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(from The Upward Pass )
IN THE GREEK ROOM
Broken and stained and old, wrenched from the earth
That covers and forgets all perfect things,
These lordly images from Grecian springs
Wear the full glory of their artist birth.
Broken and old and stained, a secret mirth
Is on their lips, and in their fragment wings
The airs of flight. A pride and calmness clings
To them -- the mark of an immortal worth.
What if they spoke? What if their marble hands
Could move, their maimed and marble feet could walk?
What unknown grace of speech and life would be?
Qnd could we bear again the brute commands
Of our own days -- the dull, unsubtle talk?
Better that dream we should not know or see!
PORTRAIT OF A MAN
He has an air compounded subtly well
Of certain attibutes possessing fame
As having graced the practices and name
Of all the better Medici. The fell
Deceits of scoffers never quite dispel
His almost perfect patieence with their game,
While savory triumphs in his look proclaim
Foreknowledge of their just and certain hell.
Men tell two stories of the thing that lies
Secure behind the azure of his gaze.
A few insist on splendors -- bright, and gold --
Like secret stars that move in sunlit skies;
But more will smile and say the sapphire blaze
Of skies but masks a waste of arid cold.
'The game is plentiful -- the weather fine,'
My friend wrote from the country in this wise.
His letter hinted all the gay emprise
Of autumn hunts, the certain anodyne
Of hills and trees, October air like wine,
The ardor of the ride, the brilliant skies,
The hounds, the view halloo, and laughing cries
When quarry breaks before the beaters' line.
In leafless places of the hills to-day
Feathered and furry game goes stark with fear,
And wild eyes watch from sheltered holes
The cavalcades of death upon their way.
Huddled and silent in their caves they hear
The sure advance of laughing, monstrous trolls.
THE GULF STREAM
They say a tropic river threads the seas
Bearing the strangest things to northern lands:
Vermilion fish, like flowers, with silver bands,
And bronze easweed from scarlet coral keys.
Green birds that mock the moon from tall palm trees
Where ghost-gray monkeys hang by cunning hands,
Follow the thinning blue to northern sands,
And there among the black pines scream and freeze.
The while this ardent current chills and fades,
Splendors of ice drift slowly south, each one
A frozen torch of borealic fire,
Each one a spectral ship with rainbow sails,
Sinking and fading as it nears the sun
In this reletless river of desire.
Your love is like a fete in early spring
With lanterns swinging row on colored row
And mandolins where many dancers go,
And -- just the hint of chill that night-winds bring.
My love is dncing too, in maddening swing
To demon drums that roar, now loud, now low,
Finding the hours too quick, the years too slow
As days burn high and red in a closing ring.
En fete! I see you near, but know you far,
And find it strange that I who am so wise
Have not the wish to break this mortal spell,
But, hurl my soul out like a falling star,
Beyond the circle where the wild flames rise,
To find a Heaven, or a deeper Hell.
To find a Heaven or a deeper Hell!
These are the desperate goals on either hand
With no mid-choice of mere content to stand
Between two ecstasies -- no tale to tell
Of half-acceptances which can compel
The rage and clamor of the blood to bland
And even measure like unhurried sand
In glass, or voices of a distant bell.
I know that I am clearly dedicate --
Constrained by circumstances of the soul --
To this necessity of resolute
And changeless immolation -- that no fate
Of less extremity could now take toll:
Gaunt destiny rides toward the absolute.
I am less homesick for Byzantium,
Less exigent of some like victories,
And more content to lose centuries,
Their lustered wonder and the richest sum
Of all their ministrations to our dumb
And tedious day. The doubtful penuries --
Negations of our arid verities --
Seem unimportant all, since you have come
With fantasies transcending heritage
Of all the crowns on Glory's weary brow --
Transforming relic dust to golden fleece,
Translating wisdom that it may presage
A wiser laughter, so that I am now
Less homesick for Byzantium and Greece.
Translating wisdom into wiser laughter --
For this I thank you always from my heart,
Certain that I shall always know hereafter
A deeper wisdom and a deeper art
Not in the casual maze of living only,
But in the subtler tangles which the days
Contrive to snare the soul upon its lonely
And unillumined, fate-apporinted ways.
There is an art in all this blithe uncaring --
So have I seen a juggler play with swords,
Meeting their danger with a brilliant daring
That only courage to the hand affords;
There is a grace in it, as well -- a gesture
Marking some quite rare investiture.
I think that you are star-born -- clearly so,
And here in passage to some further star --
A brilliant changeling quick amid the slow
Retreat and sure advance of days which bar
The ways of flight. And so you are alone
Sometimes in lonely regions of the soul
Where only star-born wings escape the stone
And dust of known roads to an unknown goal.
Yes, you are star-born, clearly so! Something
Is in your eyes, a look perhaps that gazes
Past the shadow and the stain which ring
The earth -- past and far past to golden mazes
Where swing eternally the golden cars
Of stars and stars, and yet more golden stars.
The dogwood is a cloud of stars once more,
The Judas tree a pillar now of fire.
These April answers to the soul's desire
Are certain signals of a deeper lore
Than changing seasons in a march before
Our ravished eyes -- are more than singing lyre
Of winds in trees, or all the winged choir
That comes in April from a tropic shore.
They are the sign and countersign of all
You are to us in other months than spring,
You who are May when skies declare November, You who are June
When last leaves wheel and fall,
When grass and waves are still in a frozen ring --
Then are you still the spring -- and we remember.
Surely the green earth was less green last year,
The gaily repetitious birds less gay;
And April had a less enchanting way,
With skies less radiant, and stars less near.
What if a year is gone -- dropped down the sheer
Lost deep where even this most lovely day
Must sink with all Earth's gracious things, and stay? --
Surely last April was less green, less dear.
For we have laughed a whole year round with you,
Have mocked a little, wept, and smiled again
And so have learned a deeper laughter still.
Because of this, and this, we know it true
That last spring was less green in every lane,
Less radiant her wings above the hill.
There are no changing seasons in your soul,
No authumn and no wearieness to send
Our own hearts questing to some strange world end,
Where only perfect springs forever roll.
You feel no chilling winds from an unkind pole,
No fading month, no ruthless storms that rend
The blossom sheaths, no winter to attend
On restless change and take a summer's toll.
What is it like to live a life secure
And free beneath the penitential moons,
To be a welcome season all the year,
To make your natal April so endure
That we forget the months are not all Junes?
How do you hold your springtime all the year?