a lessening weight, 
And laid him sadly in strange hands, and wept. 

SEMI'CHORUS 

Thou art smitten, her lord, her desire, 
Thy dear blood wasted as rain. 

SECOND MESSENGER 

And they with tears and rendings of the beard 
Bear hither a breathing body, wept upon 
And lightening at each footfall, sick to death. 

SEMI/CHORUS 

Thou madest thy sword as a fire, 
With fire for a sword thou art slain. 

SECOND MESSENGER 

And lo, the feast turned funeral, and the crowns 
Fallen; and the huntress and the hunter trapped; 
And weeping and changed faces and veiled hair. 

MELEAGER 

Let your hands meet 

Round the weight of my head; 
Lift ye my feet 

As the feet of the dead; 

For the flesh of my body is molten, the limbs of it molten 

as lead. 

272 



ATALANTA IN CALYBON 
CHORUS 

O thy luminous face, 
Thine imperious eyes! 

the grief, O the grace, 
As of day when it dies! 

Who is this bending over thee, lord, with tears and 

suppression of sighs 5 

MELEAGER 

Is a bride so fair 2 

Is a maid so meek? 
With unchapleted hair, 

With unfilleted cheek, 

Atalanta, the pure among women, whose name is as 

blessing to speak. 

ATALANTA 

1 would that with feet 

Unsandalled, unshod, 
Overbold, overfleet, 

I had swum not nor trod 

From Arcadia to Calydon northward* a blast of the 

envy of God. 

MELEAGER 

Unto each man his fate; 
Unto each as he saith 
In whose fingers the weight 
Of the world is as breath; 

Yet I would that in clamour of battle mine hands had 

laid hold upon death, 

273 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 
CHORUS 

Not with cleaving of shields 

And their clash in thine ear, 
When the lord of fought fields 

Breaketh spearshaft from spear, 

Thou art broken, our lord, thou art broken, with travail 

and labour and fear. 

MELEAGER 

Would God he had found me 

Beneath fresh boughs! 
Would God he had bound me 

Unawares in mine house, 

With light in mine eyes, and songs in my lips, and a 

crown on my brows I 

CHORUS 

Whence art thou sent from us ? 

Whither thy goal 2 
How art thou rent from us, 

Thou that wert whole, 

As with severing of eyelids and eyes, as with sundering 

of body and soul! 

MELEAGER 

My heart is within me 

As an ash in the fire; 
Whosoever hath seen me, 

Without lute, without lyre, 

Shall sing of me grievous things, even things that were 

ill to desire. 

274 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 
CHORUS 

Who shall raise thee 

From the house of the dead? 
Or what man praise thee 

That thy praise may be said 5 
Alas thy beauty! alas thy body! alas thine head! 

MELEAGER 

But thou, O mother, 

The dreamer of dreams, 
Wilt thou bring forth another 

To feel the sun's beams 

When I move among shadows a shadow, and wail by 

impassable streams ? 



OENEUS 

What thing wilt thou leave me 

Now this thing is done 5 
A man wilt thou give me, 

A son for my son, 

For the light of mine eyes, the desire of my life, the desir- 
able one? 



CHORUS 

Thou wert glad above others, 

Yea, fair beyond word; 
Thou wert glad among mothers; 

For each man that heard 

Of thee, praise there was added unto thee, as wings to 

the feet of a bird. 

275 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 
OENEUS 

Who shall give back 

Thy face of old years 
With travail made black, 

Grown grey among fears, 
Mother of sorrow, mother of cursing, mother of tears? 



MELEAGER 

Though thou art as fire 
Fed with fuel in vain, 
My delight, my desire, 

Is more chaste than the rain, 

More pure than the dewfall, more holy than stars are that 

live without stain. 



ATALANTA 

I would that as water 

My life's blood had thawn, 

Or as winter's wan daughter 

Leaves lowland and lawn 

Spring-stricken, or ever mine eyes had beheld thee made 

dark in thy dawn. 



CHORUS 

When thou dravest the men 
Of the chosen of Thrace, 
None turned him again 

Nor endured he thy face 

Clothed round with the blush of the battle, with light 

from a terrible place. 
276 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

OENEUS 

Thou shouldst die as he dies 

For whom none sheddeth tears; 
Filling thine eyes 

And fulfilling thine ears 

With the brilliance of battle, the bloom and the beauty, 
the splendour of spears. 



CHORUS 

In the ears of the world 

It is sung, it is told, 
And the light thereof hurled 

And the noise thereof rolled 

From the Acroceraunian snow to the ford of the fleece 

of gold. 



MELEAGER 

Would God ye could carry me 

Forth of all these; 
Heap sand and bury me 

By the Chersonese 

Where the thundering Bosphorus answers the thunder of 

Pontic seas. 



OENEUS 

Dost thou mock at our praise 

And the singing begun 
And the men of strange days 

Praising my son 
In the folds of the hills of home, high places of Calydon? 

277 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

MELEAGER 

For the dead man no home is; 

Ah, better to be 
What the flower of the foam is 

In fields of the sea, 

That the sea-waves might be as my raiment, the gulf- 
stream a garment for me. 

CHORUS 

Who shall seek thee and bring 

And restore thee thy day, 
When the dove dipt her wing 
And the oars won their way 

Where the narrowing Symplegades whitened the straits 
of Propontis with sprays 

MELEAGER 

Will ye crown me my tomb 

Or exalt me my name, 
Now my spirits consume, 

Now my flesh is a flame 2 

Let the sea slake it once, and men speak of me sleeping to 

praise me or shame. 

CHORUS 

Turn back now, turn thee, 

As who turns him to wake; 
Though the life in thee burn thee, 
Couldst thou bathe it and slake 
Where the sea-ridge of Helle hangs heavier, and east 
upon west waters breaks 

278 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 
MELEAGER 

Would the winds blow me back 
Or the waves hurl me home? 
Ah, to touch In the track 

Where the pine learnt to roam 

Cold girdles and crowns of the sea-gods, cool blossoms 

of water and foam! 

CHORUS 

The gods may release 
That they made fast; 
Thy soul shall have ease 
In thy limbs at the last; 

But what shall they give thee for life, sweet life that is 

overpast ? 

MELEAGER 

Not the life of men's veins, 

Not of flesh that conceives; 
But the grace that remains, 

The fair beauty that cleaves 

To the life of the rains in the grasses, the life of the dews 

on the leaves. 



CHORUS 

Thou wert helmsman and chief; 

Wilt thou turn in an hour, 
Thy limbs to the leaf, 

Thy face to the flower, 

Thy blood to the water, thy soul to the gods who divide 

and devour? 

279 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 
MELEAGER 

The years are hungry^ 

They wail all their days; 
The gods wax angry 

And weary of praise; 

And who shall bridle their lips ? and who shall straiten 

their ways 3 



CHORUS 

The gods guard over us 

With sword and with rod; 
Weaving shadow to cover us, 

Heaping the sod, 

That law may fulfil herself wholly, to darken man's face 

before God. 



MELEAGER 

O holy head of Oeneus, lo thy son 
Guiltless, yet red from alien guilt, yet foul 
With kinship of contaminated lives, 
Lo, for their blood I die; and mine own blood 
For bloodshedding of mine is mixed therewith, 
That death may not discern me from my kin. 
Yet with clean heart I die and faultless hand, 
Not shamefully; thou therefore of thy love 
Salute me, and bid fare among the dead 
Well, as the dead fare; for the best man dead 
Fares sadly; nathless I now faring well 
Pass without fear where nothing is to fear 
Having thy love about me and thy goodwill, 
O father, among dark places and men dead. 

280 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

OENEUS 

Child, I salute thee with sad heart and tears. 
And bid thee comfort, being a perfect man 
In fight, and honourable in the house of peace. 
The gods give thee fair wage and dues of death, 
And me brief days and ways to come at thee. 



MELEAGER 

Pray thou thy days be long before thy death, 
And full of ease and kingdom; seeing in death 
There is no comfort and none aftergrowth, 
Nor shall one thence look up and see day's dawn 
Nor light upon the land whither I go. 
Live thou and take thy fill of days and die 
When thy day cornes; and make not much of death 
Lest ere thy day thou reap an evil thing. 
Thou too, the bitter mother and mother-plague 
Of this my weary body thou too, queen, 
The source and end, the sower and the scythe, 
The rain that ripens and the drought that slays, 
The sand that swallows and the spring that feeds, 
To make me and unmake me thou, I say, 
Althaea, since my father's ploughshare, drawn 
Through fatal seedland of a female field, 
Furrowed thy body, whence a wheaten ear 
Strong from the sun and fragrant from the rains 
I sprang and cleft the closure of thy womb, 
Mother, I dying with unforgetful tongue 
Hail thee as holy and worship thee as just 
Who art unjust and unholy; and with my knees 
Would worship, but thy fire and subtlety, 
Dissundering them, devour me; for these limbs 

281 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

Are as light dust and cmmblings from mine urn 

Before the fire has touched them; and my face 

As a dead leaf or dead foot's mark on snow, 

And all this body a broken barren tree 

That was so strong, and all this flower of life 

Disbranched and desecrated miserably, 

And minished all that god-like muscle and might 

And lesser than a man's: for all my veins 

Fail me, and all mine ashen life burns down. 

I would thou hadst let me live; but gods averse, 

But fortune, and the fiery feet of change, 

And time, these would not, these tread out my life, 

These and not thou; me too thou hast loved, and I 

Thee; but this death was mixed with all my life, 

Mine end with my beginning: and this law, 

This only, slays me, and not my mother at all. 

And let no brother or sister grieve too sore, 

Nor melt their hearts out on me with their tears, 

Since extreme love and sorrowing overmuch 

Vex the great gods, and overloving men 

Slay and are slain for love's sake; and this house 

Shall bear much better children; why should these 

Weep ? but in patience let them live their lives 

And mine pass by forgotten: thou alone, 

Mother, thou sole and only, thou not these, 

Keep me in mind a little when I die 

Because I was thy first-born; let thy soul 

Pity me, pity even me gone hence and dead, 

Though thou wert wroth, and though thou bear again 

Much happier sons, and all men later born 

Exceedingly excel me; yet do thou 

Forget not, nor think shame; I was thy son. 

Time was I did not shame thee; and time was 

282 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

I thought to live and make thee honourable 
With deeds as great as these men's; but they live, 
These, and I die; and what thing should have been 
Surely I know not; yet I charge thee, seeing 
I am dead already, love me not the less, 
Me, O my mother; I charge thee by these gods, 
My father's, and that holier breast of thine, 
By these that see me dying, and that which nursed, 
Love me not less, thy first-born: though grief come, 
Grief only, of me, and of all these great joy, 
And shall come always to thee; for thou knowest, 
O mother, O breasts that bare me, for ye know, 

sweet head of my mother, sacred eyes, 
Ye know my soul albeit I sinned, ye know 
Albeit I kneel not neither touch thy knees, 
But with my lips I kneel, and with my heart 

1 fall about thy feet and worship thee. 
And ye farewell now, all my friends; and ye, 
Kinsmen, much younger and glorious more than I, 
Sons of my mother's sister; and all farewell 

That were in Colchis with me, and bare down 
The waves and wars that met us: and though times 
Change, and though now I be not anything, 
Forget not me among you, what I did 
In my good time; for even by all those days, 
Those days and this, and your own living souls, 
And by the light and luck of you that live, 
And by this miserable spoil, and me 
Dying, I beseech you, let my name not die. 
But thou, dear, touch me with thy rose-like hands, 
And fasten up mine eyelids with thy mouth, 
A bitter kiss; and grasp me with thine arms, 
Printing with heavy lips my light waste flesh, 

283 



ATALANTA IN CALYDON 

Made light and thin by heavy-handed fate, 
And with thine holy maiden eyes drop dew, 
Drop tears of dew upon me who am dead, 
Me who have loved thee; seeing without sin done 
I am gone down to the empty weary house 
Where no flesh is nor beauty nor swift eyes 
Nor sound of mouth nor might of hands and feet. 
But thou, dear, hide my body with thy veil, 
And with thy raiment cover foot and head, 
And stretch thyself upon me and touch hands 
With hands and lips with Hps: be pitiful 
As thou art maiden perfect; let no man 
Defile me to despise me, saying, This man 
Died woman-wise, a woman's offering, slain 
Through female fingers in his woof of life, 
Dishonourable; for thou hast honoured me. 
And now for God's sake kiss me once and twice 
And let me go; for the night gathers me, 
And in the night shall no man gather fruit. 



ATALANTA 

Hail thou: but I with heavy face and feet 
Turn homeward and am gone out of thine eyes. 

CHORUS 

Who shall contend with his lords 
Or cross them or do them wrong 2 

Who shall bind them as with cords 5 
Who shall tame them as with song 2 

Who shall smite them as with swords ? 
For the hands of their kingdom are strong. 

284 



INDEX OF FIRST LINES 



A little marsh-plant, yellow green, 118 
A month or twain to live on honeycomb 116 
All the night sleep came not upon my eyelids, no 
Althaea, daughter of Thestius and Eurythemis, 195 
Asleep or waking is it B for her neck, 60 
Fair of face, full of pride, 184 
For who shall change with prayers or thanks- 
givings 105 
'Had I wist, quoth Spring to the swallow, 182 
Have pity, pity, friends, have pity on me, 80 
I found in dreams a place of wind and flowers, 53 
I saw my soul at rest upon a day 185 
I will that if I say a heavy thing 166 
In the month of the long decline of roses 114 
It hath been seen and yet it shall be seen 151 
Kneel down, fair Love, and fill thyself with tears, 56 
Knights mine, all that be in hall, 13 5 
Let us go hence, my songs; she will not hear. 82 
Meseemeth I heard cry and groan 76 
Nothing is better, I well think, 87 
Shall I strew on thee rose or rue or laurel, 187 
Swallow, my sister, O sister swallow, 84 
The burden of fair women. Vain delight, 97 
The four boards of the coffin lid 126 
The word of the sun to the sky, 183 
There is an end of joy and sorrow; 100 
There were four apples on the bough, 120 
There were four loves that one by one, 180 

285 



This fell when Christmas lights were done, 129 

Three damsels in the Queen's chamber, 132 

Under green apple-boughs 94 

We were ten maidens in the green corn, 123 

When the fields catch flower 93 



286 



.:.,; i i<il Oh OF THIS VOLUME 

D'iinr FAnb Snwdl 

vats bo r n in Sr^ -"ough, England, in 
i 887, cmd is a member of one of England's 
most eminent, htenny bmiites. Her own 
poetry is found in more than a score of 
volumes, of ?,'hch the most recent is Col- 
lected Poems ( 1957). She has also pub- 
lished works of criticism and has edited a 
er of anthologies. She is an honorary 
of the American Academy of 
Arts and Letters, 



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