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On A Grey Thread 


Series of First Volumes: Number Six 



ON A 




ELSA GIDLOW 


C~' 
tr; 


m££? 


CHICAGO 

WILL RANSOM 
19^3 





ACKNOWLEDGEMENT 


The majority of the foregoing have been published by: 
Pearson’s Magazine, The Pagan, Brewster Publications, 
Young Publishing Company, Poetry: A Magazine of 
Verse, The Liberator, Azoth, Youth, Voices, Wall’s Etched 
Monthly, Bruno’s Review of Two Worlds, etc. 


Copyright 1923 by Will Ransom 



To 

You Few 

For Whom These Were Written and You Many 

Who May Read 



IN THIS BOOK 


The Grey Thread 

9 

Youth 

Youth 

13 

World Cry 

15 

Hope 

16 

Life’s Leaders 

18 

Market Maze 

20 

Grain and Grapes 

Grain and Grapes 

23 

Oversoul 

24 

Come and Lie With Me 

25 

Futility 

26 

Roots 

28 

I Must Be Far 

29 

Ecstasy 

30 

Youth Insatiate 

32 

Disillusionment 

33 

The Hole in My Curtain 

34 

Despair 

36 



Declaration 
The Poet 


37 

38 


Inner Chamber 

Love’s Acolyte 

From the Top of the World 

Episode 

Experience 

This is Not Love 

A Happy Song 

As Usual 

The Artist 

Sudden Friendship 

Love Song 

Late Autumn Afternoon 
Philosophy 
You Are Not She 
Love Sleep 

When Love Becomes a Stranger 
Of a Certain Friendship 
Constancy 
Mnasidika 
A Friend Departs 


41 

42 

43 

44 

45 

46 

47 

48 

50 

51 

52 

53 

54 

55 

56 

57 

58 

59 

60 



I, Lover 

61 

Relinquishment 

62 

In Passing 

The Face in the Rain 

65 

Grey Skies 

66 

Chant of Spring 

67 

Dawn 

68 

Poppy Song 

69 

To a Young Dancing Girl 

70 

Chance 

71 

Loneliness 

72 

Before Sleep 

73 

A Thought 

74 

Epilogue 

77 



The Grey Thread 



The Grey Thread 


My life is a grey thread, 

A thin grey stretched out thread, 
And when I trace its course, I moan: 
How dull! How dead! 

But I have gay beads. 

A pale one to begin, 

A blue one for my painted dreams, 
And one for sin, 

Gold with coiled marks, 

Like a snake's skin. 

For love an odd bead 
With a deep purple glow; 

A green bead for a secret thing 
That few shall know; 

And yellow for my thoughts 
That melt like snow. 

A red bead for my strength, 

And crimson for my hate; 

Silver for the songs I sing 
When I am desolate; 

And white for my laughter 
That mocks dull fate. 

My life is a grey thread 
Stretching through Time's day; 

But I have slipped gay beads on it 
To hide the grey. 


9 



Youth 



Youth 


I must go down, 

Down, down, 

Below the crusts of things, 

Under the shadows, 

Into thought-haunted places 
Where few go; 

Where the road is broken 
And travelled by monsters, 

Truths with hard sphinx-faces. 

I must go down 
Into the caves of life, 

Into the darknesses, 

Deep, deep, 

Below the good of things, 

Below the evil of things, 

Where the calm roots of wisdom creep. 

I must tunnel 

Under the bloom of dreams, 

Under the frame-work of fancies, 
Tunnel alone. 

What if I shatter frail things, 

Break delicate flowers of myth 
Timorous dreamers have sown? 


13 



I must go down 

Below narrow roads men have made, 
Below bridging lies men have built, 
Into the caverns of truth. 

I know pain is waiting there 
Eager to break me, 

But I am strong. 

I have faith in my youth. 

Living is crusted with lies. 

I want life naked, 

Laughing and young. 

Not fettered, not tamed, 

But life unashamed, 

With the cry of Desire on her tongue. 


14 



World Cry 


There are gods in the market place. 
Did you know there were gods there? 
All, yes. Gods, gods, 

There are gods everywhere. 

I think the many like gods, 

I think they like to pray and mourn. 
For a joy-song their prophets sing: 

"A new God will soon be born!" 

For a joy-song I would sing: 

"Let every god be down-torn." 

But what is the world muttering? 

Has she whispered it since life began? 
"Gods! I want none of your gods. 

Look to yourself — Man." 


15 



Hope 


You would win me, woo me, win me, 

To be your lover, Hope! 

You would lure me, charm me, lure me, 
With all your deathless youth! 

You would have me worship, adore you, 
Build my life for you; 

Mould my moments into hours 
Out of your careless smile! 

How you pursue me, woo me, follow, 

Like a light-headed girl. 

All the world is your willing lover: 

What do you want with me? 

You are a wanton, lovely, perfect, 

A dazzling thing like day, 

Draped with silk things, 

Tasselled, jewelled, 

Hung about with veils; 

Painted with sweet lies men have blended 
Of folly and dreams and fear. 

You are a wanton, all men's mistress: 
What do you want with me? 


16 



What are your gifts worth, light bestower? 

All lips know your kiss. 

What is your word worth, soft-tongued liar? 
You have deceived all men. 

Why do you follow, woo me, follow, 

Like a light-headed girl? 

What can I give you? What can you give me? 
What do you want with me? 

Painted wanton! Tasselled Houri! 

Gay in your dress of shame! 

You are all men's willing mistress. 

What do / want with you? 


17 



Life's Leaders 


Their clouded wine, their whited bread, 

We cannot take and call it good; 

Yet sorrier fare Life grudges us 
Who have no taste for common food. 

We must go hungry long life through, 
Aching and hungry to the end; 

Betrayed by pity into chains 
Reason tries vainly to transcend. 

Are we not sadly prodigal? 

We spend ourselves without restraint; 

Yea, we let Beauty break our hearts 
And bleed for love until we faint. 

Yet it is not the thorns, the shame, 

Not the hurt body's weak distress: 

Our bitterest crucifixion lies 
In man's abject unworthiness. 

From Life's rough cloth and flying threads, 
From dust, from passion, dreams and pain, 
From the dear madness men call love, 

From faith that lies beyond the brain, 

We shape the only deathless soul 
That mortal man will ever know. 

Behold his gratitude, these stones. 

They say't is by the heart we grow. 


18 



Still we build quietly and wait. 

The heart may break; the heart is frail; 
But a stern, strange ecstasy 
Befriends us; and we dare not fail. 

The Hand that points the solemn way 
May be a wanton hand at best; 

The great Word echoing in our souls 
May be a bored God's casual jest. 

We cannot guess. We only know 
'T is written by some awful Pen 
We must be torches sacrificed 
To light the way for lesser men. 


19 



Market Maze 


Faces, faces . . . 

Restless faces and restless hands, 
Not the divine restlessness 
Of seeking, singing spirits. 

Not the impatient restlessness 
Of a creature mad for wings. 

But a feeble thing, 

A futile thing: 

The restlessness of the market place, 
The fever of buying and selling. 


20 



Grain and Grapes 



Grain and Grapes 


This word came to me 

From one whose wisdom shapes 

The destiny of many: 

Let your thought be fruitful: 

Men like grain and grapes. 

I'll not be loved of men for my gifts 
If men want grain and grapes alone: 

My thoughts are gnarled, fantastic trees, 
Grown up untended, barely pruned, 

From ancient seed I have not sown. 

Their snake-mouthed roots are in my heart. 
I feel them hungrily intense 
Drawing the seething love-sap out. 
Prodigally I feed them all 
My being's vivid afluence. 

But thus far they have only borne 
Veined blue buds that bloom to be 
Scarred flowers of inhuman pain, 

And little opening leaves, like eyes 
Full of a grave futility. 

Strange flowers foretell strange fruit 
And gods stay breathless while they grow. 
Men call and look for grain and grapes, 
Their homely, humble earth-warm fruits; 
But heaven is silent. The gods may know. 


23 



Oversoul 


My laughter rings in the highest mountains, 
My mockery echoes vividly over the peaks, 

My laughter and my mockery dance lightly 
together 

Like derisive imps . . . But my soul never 
speaks. 

My wisdom sits on a promontory 
And remotely overwatches the world; 

My pain stays forever in that cave 

Where the ragged ends of life come unfurled. 

My love cuts downward between mountains 
Like a torrential cataract, to the deeps, 

For love, like life, is a down-going. 

But my soul is like a thing that sleeps. 

It knows the remorseless depths, 

The thinnest ether of the farthest height; 

There are no lights or darknesses for its 
discovering, 

It has crawled on the earth and it knows 
the joy of flight. 

It is speechless because it knows all speeches, 
Future and present and what has gone before. 
It waits sphinxlike, and I myself 
Cannot guess what it is waiting for. 


24 



Come And Lie With Me 


Come and lie with me and love me, 
Bitterness. 

Touch me with your hands a little, 

Kiss me, as you lean above me, 

With your cold sadistic kisses; 

Wind your hair close, close around me, 
Pain might dissipate this blankness. 
Hurt me even, even wound me, 

I have need of love that stings. 

Come and lie with me and love me, 
Bitterness, 

So that I may laugh at things. 


25 



Futility 


Under all beauty that I know, 

All vital dreams, 

Sharp loveliness, 

Under the hair, the lips of laughter, 

The dusk-dim eyes of pain, 

Lurks the single thing I fear, 
Hard-mouthed, implacable-eyed, 

The monster, 

The satyr-thing, futility. 

I cannot look on loveliness 
Or burn the flame of ecstasy, 

Or even dream for very long, 

Without the annihilating fear 
That it will suddenly tear some veil 
And bare its dreadful face. 

When I am light with the exaltation 
Mysteriously born of worship, 

Filled like a cup with the wine of wonder 
At some great cloudy bloom of color, 

Or learning the infinite secrets of rapture 
With bared heart held to love's lips— 
Light's eyes are suddenly blinded, 

Life gropes in empty twilight, 

And the mocking mouth of the satyr-thing 
Leers at me from a veil of dust. 


26 



Shuddering I crouch to earth, 

Trembling lest it come more near, 
Trembling lest it stretch a hand 
And touch me! Choked by an agony 
Of horror lest its deadly eyes 
Should shrivel my flaming heart of dream. 
Sometimes I think the universe, 

Mind, passion, beauty, wisdom, light, 

All fathomless life-wonders, 

Serve only for its cloak. 

It lurks like death in everything 
That has a singing heart: 

In all exultant voices, 

In all desire's burning eyes, 

In youth's true soul, 

In love's slim hands. 

Sometimes I think it is life's core, 

This mocking-mouth'd implacable ghost. 
Sometimes I think it is life's core. 
Sometimes I think it must be God. 


27 



Roots 


O heavily weighing earth! O grim travail 
In sunless silence with no hope of light! 

O impotent wine! O bracken-food of pain! 

I accept you all. I accept the timeless blight 
Of crawling like a worm with unclean things, 
Of being forever a yearning voiceless root 
Bedded in this unwarmed oblivion 
So that the great sun mellow my ultimate fruit. 


28 



I Must Be Far 


I must be far from men and women 
To love their ways. 

I must be on a mountain 
Breathing greatly like a tree 
If my heart would yearn a little 
For the peopled, placid valley. 

I must be in a bare place 
And lonely as a moon 
To find the graceless ways of people 
Worthful as a flower's ways, 

A flower that lives for loveliness 
And dies when beauty dies. 

I cannot find music 
On the tongues of men and women 
Unless I hear their voices 
Like echoes, silence-softened. 

Their many words mean little. 

Their mouths are blatant sparrows. 

I must be far from men and women, 

As God is far away, 

To keep my faith with Beauty, 

My heart sweet towards them, 

And love them with a god's tranquility. 


29 



Ecstasy 


Stars, turn from your courses, 

Stars, stars, I want you, 

Spill into my hands. 

I have found a new loneliness, 

A new strong loneliness, 

That no one understands. 

I know a new joy, stars, 

A joy of the still peak, 

The wonder of airs knife-sharp; 

Stars, I have learned to know them, 

I have learned the tongue they speak. 
Stars, I can understand them, 

All the words they say, 

All the subtle things. 

They teach me exaltation, 

A new intoxication 

Fine drawn as the music of harp-strings. 
Alone . . . alone . . . alone . . . 

Stars, I can hear my skin breathe, 

Hear my blood beat. 

How can flesh be so light, 

Feet walk and touch nothing, 

Thought become so fleet? 


30 



Time is a rhymeless poem 
Without any end 
Written in space, 

Here at the world's summit 
Where life-giving winds 
Sharply whip one's face. 

Life is the one reality, 

Life intensely realized, 

Life wildly felt; 

Death is an ungrasped dream, 

A vague monstrous fable, 

A puzzle still unspelt. 

Alone . . . alone . . . alone . . . 

No other thing that breathes 
In this keen place. 

O my new joy, 

Joy of singing summits, 

Of endless, vibrant space! 

Stars, stars, stoop down, 

Stars, turn from your courses, 
Spill into my hands! 

Stars, you are my kindred: 

I am strong with a new loneliness 
That no one understands. 


31 



Youth Insatiate 


If I have wished for skies unscarred by storm, 
Shrunk from the grievous bitterness of things, 

The days' perplexities, the nights' unrest, 

The cruel, fruitless beating with clipped wings 

Against the windows of the Infinite, 

And, weary with the conflict's puerile stress, 

Cried out against it all, cried out for peace, 

Even what peace the rotting dead possess, 

May Life forgive me: I am stronger now, 

The play bewilders, but I know my part; 

And I have learned that Beauty is salt blood 
Pain-wrung from the unconquerable heart. 

Let there be laughter then, love's wine and bread, 
The many mouths of passion, their joys, their grief; 
These are but soil and seed — for what 
grave growths? 

I plant and wait, (and pray the time be brief!) 

Lean wisdom this, to pause and taste and pause 
Like a scared virgin who must stop for breath. 

Take the cup simply, drain it to the lees; 

Then, smiling, fling the empty cup to Death. 


32 



Disillusionment 


The agonies of disillusionment are the 
growing-pains of Truth 

Now I am done with ineffectual dreams, 

Kindly play-toys of the unsure years, 

And unencumbered, proud and free and light, 
With even pulses and a lifting heart, 

I mount the future's twisting stairs. 

A week ago I thought that I must die, 

Or hang forever, bitter as frost-killed fruit, 

Scarred and broken from the Tree of Life — 

Because I suddenly came into my sight 

And men walked as trees; and dreams went mute. 

'T is no small thing, to lose a dear, sure world, 

To stumble, desolate, through hideous space, 
Down unfamiliar and unfriendly roads 
That bruise your feet. And then to suddenly feel 
A great light newly shining in your face. 


33 



The Hole in My Curtain 

It is because of the hole in my curtain. 

I have stared through the torn space 
Into Life’s tortured face 
As she leaned low and treadled her loom, 
Watching, watching for the inevitable doom. 
And I have seen the haggard shadows flit 
Over the tapestries she wove, bit by bit, 
Feverishly, her lips shrieking gay lies; 

And always the tired song in her endless eyes. 
I have watched the Form with his weary 
cynical face, 

His pale smile, his definite, measured pace, 

Gliding forward and gliding back like a 

thing condemned 

from end to end. 

And calmly slitting Life’s woven cloths 


34 



And they have wondered that I should laugh! 
Marvelled at the potent wines I quaff. 

Marvelled that I should dance on their God’s 
dried flesh, 

Shape a lute from a bone of His; weave a mesh 
Of mirthless melody; that I should find Sin fair, 
Circle her body and sleep in her odorous hair. 
They have marveled that I should mock the day, 
Throw my veil over the sun and smile at Fate’s 
old play; 

Lead my soul down the ribald, flowered path. 
They have marveled . . . they have wondered 
that I should laugh. 

in my curtain. 

I have looked too long through the hole 


35 



Despair 


I can laugh now. 

Have you not heard my laughter? 

It leads the winds: 

They come tumbling and bubbling after. 

I have learned to laugh. 

I have learned to laugh with my spirit 
And with my soul. 

Listen. Do you not hear it? 

I shall quench the world. 

I shall sear the stars with my laughter; 
Shrivel the moon and the sun 
And make new ones after. 

For life's skeleton 
I shall make flesh from desires; 

Then of my mounting laughter 
Build it a temple with mocking spires. 

I shall laugh to heaven. 

I shall laugh below hell and above. 

I shall laugh forever. 

It was laughter God died of. 


36 



Declaration 


I am a seed in the dust, 

A live root bedded in night, 

And I am filled with a lust 

For something the worms call light. 

From what seed-pod I was blown 
Matters little to me, 

Why and by whom I was sown 
Or what the reaping may be. 

I only wait for my hour 
When I shall be done with night, 
When I shall thrill into flower 
And drink till I die of light. 


37 



The Poet 


We are given pain to balance every joy, 

We tragic-eyed divinities in dust. 

Many the hearts life bleeds with little wounds, 
The souls bewildered between God and lust. 

We know the way of pity and pity's pain; 

We know the unlit, endless street called Doubt; 
And few but walk a black way at the end, 

The piteous, hope-lit candles dead, burned out. 

Yet these are mortal wounds of mortal thorns: 
What of the few who suffer deadlier scars? 

They are worse wounded than any in the world 
Who bruise their lifted heads against the stars. 


38 



Inner Chamber 



Love’s Acolyte 


Many have loved you with lips and fingers 
And lain with you till the moon went out; 

Many have brought you lover's gifts; 

And some have left their dreams on your doorstep. 

But I who am youth among your lovers 
Come like an acolyte to worship, 

My thirsting blood restrained by reverence, 

My heart a wordless prayer. 

The candles of desire are lighted, 

I bow my head, afraid before you, 

A mendicant who craves your bounty 
Ashamed of what small gifts he brings. 


41 



From the Top of the World 


Come to me at the top of the world, 

O Mine, before the years spill 
Our rare love into Time's cup 
And give our will to Time's will. 

My wide basin is full of starlight, 

My moon is lighted with new fire, 

I have lit every sun in the firmament 
With the hurting flame of my desire. 

The worms there in the valley 
Die— to forget death! 

But here at the top of the world 
I laugh under my breath. 

There is pain here, and tears, 

Bitter, terrible tears; 

But the joys have warm mouths, and madness 
Dances downwards with the years. 

Come to me at the top of the world, 

O Mine. The valley is deep, 

The valley is full of the dying, 

And with those that sleep. 

But here wonderful winds blow 
And the pines sing one song. 

Come to me at the top of the world, 

Come soon. I have waited too long. 


42 



Episode 


I have robbed the garrulous streets, 

Thieved a fair girl from their blight, 

I have stolen her for a sacrifice 

That I shall make to this mysteried night. 

I have brought her, laughing, 

To my quietly sinister garden. 

For what will be done there 
I ask no man's pardon. 

I brush the rouge from her cheeks, 

Clean the black kohl from the rims 
Of her eyes; loose her hair; 

Uncover the glimmering, shy limbs. 

I break wild roses, scatter them over her. 
The thorns between us sting like love's pain. 
Her flesh, bitter and salt to my tongue, 

I taste with endless kisses and taste again. 

At dawn I leave her 

Asleep in my wakening garden. 

(For what was done there 
I ask no man's pardon.) 


43 



Experience 


Now you are gone I kiss your dented pillow 
And wonder if it hungers like my breast 
For the dear head we both have held in rest. 

I said once: Love alone cannot assuage 
My thirst, my hunger, love has no reply 
For that wild questioning, for this fierce cry. 

I said: there is no kiss can feed me now. 
Perhaps love is life's flower: I seek the root. 
Yea, I have loved and love is dead sea fruit. 

Yet I lie here and kiss your dented pillow, 

A trembling girl who loves you overmuch— 
A harp in anguish for the player's touch. 


44 



This Is Not Love 


This is not love: we cannot call it love. 

Love would make me aware of infinite things, 

Drive me down the spirit's vast abyss 
And through the narrow fastnesses of pain. 

This is not love. Yet it holds loveliness 
Beyond mere pleasure. Peace and passion both 
Grow from the kiss with which I paint drab hours. 
It is not love: love is for the gods 
And our more godlike moments. Yet when stars 
Withhold their splendour, why should we not light 
Candles to warm with kindly mortal flames 
The all-enfolding, cold, immortal night? 


45 



A Happy Song 


Heaped sweets and a treasure 
For a new sin to play with, 

To pass a night and day with— 
Heaped sweets for a pleasure. 

Who and who will win them? 

Who will carry virtue's pall? 

Of what use are sins at all 
If someone does not sin them? 

Who will take the treasure? 

Run and run on light-winged feet; 
Who will buy my sweetest sweet 
With a new found pleasure? 


46 



As Usual 


You say you will not think of me: 

You shut me out and count your beads, 
The chaplet of your rules and doubts, 
But lovers never think of creeds. 

You'll fill your mind with serious things: 
You'll think of God or Infinity, 

Of a lover whose last charm is gone, 

Of anything in the world but me. 

Yet every thought will lead you back, 
Infinity grow far and dim, 

And God, with His sense of irony, 

Will never let you think of Him. 


47 



The Artist 


Let us leave off loving, Madonna: 

You have kissed me grey 
And still I have no peace. 

We thought we could make the night 
A tapestry of passion. 

Dear Love! What a vain caprice. 

Where's the immortal design 

We thought we had splashed on the indigo cloth? 
And where is the cloth? 

Dawn is forever the cynic. 

He shows us love is the flame, 

Our flesh the eternal moth. 

Madonna . . . loose me and rise. 

We are brief as apple-blossom 

And I am heart-weary with thought of the end. 

Creation is all. 

The hours are thieves, Time a beggar, 

And we have little to spend. 

I ache for the brush in my hand. 

The thrall of the compliant pigment 
Governs my blood. 

I will paint you, Madonna, 

The afterlove glow in your face; 


48 



I would deify you if I could 
With enchantments of color, 

Bind you with fetters of terrible beauty 
Fast to my canvas forever, 

Give you the eternality God has denied you, 
Bind you to life with art's sacred chains 
That death cannot sever. 

Love has betrayed us enough with its 
treacherous wonder: 

Let us go now while we ache with the magic 
Or what is the gain? 

Art is our one immortality, 

All we may win from the gods 
In exchange for our labor and pain. 


49 



Sudden Friendship 


Yesterday we walked apart, 

Separate and cold and mortal. 

Now the mystic kiss has joined us, 
Now we stand inside the portal 

That permits of no returning, 

And my heart is strangely burning. 

I know not what the word may be, 

Or what the charm, or what the token, 
That has filled us with this glory. 

But never let the charm be broken. 

Let it stay a mystery 
For all time to be. 

Yesterday, with lighter joys, 

We wantoned at the outer portal. 

Now, with love's old alchemy, 

We have made ourselves immortal. 


50 



Love Song 


My love, you destroy me, you rend, 

You tear me apart. 

You are a wild swan I have caught 
And housed in my heart. 

My sister, my love, I am shattered, 

Broken, dismayed. 

The live wings, the wild wings are beating, 
They make me afraid. 

Fold your wings, brood like a dove, 

Be a dove I can cherish 

More calmly, my dear, my tempestuous love, 
Or I perish. 


51 



Late Autumn Afternoon 

Grey, fingered with flickering threads 
of light; 

Silence broken by restless quavers 
of music. 

Greyness, music, 

A playing thought of slumber. 

And on my lips faintly disturbing fingers, 
And at my heart love's hand like a 
child's hand 
Stirring me half awake. 


52 



Philosophy 


Since we must soon be fed 
As honey and new bread 
To ever-hungiy Death: 

O, love me very sweet 
And kiss me very long 
And let us use our breath 
For song. 

Nothing else endures 
Overlong. 


53 



You Are Not She 


You are not she I loved. You cannot be 
My wild, white dove, 

My tempest-driven dove that I gave house, 

You cannot be my Love. 

She died. I used to hold her all night long; 

Come awake 

At dawn beside her. Try to ease with loving 
A thirst too deep to slake. 

O, it was pain to keep her shut against me. 
Honey and bitterness 

To taste her with sharp kisses and hold her after 
In brief duress. 

You cold woman, you stranger with her ways, 
Smiling cruelly, 

You tear my heart as never her wild wings' 

beating 

Wounded me. 


54 



Love Sleep 


Watch my Love in sleep: 

Is she not beautiful 

As a young flower at night 

Weary and glad with dew? 

Pale curved body 
That I have kissed too much, 
Warm with slumber's flush; 
Breasts like mounded snow, 

Too small for children's mouths; 
Lips a red spring bud 
My love will bring to bloom. 

How restlessly she moves! 

She, no more than a child, 

Stirs like a woman troubled 
With guilt of secret sins. 

Twin furtive tears 
Glide from the shadows, 

Her eyes' shadowed blue. 

Her dreaming must be sad. 

What grief to watching love 
That it is impotent, 

For all its reckless strength, 
When the sleep gates close. 


55 



When Love Becomes a Stranger 

When Love becomes a stranger 
In the temple he has built 
Of remembered nights and days, 
When he sighs and turns away 
From the altar in the temple 
With unreturning feet, 

When the candles flicker out 
And the magical-sweet incense 
Vanishes . . . 

Do you think there is grief born 
In any god's heart? 


56 



Of a Certain Friendship 


Odd how you entered my house quietly, 

Quietly left again. 

While you stayed you ate at my table, 

Slept in my bed. 

There was much sweetness, 

Yet little was done, little said. 

After you left there was pain, 

Now there is no more pain. 

But the door of a certain room in my house 
Will be always shut. 

Your fork, your plate, the glass you drank from, 
The music you played, 

Are in that room 

With the pillow where last your head was laid. 
And there is one place in my garden 
Where it's best that I set no foot. 


57 



Constancy 


You're jealous if I kiss this girl and that. 

You think I should be constant to one mouth. 
Little you know of my too quenchless drouth. 

My sister, I keep faith with love, not lovers. 

Life laid a flaming finger on my heart, 

Gave me an electric golden thread, 

Pointed to a pile of beads and said: 

Link me one more perfect than the rest. 

Love's the thread, my sister, you a bead, 

An ivory one, you are so delicate. 

These first burned ash-grey — far too passionate. 
Farther on the colors mount and sing. 

When the last bead's painted with the last design 
And slipped upon the thread, I'll tie it so, 

Then smiling quietly, I'll turn and go 
While vain Life boasts her latest ornament. 


58 



Mnasidika 


I shall not harm you at all nor ask you 
for anything, 

You need have no fear; 

I am only very tired and would like to 
rest awhile 

With my head here 

And play with the long strands of your 
loosed hair, 

Or touch your skin, 

Feel your cool breath on my eyes, 
watch it stir 

Those rising hills where your breasts begin; 

And listen to your voice whispering 
tender words 

Until, perhaps, I fall asleep; 

Or feel you kiss my forehead to comfort me 
a little 

If I should weep. 

That is all, just to lie so beside you 

Till dawn's lamp is lit. 

You need not fear me. I have given 
too much of love 

Ever to ask for it. 


59 



The Friend Departs 


'Tis not alone that you have gone from me: 

All the hungry, fragile roots of hope 
Are blasted by a Thing I cannot name; 

And I am desolate remembering 

The rare kiss, the intimate silent climbing 
From passion to a breathless comprehension. 
Even my peace of heart, born of long pain, 
Dies, drowned in a turbulence of passion. 

Life today is like a glass reflecting 
Nothing more than my own grieving eyes, 

Or like a goblet that I sit and stare at, 

Empty of all but stains of last night's wine. 


60 



I, Lover 


I shall never have any fear of love, 

Not of its depth nor its uttermost height, 

Its exquisite pain and its terrible delight. 

I shall never have any fear of love. 

I shall never hesitate to go down 

Into the fastness of its abyss 

Nor shrink from the cruelty of its awful kiss. 

I shall never have any fear of love. 

Never shall I dread love's strength 
Nor any pain it might give. 

Through all the years I may live 
I shall never have any fear of love. 

I shall never draw back from love 

Through fear of its vast pain 

But build joy of it and count it again. 

I shall never have any fear of love. 

I shall never tremble nor flinch 
From love's moulding touch: 

I have loved too terribly and too much 
Ever to have any fear of love. 


61 



Relinquishment 


Go her way, her quiet, quiet way, 

Her way is best for one so wistful-tired. 

My three-months' lover, go with your 
world-sick heart, 

Your love-bruised flesh. I am no sanctuary. 

This hot mouth, these ardent, out-reaching arms, 
This hollow between my breasts, these 
hungry limbs, 

They are a cradle, a cradle of living flame; 

No haven for you, saddening after peace. 

I am not certain, no, nor soothing-safe. 

Mine is the shifting, perilous way of life. 

Pitiless, ever-changing, hazardous, 

My love insatiate and mutable. 

Go her way, her quiet, well-path'd way, 

Sit by her hearth-fire; let her keep you safe. 

Mine the unharbored heart, the uncharted 
passions; 

Mine, at the end a more than common peace. 


62 



In Passing 



The Face in the Rain 


O form! O face! 

Elfin face in the crowd! 

Form, face, white throat, 

Pale throat wound with a scarf 
Poppy red, 

Blood-like, red, 

Pale throat wound with a poppy scarf 
Gleaming out of the crowd. 

Background of grey, 

A rain-wet street; 

Shuffling; shambling 
Beating feet, 

Past the corner where four ways meet. 

O face, O throat! 

Crimson and white 
Splashed on grey: 

I have thought of nothing else all day. 

Misted streets, 

A scarf-wound throat, 

Fay-like face 
That seemed to float 
Through the crowd 
Like a wisp of song: 

I have thought of them all day long. 


65 



Grey Skies 

I like grey skies, 

At least they tell the truth; 
Grey skies, 

Reflective skies 
That do not laugh at all 
Nor weep vain tears. 
Unpromising, 

Unhoping, 

Cold. 

Grey skies, 

No fear in them 
Nor any joy, 

No tragedy, 

All grey. 

I like grey skies, 

Unweeping, smileless skies. 
They do not lie. 


66 



Chant of Spring 


Like an unhappy woman Earth frees herself 
from the arms of Winter, 

Surely Winter, her indifferent Lord, 

Whose touch is death to her passionate body, 
And, weeping, yields to Spring, the 
wooing maiden, 

The slim girl who kisses her with 
awakening kisses, 

Burning her lips and eyelids with flaming mouth 
loosed upon them, 

Renewing her body with wildness 
of young caresses, 

Holding her close while the reckless hours dance 
to death. 


Wan passion flowers growing in hidden places, 
Memories, 

Kisses given by the slim maiden. 

Wan passion flowers, 

All that is left to Earth of her maddest lover. 


67 



Dawn 


Dawn opens like a great gold flower, 

Petal by monstrous petal, 

Quivering minute by minute, 

Hour by hour. 

Stretches great live leaves over hundreds 
of hills, 

Scatters flakes of pollen dust into a 
few valleys, 

Drops a loose petal down where a slender 
waterfall spills. 

Morning opens like a gold flower, 

Stirs and quivers singingly at the feet of day; 
Shoots transparent light into a moving mist 
That twists spirally 
Like a butterfly at play. 

In the heart of the mist, morning opens, a 
gold flower, 

Superbly, like a dawning passion. 

Can night be the consummation 
Of this expectant white hour? 


68 



Poppy Song 


Love in a garden of poppies 
Playing at living life, 

Love with smiles in her speech, 

Love dancing at dawn 

In a garden of flushed pink poppies. 

Love, unsmiling now, 

At noon in the garden of poppies, 

With a laugh under her eyelids, 

Fear deep in her eyes, 

And tangled with her hair, 

Sighs and a struggling joy. 

Love, with a dim, strained face, 

At night in the garden of poppies, 

Her lips crushing the bloom 
From the fairest flower there. 

Love drunk with the wine 

She has drawn from the poppy's heart: 

Love with death at her breasts. 

Love at the end of night 
Shaded by drooping poppies; 

Love with scattered hair 
And strange stains on her lips. 

Love with death at her breasts. 


69 



To a Young Dancing Girl 

Golden-eyed girl, do you see what I see? 

Do you see behind the veil that Life 
laughs through? 

Golden-eyed girl, I would like to laugh 
with you. 

But my veil is torn, and I see things pass 

Like shadows in the depths of a crystal glass. 

Golden-eyed girl, you are young as springtime, 

Your great eyes are dreamful, your rare 
lips sweet. 

Shadows matter little to youth with dancing feet 

All of Life's skeletons wear gay dresses 

And youth is deceived by even Death's caresses. 

Golden-eyed girl, you have years to dance and 
wonder 

Before your Life's curtain will wear into holes 

And let you see the hopelessness hidden in souls. 

You have many moons of laughter, many 
years to go 

Before you'll learn how heavy dancing feet 
can grow. 


70 



Chance 


Strange that a single white iris 

Given carelessly one slumbering spring midnight 

Should be the first of love, 

Yet life is written so. 

If it had been a rose 

I might have smiled and pinned it to my dress: 

We should have said Good Night indifferently 
And never met again. 

But the white iris! 

It looked so infinitely pure 
In the thin green moonlight. 

A thousand little purple things 
That had trembled about me through 
the young years 

Floated into a shape I seem always to have known 
That I suddenly called Love! 

The faint touch of your long fingers on mine 
wakened me. 

I saw that your tumbled hair was bright 
with flame, 

That your eyes were sapphire souls with 
hungry stars in them, 

And your lips were too near not to be kissed. 

Life crouches at the knees of Chance 
And takes what falls to her. 


71 



Loneliness 


This loneliness encaged in me 
That has no curious heart for life, 

No ribald blood, no treacherous flesh 
Nor golden wickedness of song, 

This loneliness that prays in me, 

Is it not somewhat like a nun? 

See the clasped hands, the secret eyes, 
The lips pressed close for fear of love! 
What if I make her drunk one day 
With wine or some unholy need 
Then leave the cell door open wide — 
Think you she might be tempted out? 


72 



Before Sleep 


There is an autumn sadness upon me, 

A sadness of bared trees, 

And mist and delicate death of flowers. 
There is an autumn sadness upon me, 

A falling of leaves in my soul. 

There is an autumn sadness upon me, 

A dreamfulness in my heart, 

And a wistful sense of longing. 

There is faint moaning music 
Like cries of departing birds. 

There are trembling hands on my eyelids, 
A dim foreknowledge of tears 
And dreams, patterning ultimate slumber. 
There is an autumn sadness upon me, 

A falling of leaves in my soul. 


73 



A Thought 


There are more songs in the far corners 
of my soul 

Than I shall ever be able to sing. 

I shall go away long before they are 
all expressed 

And they will wait for another life, for 
more suffering, 

To give them birth; another life and many 
more tears 

And love, to make them open their eyes to 
the light. 

It will take many lives to express all 
the songs 

I hear singing to themselves day and night. 


74 



Epilogue 



Epilogue 


Why are you laughing, Poet? 

I much prefer your sighs. 

I myself have just read one of your songs 
And tears are biting my eyes. 

And why should I not laugh? 

I cleaned my heart of its dust, 

Swept my spirit clear of its cobwebs, 

Gathered them up and thrust 
Them from me. And then 
Men passing, found the whole, 

Called them songs and sang them and exulted. 
They thought they had found my soul. 


77