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Full text of "Twelve poems"

D037 



TWELVE POEMS BY J. C. SQUIRE 




UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA 
LOS ANGELES 







ERRATA 

Page 8 line 15: for 'fade' read 'faded' 
Page 1 8 line 4: for 'strings' read 'stings' 



TWELVE 

POEMS 

By J.C. SQUIRE 



Decorations by 
A. Spare, cut on 
wood by W. Quick 



The Morland Press Ltd 
190 Ebury St. SW 




CONTENTS 
ON A FRIEND RECENTLY DEAD I 



THE SHIP 
.THE MARCH 
FAITH 

A FRESH MORNING 
INTERIOR 
ODE: IN A RESTAURANT 



II 
III 
IV 

V 
VI 



16 
16 



ON A FRIEND RECENTLY DEAD 




I 

HE stream goes fast. 
When this that is the pres- 
ent is the past, 
'T will be as all the other 

pasts have been, 
A failing hill, a daily dim- 
ming scene, 
A far strange port with foreign life astir 
The ship has left behind, the voyager 
Will never return to; no, nor see again, 
Though with a heart full of longing he may 

strain 

Back to project himself, and once more count 
The boats, the whitened walls that climbed 

the mount, 

Mark the cathedral's roof, the gathered spires, 
The vanes, the windows red with sunset's fires, 
The gap of the market-place, and watch again 
The coloured groups of women, and the men 
Lounging at ease along the low stone wall 
That fringed the harbour; and there beyond it 

all 

High pastures morning and evening scattered 
with small 



Specks that were grazing sheep .... It is all 

gone, 

It is all blurred that once so brightly shone; 
He cannot now with the old clearness see 
The rust upon one ringbolt of the quay. 




II 

ND yesterday is dead, and 

you are dead. 
Your duplicate that hovered 

in my head 

Thins like blown wreathing 
smoke, your features 
grow 

To interrupted outlines, and all will go 
Unless I tight dispersal with my will . . . 
So I shall do it ... but too conscious still 
That, when we walked together, had 1 known 
How soon your journey was to end alone, 
I should not now, that you have gone from 

view 

Be gathering derelict odds and ends of you; 
But in the intense lucidity of pain 
Your likeness would have burnt into my brain. 
I did not know; lovable and unique, 
As volatile as a bubble and as weak, 
You sat with me, and my eyes registered 
This thing and that, and sluggishly I heard 
Your voice, remembering here and there a 
word. 




Ill 

1O in rny mind there's not 

much left of you, 
And that disintegrates; 

but while a few 
Patches of memory's 

mirror still are bright 
Nor your reflected image 
there has quite 

Faded and slipped away, it will be well 
To search for each surviving syllable 
Of voice and body andsoul. And some I'll find 
Right to my hand, and some tangled and blind 
Among the obscure weeds that fill the mind. 

A pause 

I plunge my thought's hooked resolute claws 
Deep in the turbid past. Like drowned things 

in the jaws 

Of grappling-irons, your features to the verge 
Of conscious knowledge one by one emerge. 
Can I not make these scattered things unite? . . 
I knit my brows and clench my eyelids tight 
And focus to a point . . . Streams of dark 

pinkish light 

Convolve; and now spasmodically there flit 
Clear pictures of you as you used to sit: 
The way you crossed your legs stretched in 
your chair, 



Elbow at rest and tumbler in the air, 
Jesting on books and politics and worse, 
And still good company when most perverse. 
Capricious friend! 

Here in this room not long before the end, 
Here in this very room six months ago 
You poised your foot and joked and chuckled 

so. 

Beyond the window shook the ash-tree bough, 
You saw books, pictures, as I see them now, 
The sofa then was blue, the telephone 
Listened upon the desk, and softly shone 
Even as now the fire-irons in the grate, 
And the little brass pendulum swung, a seal 

of fate 
Stamping the minutes; and the curtains on 

window and door 
Just moved in the air; and on the dark boards 

of the floor 
These same discreetly-coloured rugs were 

lying . . . 
And then you never had a thought of dying. 




IV 

OU are not here, and all 
the things in the room 
Watch me alone in the 
gradual growing gloom. 
The you that thought and 
felt are I know not 
where, 

The you that sat and 
drank in that arm-chair 
Will never sit there again. 
For months you have lain 
Under a graveyard's green 
In some place abroad where I've never 

never been. 

Perhaps there is a stone over you, 
Or only the wood and the earth and the 

grass cover you. 
But it doesn't much matter; for dead and 

decayed you lie 
Like a million million others who felt they 

would never die, 

Like Alexander and Helen the beautiful, 
And the last collier hanged for murdering his 

trull ; 
All done with and buried in an equal bed. 




V. 

ES, you are dead like all 

the other dead. 
You are not here, but I 

am here alone. 
And evening falls, fusing 

tree, water and stone 
Into a violet cloth, and 
the frail ash-tree hisses 
With a soft sharpness like a fall of mounded 

grain. 
And a steamer softly puffing along the river 

passes, 
Drawing a file of barges; and silence falls 

again. 
And a bell tones; and the evening darkens; 

and in sparse rank 
The greenish lights well out along the other 

bank. 
I have no force left now; the sights and 

sounds impinge. 
Upon me unresisted, like raindrops on the 

mould. 
And striving not against my melancholy 

mood, 

Limp as a door that hangs upon one failing 
hinge, 

7 



Limp, with slack marrowless arms and thighs, 

I sit and brood 
On death and death and death. And quiet, 

thin and cold, 
Following of this one friend the hopeless 

helpless ghost, 
The weak appealing wraiths of notable men 

of old 
Who died, pass through the air; and then, 

host after host, 

Innumerable, overwhelming, without form, 
Rolling across the sky in awful silent storm, 
The myriads of the undiflEerentiated dead 
Whom none recorded, or of whom the record 

fade. 

spectacle appallingly sublime! 
I see the universe one long dis- 
astrous strife, 

And in the staggering abysses 
of backward and forward time 
Death chasing hard upon the 

heels of creating life. 
And I, I see myself as one of a heap of stones 
Wetted a moment to life as the flying wave 

goes over, 

Onward and never returning, leaving no mark 
behind. 




There's nothing to hope for. Blank cessation 

numbs my mind, 
And I feel my heart thumping gloomy against 

its cover, 
My heavy belly hanging from my bones. 




VI 

ELOW in the dark street 
There is a tap of feet, 
I rise and angrily meditate 
How often I have let of 

late 
This thought of death 

come over me. 
How often I will sit and backward trace 
The deathly history of the human race, 
The ripplesof men who chatteredand were still, 
Known and unknown, older and older, until 
Before man's birth I fall, shivering and aghast 
Through a hole in the bottom of the remotest 
past; 

Till painfully my spirit throws 
Her giddiness of?; and then as soon 
As I recover and try to think again, 
Life seems like death ; and all my body grows 

Icily cold, and all my brain 
Cold as the jagged craters of the moon. . . . 
And I wonder is it not strange that I 
Who thus have heard eternity's black laugh 

And felt its freezing breath, 
Should sometimes shut it out from memory 
So as to play quite prettily with death, 
And turn an easy epitaph? 



10 




can hear a voice whisper- 
ing in my brain: 
'Why this is the old 

futility again! 
Criminal! day by day 
Your own life is ebbing 

swiftly away. 
And what have you done with it, 
Except to become a maudlin hyprocrite ? ' 

Yes, I know, I know; 
One should not think of death or the dead 

overmuch ; but one's mind's made so 
That at certain times the roads of thought 

all lead to death, 

And false reasoning clouds one's soul as a 
window with breath 

Is clouded in winter's air, 
And all the faith one may have 
Lies useless and dead as a body in the grave. 



n 




THE SHIP 

HERE was no song nor 

shout of joy 

Nor beam of moon or sun, 
When she came back from 

the voyage 
Long ago begun; 
But twilight on the waters 
Was quiet and grey, 

And she glided steady, steady and pensive, 
Over the open bay. 

Her sails were brown and ragged, 

And her crew hollow-eyed, 
But their silent lips spoke content 

And their shoulders pride; 
Though she had no captives on her deck, 

And in her hold 
There were no heaps of corn or timber 

Or silks or gold. 




THE MARCH 

heard a voice that cried, "make 
way for those who died !" 

And all the coloured crowd 
like ghosts at morning fled; 

And down the waiting road, 
rank after rank there strode, 

In mute and measured march 



a hundred thousand dead. 



A hundred thousand dead, with firm and noise- 
less tread, 

All shadowy-grey yet solid, with faces grey 
and ghast, 

And by the house they went, and all their 
brows were bent 

Straight forward; and they passed, and passed, 
and passed, and passed. 

But O there came a place, and O there came 

a face, 
That clenched my heart to see it, and sudden 

turned my way; 
And in the Face that turned I saw two eyes 

that burned, 
Never-forgotten eyes, and they had things to 

say. 



Like desolate stars they shone one moment, 

and were gone, 
And I sank down and put my arms across 

my head, 
And felt them moving past, nor looked to see 

the last, 
In steady silent march, our hundred thousand 

dead. 




FAITH 

HEN I seek truth, do I seek 
truth 

Only that I may things de- 
note, 

And, rich by striving, deck my 
youth 

As with a vain unusual coat ? 



Or seek I truth for other ends: 
That she in other hearts may stir, 

That even my most familiar friends 
May turn from me to look on her? 

So I this day myself was asking; 

Out of the window skies were blue 
And Thames was in the sunlight basking; 

My thoughts coiled inwards like a screw. 

I watched them anxious for a while; 

Then quietly, as I did watch, 
Spread in my soul a sudden smile: 

I knew that no firm thing they'd catch. 

And I remembered if I leapt 

Upon the bosom of the wind 
It would sustain me; question slept; 

I felt that I had almost sinned. 




A FRESH MORNING 
OW am I a tin whistle 
Through which God blows, 
And I wish to God I were 

trumpet 
But why, God only knows. 



INTERIOR 

I and myself swore enmity. Alack, 
Myself has tied my hands behind my back. 
Yielding, I know there's no excuse in them 
I was accomplice to the stratagem. 



16 



ODE: IN A RESTAURANT 




N this dense hall of green 

and gold, 
Mirrors and lights and 

steam, there sit 
Two hundred munching 
men; 

While several score of 

others flit 

Like scurrying beetles over a fen, 
With plates in fanlike spread; or fold 
Napkins, or jerk the corks from bottles, 
Ministers to greedy throttles. 
Some make noises while they eat, 
Pick their teeth or shuffle their feet, 
Wipe their noses 'neath eyes that range 
Or frown whilst waiting for their change. 
Gobble, gobble, toil and trouble. 
Soul ! this life is very strange, 
And circumstances very foul 
Attend the belly 's stormy howl. 
How horrible this noise! this air how thick! 
It is disgusting ... I feel sick . . . 
Loosely I prod the table with a fork, 
My mind gapes, dizzies, ceases to work . . . 

The weak unsatisfied strain 
Of a band in another room 

17 



Through this dull complex din 
Comes winding thin and sharp! 
The gnat-like mourning of the violin, 
The faint strings of the harp. 
The sounds pierce in and die again, 
Like keen-drawn threads of ink dropped into 

a glass 
Of water, which curl and relax and soften 

and pass. 

Briefly the music hovers in unstable poise, 
Then melts away, drowned in the heavy sea 
of noise. 

And I, I am now emasculate. 
All my forces dissipate; 
Conquered by matter utterly, 
Moving not, willing not, I lie, 
Like a man whom timbers pin 
When the roof of a mine falls in. 

ALT! ... as a cloud con- 
denses 

I press my mind, recover 
Dominion of my senses. 
With newly flowing blood 
I lift, and now float over 

The restaurant's expanses 

Like a draggled sea-gull over dreary flats of 
mud. 

18 




An effort ... ah ... I urge and push, 
And now with greater strength I flush, 
The hall is full of my pinions' rush; 
No drooping now, the place is mine, 
Beating the walls with shattering wings, 
Over the herd my spirit swings, 
In triumph shouts "Aha, you swine! 
Grovel before your lord divine! 
I, only I, am real here! ..." 
Through the uncertain firmament, 
Still bestial in their dull content. 
The despicable phantoms leer . . . 
Hogs! even now in my right hand 
I hold at my will the thunderbolts 
Measured not in mortal volts, 
Would crash you to annihilation! 
Lit with a new illumination, 
What need I of ears and eyes 
Of flesh? Imperious I will rise, 
Dominate you as a god 
Who only does not trouble to wield the rod 
Of death, or kick your weak spheroid 
Like a football through the void! 

Ha! was it but a dream? 
And did it merely seem? 
Ha! not yet free of your cage, 

'9 



Soul, spite of all your rage? 

Come now, this foe engage! 

With explosion of your might 

Oh heave, oh leap and flash up, soul, 

Like a stabbing scream in the night! 

Hurl aside this useless bowl 

Of a body . . . 

But there comes a shock 

A soft, tremendous shock 
Of contact with the body; I lose all power, 
And fall back, back, like a solitary rower 
Whose prow that debonair the waves did 

ride 

Is suddenly hurled back by an iron tide. 
O sadness, sadness, feel the returning pain 
Of touch with unescapable mortal things 
again! 

The cloth is linen, the floor is wood, 

My plate holds cheese,my tumbler toddy ; 

I cannot get free of the body, 

And no man ever could. 

Self! do not lose your hold on life, 
Nor coward seek to shrink the strife 
Of body and spirit; even now 
(Not for the first timej, even now 
Clear in your ears has rung the message 



That tense abstraction is the passage 
To nervelessness and living death. 
Never forget while you draw breath 
That all the hammers of will can never 
Your chained soul from matter sever; 
And though it be confused and mixed, 
This is the world in which you're fixed. 
Never despise the things that are. 
Set your teeth upon the grit. 
Though your heart like a motor beat, 
Hold fast this earthly star, 
The whole of it, the whole of it. 




OOK on this crowd 
now, calm now, look. 
Remember now that 

each one drew 
Woman's milk (which 
you partook) 

And year by year in 

wonder grew. 

Scorn not them, nor scorn not their feasts 
(Which you partake) nor call them beasts. 
These be children of one Power 
With you, nor higher you nor lower. 
They also hear the harp and fiddle, 
And sometimes quail before the riddle. 



21 



They also have hot blood, quick thought, 
And try to do the things they ought, 
They also have hearts that ache when 

stung, 

And sigh for days when they were young, 
And curse their wills because they falter, 
And know that they will never alter. 
See these men in a world of men. 
Material bodies? yes, what then? 
These coarse trunks that here you see 
Judge them not, lest judged you be, 
Bow not to the moment's curse, 
Nor make four walls a universe. 
Think of these bodies here assembled, 
Whence they have come, where they 

have trembled 

With the strange force that fills us all, 
Men and beasts both great and small. 
Here within this fleeting home 
Two hundred men have this day come; 
Here collected for 'one day, 
Each shall go his separate way. 
Self, you can imagine nought 
Of all the battles they have fought, 
All the labours they have done, 
All the journeys they have run. 
O, they have come from all the world, 
Borne by invisible currents, swirled 



22 



Like leaves into this vortex here 
Flying, or like the spirits drear 
Windborne and frail, whom Dante saw, 
Who yet obeyed some hidden law. 

Is it not miraculous 
That they should here be gathered thus, 
All to be spread before your view, 
Who are strange to them as they to you? 
Soul, how can you sustain without a sob, 
The lightest thought of this titanic throb 
Of earthly life, that swells and breaks 
Into leaping scattering waves of fire, 
Into tameless tempests of effort and storms of 
desire 

That eternally makes 
The confused glittering armies of humankind, 

To their own heroism blind, 
Swarm over the earth to build, to dig, and to 

till, 
To mould and compel land and sea to their 

will . , . 
Whence we are here eating . . . 

Standing here as on a high hill, 
Strain, my imagination, strain forth to embrace 
The energies that labour for this place, 
This place, this instant. Beyond your island's 
verge, 



Listen, and hear the roaring impulsive surge, 
The clamour of voices, the blasting of powder, 

the clanging of steel, 
The thunder of hammers, the rattle of oars . . . 

For this one meal 
Ten thousand Indian hamlets stored their 

yields, 
Manchurian peasants sweltered in their 

fields, 
And Greeks drove carts to Patras, and lone 

men 

Saw burning summer come and go again 
And huddled from the winds of winter on 
The fertile deserts of Saskatchewan. 
To fabricate these things have been march- 
ings and slaughters, 
The sun has toiled and the moon has moved 

the waters, 
Cities have laboured, and crowded plains, and 

deep in the earth 
Men have plunged unafraid with ardour to 

wrench the worth 
Of sweating dim-lit caverns, and paths have 

been hewn 
Through forests where for uncounted years 

nor sun nor moon 
Have penetrated, men have driven straight 

shining rails 

H 



Through the dense bowels of mountains, and 
climbed their frozen tops, and wrinkled 
sailors have shouted at shouting gales 
In the huge Pacific, and battled around the 

Horn 

And gasping, coasted to Rio, and turning to- 
wards the morn, 
Fought over the wastes to Spain, and battered 

and worn, 

Sailed up the channel, and on into the Nore 
To the city of masts and the smoky familiar 

shore. 
So, so of every substance you see around 

Might a tale be unwound 
Of perils passed, of adventurous journeys made 
In man's undying and stupendous crusade. 
This flower of man's energies Trade 
Brought hither to hand and lip 
By waggon, train or ship, 
Each atom that we eat. . . . 
Stare at the wine, stare at the meat. 
The mutton which these platters fills 
Grazed upon a thousand hills; 
This bread so square and white and dry 
Once was corn that sang to the sky; 
And all these spruce, obedient wines 
Flowed from the vatted fruit of vines 
That trailed, a bright maternal host, 



The warm Mediterranean coast, 
Or spread their Bacchic mantle on 
That Iberian Helicon 
Where the slopes of Portugal 
Crown the Atlantic's eastern wall. 




mighty energy, never- 
failing flame! 
O patient toils and jour- 
neys in the name 
Of Trade! No journey 

ever was the same 
_ As another, nor ever came 
again one; task; 

And each man's face is an ever-changing mask. 
From the minutest cell to the lordliest star 
All things are unique, though all of their kin- 
dred are. 
And though all things exist for ever, all life 

is change, 
And the oldest passions come to each heart 

in a garment strange. 
Though life be as brief as a flower and the 

body but dust, 
Man walks the earth holding both body and 

spirit in trust; 

And the various glories of sense are spread for 
his delight, 

26 



New pageants glow in the sunset, new stars 

are born in the night, 
And clouds come every day, and never a shape 

recurs, 
And the grass grows every year, yet never the 

same blade stirs 
Another spring, and no delving man breaks 

again the self-same clod 
As he did last year though he stand once more 

where last year he trod. 
O wonderful procession fore-ordained by God ! 
Wonderful in unity, wonderful in diversity. 

Contemplate it, soul, and see 
How the material universe moves and strives 

with anguish and glee! 

I was born for that reason, 

With muscles, heart and eyes, 
To watch each following season, 

To work and to be wise; 
Not body and mind to tether 

To unseen things alone, 
But to traverse together 

The known and the unknown. 
My muscles were not welded 

To waste away in sleep, 
My bones were never builded 

To throw upon a heap. 

27 




" Man worships God in action," 

Senses and reason call, 
" And thought is putrefaction, 

If thought is all in all!" 

OST of the guests are 
gone; look over there, 
Against a pillar leans with 

absent air 
A tall, dark, pallid waiter. 

There he stands 
Limply, with vacant eyes 

and listless hands. 
He dreams of some small Tyrolean town, 
A church, a bridge, a stream that rushes 

down. . . . 

A frustrate, hankering man, this one short time 
Unconscious he into my gaze did climb; 
He sinks again, again he is but one 
Of many myriads underneath the sun, 
Now faint, now vividl . . . How puzzling is 

it all! 

For now again, in spite of all, 
The lights, the chairs, the diners, and the hall 
Lost their opacity. 

Fool! exert your will, 
Finish your whisky up, and pay your bill. 



UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES 

THE UNIVERSITY LIBRARY 
This book is DUE on the last date stamped below 







THE LIBRARY 
ERSITY OF CALIFORNIA 
LOS ANGELES 



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S77t Twelve poems. 
1916 




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PR 

6037 
S77t 
1916