The Black Panther by John Hall Wheelock

THE BLACK PANTHER
A BOOK OF POEMS

BY
JOHN HALL WHEELOCK

AUTHOR OF
“THE HUMAN FANTASY”     “THE BELOVÈD ADVENTURE”
“LOVE AND LIBERATION”   “DUST AND LIGHT,” ETC.

NEW YORK
CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS
1922


Copyright, 1922, by
CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS
Printed in the United States of America


The author thanks the editors of the following, for kind permission to reprint here various poems first published in their pages: All’s WellThe American MagazineThe Art WorldThe BellmanThe BookmanThe Century MagazineContemporary VerseThe DialThe ForumThe FreemanHarper’s MonthlyThe InternationalThe Literary Review of The New York Evening PostThe LyricMcClure’s MagazineThe OutlookPoetryThe Poetry JournalThe Poetry ReviewReedy’s MirrorScribner’s MagazineThe Smart SetThe Yale ReviewYouth. Thanks are also due to Messrs. Harcourt, Brace and Company for permission to reprint “Sea-Horizons,” first published in the anthology, Enchanted Years.

 

THE BLACK PANTHER

THERE is a panther caged within my breast;
But what his name, there is no breast shall know
Save mine, nor what it is that drives him so,
Backward and forward, in relentless quest—
That silent rage, baffled but unsuppressed,
The soft pad of those stealthy feet that go
Over my body’s prison to and fro,
Trying the walls forever without rest.
All day I feed him with my living heart;
But when the night puts forth her dreams and stars,
The inexorable Frenzy reawakes:
His wrath is hurled upon the trembling bars,
The eternal passion stretches me apart,
And I lie silent—but my body shakes.

I
DIM WISDOMS


7

NIGHT HAS ITS FEAR

NIGHT has its fear:
As the slow dusk advances, and the day
Fades out in fire along the starry way,
The ancient doubt draws near.
Vague shapes of dread—
Soft owl, or moth, and timid, twittering things—
Move through the growing dark; on furtive wings
The bat flits overhead.
And in the house
The death-watch ticks, the dust of time is stirred
With timorous footfalls, in the night is heard
The gnawing of the mouse.
Through the old room
What phantoms throng, what shapes that to and fro
Tremble, and lips that laughed here long ago—
Gone back into the gloom!

8

A whip-poor-will
Bleakly across the baleful country cries
From a blurred mouth; and from the west replies
Echo—and all is still.
Now from her shell,
Her body’s prison, with the ancient doubt
And terror stricken, the scared soul looks out,
Asking if all be well.
Great kings have been,
Poets, and mighty prophets—shapes have cried
About the world, or moved in mournful pride;
And are no longer seen.
From many lands
Their plaint was lifted; from how many a shore
Sorrows have wailed, that are not any more!
They sleep with folded hands.
They have their day:
Their cry is loud about the earth, who come
To the one end; the singing lips grow dumb
Always in the one way.

9

Though they implore,
Brief is the plea, inflexible the fate!
Silence has the last word; and then—the great
Silence, forevermore.
Pondering these,
The fretful spirit in bewilderment
Quickens with a vague doubt, and, not content,
Broods—and is ill at ease.
Her being is
Throned on so frail a pulse; such fleeting breath
Bears up her dream across the gulf of death
And the obscure abyss.
Always she hears
The hurtling chariots of the hurrying blood,
Her shuttling breath that in the solitude
Weaves the one self she wears.
Now first the vast
Veil over heaven is rent, and bares the whole
Shining Reality; whereat the soul
Sickens, and is aghast!

10

Darkness reveals
The tragic truth; her will sinks hopeless wings
Before the inexorable Fact of things,
Humbling the dread she feels.
With the old Awes
Confronted and the flaming Mystery,
She may not speak; but pondering, suddenly
Grows silent, and withdraws.
She may not bear
That sight: the spangled heavens, from east to west,
Stretch out too wide the confines of the breast,
Straining in wonder there.
Upon what Brow
Of awful eminence—O thought that stuns!—
Is laid that chaplet of a million suns,
Upon what Forehead now?
Who was it wrought
This universal glory all around,
Of glittering worlds forever without bound?—
Great Poet, what a Thought!

11

It is a Word
Unutterable that is written there;
The spirit, gazing, is one voiceless prayer,
Careless if it be heard.
Her thoughts ascend,
Star beyond star, height beyond aching height
Upward, in adoration infinite,
Forever, without end.
So shall it be!
Till heaven yield her sceptre; till the throne
Of night be shaken, and the Face be known
Beyond eternity:
Till God divide
And rend asunder the embroidered hem
Of darkness; till the starry diadem
And crown be set aside!

12

THE SORROWFUL MASQUERADE

EVEN as to a music, stately and sad,
The young girl’s feet begin to move in a dance,
And curiously, for joy, shift and advance;
So to a mournful waltz, sombre and sweet,
All laughing things move with delighted feet—
So all things that draw light and laughing breath
Move to the mournful waltz of life and death:
Comedy is a girl dancing in time
To the tragic pipes, sorrowful and sublime;
And ever she laughs back, and as she skips
Mimics the mournful music with her lips;
Then, for sheer anger at her own pretense,
Sobs violently at her own vehemence;
And mocks her tears. But when the pipings sleep,
She needs must cover up her face and weep.

13

OCTOBER MOONLIGHT

HEAVEN is like an empty room to-night;
From rim to chilly rim
Wells the clear radiance of the cold moonlight,
And the earth-ways are dim.
Who has departed from this perfect place!
What fiery one here set
His throne in splendor, whom, vanished now, the face
Of heaven remembers yet!
Emptiness—emptiness—the skies are bare,
And the stark earth no less
Grows vacant as a memory: everywhere
Sleeps the cold loveliness.
Old is the earth, too old; her voice is shrill
Against the end of things—
To the inevitable her bitter will
Grows humbler as she sings.

14

Now from my breast the very soul takes flight,
Leaving her chambers bare
Of all save lonely memory and moonlight—
And Song is silent there.

15

THE FLESH AND THE DREAM

THE baffled dreamer, the defeated Christ
That for your love upon the cross-tree hung—
O take Him to your bosom, give Him rest
Close at the wanton wonder of your breast,
O carnal World, forever well and young!

16

VAUDEVILLE

WHEN to a cheap and tawdry tune the orchestra cried out,
Frantic, in violent syncopation, and began
Your holy, adorable body in mournful grace to move about
Through the old, devious motions, the device of man—
How suddenly then, silent magnificence, you put to shame
The crowded and garish theatre, the strangled cries
Of flute and trumpet! O mortal body, bearer of our flame
Through the drear lands of death, flower of the eternities!
Revered, reviled, wept and adored, beseeched, cried out upon
By ravening lips of the ages—the sacred source of things,
That glimmered in Thrace, that shone in Rome, that swayed in Babylon,
Here moves to the vile throb of castanets and strings.

17

O through what generations have you lured, what secret ways,
Man’s fainting heart to be reborn! What splendors move
Deep in his breast when, dolorous, your reluctant beauty sways
In the old weary rhythms of eternal love!

18

1914

ILIFT my gaze beyond the night, and see,
Above the banners of Man’s hate unfurled,
The holy figure that on Calvary
Stretched arms out wide enough for all the world.

19

THE BELOVÈD

LIFE, Belovèd, I lay my heart against Your heart,
Long, long I peer into the dark pool of Your eyes;
Never will I forsake You, O adorable One!
I cannot comprehend You, but I love You.
In the shadow of Your locks I hide my eyes from the terrors;
But You are not greatly concerned—
Closer and closer I draw toward the dear Face.
See—I set my lips against Your lips,
But You do not answer:
Steadfast and grave beyond me Your eyes are burning,
As of one that dreams.
I am clinging here at Your heart!
I am singing my love of You for sheer joy!
Mother, what is it that trembles on Your lashes so soft—
And Your lips are salt as the taste of the sea?
Can it be for me Your eyes are brimming, Mother,
Even as they smile?

20

Can they be for me, these drops on Your lips so warm?
Dear One, do I understand at last!
O holy draught, wine of the world, bewildering and bitter-sweet!
Sacred tears, from the depths of what wild love welling!
Deeper and deeper let me drink and draw—
Nirvana, divine oblivion….
Bitter is the taste of Your lips, Belovèd!
* * * * *
Though I lie in the darkness, yet often do I remember You—and wonder—
And the touch of Your lips, how strange, and how sad.

21

PROUD DOOM

THE crucifixion of Beauty on the cross
Of mortal destiny—the eternal law—
The thorny crown of death about her brows
Fills me with anger—then with sudden awe:
So dear, so lovely her adorable sorrow
Shows in the darkness, ’mid the tragic doom,
The very heart in me leaps up with laughter,
And hastens, proud and secret, toward the tomb.

22

THE SECRET ONE

HERE, by this frame and network of the flesh
And wires of her control
Surrounded, central in her subtle mesh
And secret, sits the soul,
Urgent through all the body, while each part
Obeys, and all are one—
While in her dungeons labors the lone heart
To make her will be done.
She reins the forces in their wild career
That bear her, as they go,
Over the dark abyss; and knows how sheer
Reaches the gulf below.
How dubious her life and slenderly
Hangs, by a scarlet thread,
Between eternity and eternity—
She guesses, wise in dread;

23

And ever watchful, ever wary, set
In the centre all alone,
Feels ’round her cautiously if any threat
Be made against the throne.
Sometimes along her nerves the voice of pain
Bears tidings to her hate
And frantic wrath, that the old foe again
Is clamorous at the gate—
She rages up and down, and to and fro
In timid anger runs:
If the frontiers be menaced, it is known
All over, and at once.
She hears her breast of sorrows night and day
At labor; ’round her brood
The old oblivions, where she sits at bay;
She hears the battling blood.
Echoes assail her from far worlds that lie
Beyond the bourne of these—
Contact and color and the angry cry
Of the realities

24

Beat on the brain forever; the high dream,
By stratagem of speech,
Enters her portals, where she sits supreme
And silent, pondering each:
Weighing and challenging, for weal or woe,
All rumors, sending out
The emissaries of her will, that go
To the frontiers about.
But most she loves the hour that beauty brings,
Of rapture and release
From the crude hunger and the cry of things,
The hour of her peace—
When, by the inner light that floods her cell,
The spirit, even as here,
Travails, in secrecy and joy, to tell
Her passion and her fear.
Now to the listening soul in you who read
These lines, she tells it all—
How dear her day, how dark shall be, indeed,
The hour when night must fall.

25

THE UNDISSUADABLE AUSTERITY

LESS than it is we would the Truth should seem:
Holy and marvellous the Actual is—
But stern her lips, and bitter is her kiss
Upon the brows of dream.

26

BLIND PLAYERS

DAY breaks, and the old drama
Repeats itself anew:
The hind wakes to be hunted,
The huntsman to pursue—
The lover and the belovèd,
Each one doomed to his part;
The victor and the vanquished,
The hushed and the hurrying heart—
In terror and in triumph
They play it through again,
The old, unchanging drama
Of passion and of pain,
As the great Will has willed it,
That, in all forms being cast,
Wars on Itself forever.
O may they at the last—
The falcon, and the fledgling
He stoops to from the sky;

27

The lips that are so eager,
The lips that would deny—
When the old war is ended,
When the stern Will is done,
Meet in eternal pity
And know themselves as one!

28

TRAVAIL

BEFORE the sacred beauty of the morn
How fade the wrangling wisdoms of the earth!
Wisdom is beauty in the womb, unborn;
Wisdom is beauty laboring for birth.
Wisdom, the ghost of Beauty, in the wide
Womb of the world lies clamoring for life,
While the white Beauty, the immortal Bride,
Sits throned upon the summits void of strife.
So the bright flower, bending from the soil,
Sums up and scorns the wisdom of the sage;
And Helen’s beauty, soaring beyond toil,
The laboring beauty of the poet’s page.
So, when the veils of mystery are furled,
Earth’s wisdom blooms in heaven’s beauty above …
Beauty is all the wisdom of the world
Uttered by the seraphic lips of love!

29

THE POET TELLS OF HIS LOVE

HOW shall I sing of Her that is
My life’s long rapture and despair—
Sorrow eternal—Loveliness,
To whom each heart-beat is a prayer!
Utterly, endlessly, alone
Possessing me, yet unpossessed—
The dark, the drear belovèd One
That takes the tribute of this breast:
Dæmon disconsolate, in vain,
In vain petitioned and implored—
How many a midnight of disdain
Darkly and dreadfully adored!
Beauty, the virgin, evermore
Out of these arms with laughter fled—
Vanished—a voice by slope and shore
Haunting the world—Illusion dread—

30

Most secret Siren, on whose coast,
’Mid spray of perishing song, are hurled
All desolate lovers, all the lost
Souls, and half-poets of the world:
Through sleepless nights and lonely days
In tears and terror served and sought—
Light beyond light—the supreme Face
That blinds the adoring eyes of thought!
How shall I sing of Her? Nay all,
All song, all sorrow, all silence of
This desperate heart that is Her thrall,
Trembles and tries to tell my love!

31

THE BURIED DREAM

IHID a dream amid the sands of Time,
And said, “Now will I go upon my way—
I shall be free henceforward from this time,
And full of laughter all the livelong day.”
But it came following like the midnight voice
Of my true love behind her lattice-bars—
And it came following like the silver voice
Of my lost childhood strayed beyond the stars:
Like my dead self, so laughable, so sad,
So foolish and so lovable it rang—
That, for sheer laughter, I was very sad,
And took it back into my heart, and sang.

32

HAUNTED EARTH

HEAVEN at last
Is bared, and the whole world one radiant room—
Black are the shadows, in great pools of gloom
By copse and thicket cast.
The cattle browse
With sound of gentle breathing, and their breath
Is mild in glimmering meadows, or beneath
Drooped branches, where they drowse;
While ’mongst the chill
Shadows, and cold, clear moonlight all about,
A single bat goes dipping in and out
Softly; and all is still.
Silence around—
Save for a cricket! Lapped in slumb’rous peace
Lie hill and meadowland, the shining seas
Lap on them without sound.
It is earth’s cry
Lifted in adoration: the old dream,

33

Beauty, is with her, and her hour supreme
That goes so swiftly by.
Too well she knows
The sweet Illusion, from no earthly shore
Visitant, the bright word that evermore
Troubles her dark repose.
Her heart lies bare—
Drunken, drunken, she lifts a dreamy breast;
Hour by hour, in rapture and unrest
Flows the unending prayer.
The path of night
Reaches, from rim to rim, a radiant road
Whereon the exalted Beauty walks abroad
In wonder and wild light.
Upon what eyes,
Lifted in homesickness, now falls again
The loveliness that haunts the world with pain—
Light out of Paradise!

34

LONG AGO

AH, once your quiet eyes were calm and deep
And wistful with much dreaming; long ago
Your solemn lips, so innocent of woe
And delicately parted, seemed to keep
A secret still unsaid, and murmured low:
But that was long ago.
And I, who saw and loved you from afar,
Prayed a hushed prayer, the first I ever prayed,
That God might keep you safe; and unafraid
I looked up through the night at my one star,
Moving mysteriously and bright-arrayed.
And silently I prayed.
While you passed singing tenderly and low,
Wandering through life’s meadows with slow tread,
Death laid his kiss on your belovèd head:
But that was long ago.

35

TCHAIKOVSKY: FIFTH SYMPHONY

MY heart cried out in wonder: Can it be,
The form, from which this thrilling passion flows
On tides of beauty and eternal tone
Audibly now before the very sense
Of thronging thousands, somewhere in the clay
Of Russia lies, with folded hands—relapsed
Into the Formless?
And my mind replied:
The longing that so labors for release
Not wholly in that transient form was trapped
Wherein we perish miserably here—
But has escaped into the form supreme,
A deathless body; and now walks abroad
Among the generations of mankind,
Trailing the robes of the immortal woe.
And still that music poured. O sacred heart
And secret, well-head of those streams of song—
Are you content! How is it with you now,
O breast whose sorrows overflowed the world!

36

MIRROR

ON the wide sea of sleep
I launch my gliding boat:
Over the rhythmic Deep
On flowing tides I float.
The curving shore around
Fades in the pale starlight—
A slumbering, sleepy sound
Goes drifting through the night.
It is the music of dreams
Along the horizon blown,
It stirs the glimmering streams
Where the pale stars lie strown.
The stars shine in the Deep,
Reflected from afar;
My eyes tremble with sleep,
Reflecting sea and star.
My eyes look up at me
Out of the mirrored eyes,

37

And in their depths I see
Mirrored the stars and skies.
Around—around—around
My boat whirls with the stream;
I feel a dizzy sound
Around me, like a dream.
Where may I moor my bark?
How may I lift my head?
What is that silence? Hark—
The sound of dreams is fled!
The breath of slumber lies,
Like perfume, on the Deep:
Night with a thousand eyes
Stares at herself in sleep.

38

PLAINT

BRIEF is Man’s travail here, and transitory
His wrath that soon is spent—
Brief his lament,
Lifted in vain against the harsh decrees
Of the high Destinies
That move not for the murmur of his woe:
Even as snow
On sunny meadows, as a lover’s story
Told in an April twilight long ago,
Brief is he even as these—
His little hour of tumult or of glory—
And to what end devised we may not guess,
Considering, as we go
Toward the same shadows, bearing the same spark,
His vanity and utter nothingness.
Yet in the mighty Dark
Dear is the spirit; grievously we know
Earth has one burden more, one soul the less.

39

ANDANTE

THE evening steals like an ocean around your playing,
Whose perfect tones move on the sombre Deep
With a grave gesture, and sigh into a sleep,
George, where your hands, along the piano straying,
An intricate rhythm keep.
And all the room is starry with your dreaming,
And limitless and vague. O the white square
Of the window-pane shimmers behind you there,
Framing the street, where the first lights are gleaming,
Transfigured now and fair!
Now, while the heaven of night grows vast above her,
The soul from her lone dream has sure release;
The tumult and the ancient struggles cease—
The wars that Beauty wages on her lover
Dwindle into a peace,
When Schumann speaks so firmly and so sadly,
And all the twilight rustles, wave on wave.
O, at that smile his wondering spirit gave,

40

What new smile in all things shines back so gladly,
Grown dignified and grave!
The curtains by the window rise and flutter,
The ornaments on the mantel, row on row,
Seem touched with a melancholy of long ago—
What is it the music dreams, but cannot utter?
Schumann—we know, we know.
Ah George, what shall be said to you who feel it—
All the half-hope and passion unexpressed
When twilight heaves more gently in the breast!
Ah George, but you, when words would fain reveal it,
Smile—and divine the rest.
O wrap me in Beethoven’s storm and thunder!
My baffled spirit, with abated breath,
Flutters upon the verge of life and death—
And all my being, whirled along in wonder,
Dies between breath and breath.
Let me endure, within a single pulsing
Of the quick heart, in a storm of showering rain
Of sound, all joy, all grief—each breath again

41

Live through a life complete, in one convulsing
Moment of rapturous pain!
Silence—the lamplight, through the window streaming,
Falls on the listless keyboard, smooth and white—
Remembered music dreams in the dull light;
And you, too, George, sit silently and dreaming,
Alone, into the night.

42

THE DEAR MYSTERY

JOY, and the triumph and the doom of gladness
Make in my breast a music sweet as sadness;
Shall I not sing for sorrow, and again
Cry out, for the sheer joyousness of pain!
For all life’s moods go murmuring like strings
In a low chord, and all things sound all things,
Through alternations of the grave and glad:
Yet, in the end, all things are grave and sad.
I feel all things, but cannot comprehend;
And run, laughing and weeping, to the end
Of the dear mystery, the fated race—
And the deep darkness covers up my face.

43

IN THE DARK CITY

THERE is a harper plays
Through the long watches of the lonely night
When, like a cemetery,
Sleeps the dark city, with her millions, laid each in his tomb.
I feel it in my dream, but when I wake—
Suddenly, like some secret thing not to be overheard,
It ceases—
And the gray night grows dumb
Only in memory
Linger those veiled adagios, fading, fading …
Till, with the morning, they are lost.
What door was opened then?
What worlds, undreamed of, lie around us in our sleep,
That yet we may not know?
Where is it one sat playing
Over and over, with such high and dreadful peace,
The passion and sorrow of the eternal doom?

II
SPACE AND SOLITUDE


47

IMMENSITY

AT noon I watched
In the large hollow of eternal heaven
A soaring hawk climb slowly toward the sun
Through gyres of adoration without end.
His flight was a great prayer….

48

SEA-HORIZONS

THE sorrowful expanse from heaven to heaven,
From zone to zone, from deep to height above,
The mute arch of the everlasting heaven
Bends over me with Your unwearied love.
Immeasurable, unutterable, and soundless—
Wide as the east from the west Your love is wide;
The unfathomable distances are boundless
Infinite tenderness on every side.
Against the dark strength of Your huge endurance
My little being beats her baffled wings,
Lifts her shrill voice, and wounds the calm assurance
And tenderness of Your large evenings.
In the vast robes of Your serene compassion
She hides her soiled and burning face of shame—
Your solemn and inexorable passion
Lifts her blurred eyes to meet Your glance of flame.
As bread that for my daily fare is broken,
The eternal loveliness before me spread—

49

Unutterable gesture—word unspoken,
In the proud silences forever said!
The sun puts forth his strength, the reaches shimmer
With inarticulate rapture, and the proud
Waters are thrilled; the fields of ocean glimmer
With shifting light and overshadowing cloud.
Noon upon noon in heaven takes up his station,
Day follows night, and night succeeds to day:
Your infinite and lonely meditation
Sinks with the sunset down the starry way.
Veiled is the Vast: the heaven of evening burning.
Reveals on the large waters of the sea
Hopelessness—hopelessness—the patient yearning
And dumb caress of the Immensity.
What message have You left for me, what token
Of Your lone love, whose laboring Will has wrought
The firmament over my head, and spoken
Unto my nothingness Your starry Thought!
Sorrowful is the mighty Heart that reaches
Around this brief and scornful heart of mine—

50

The dim curve of the melancholy beaches,
And vacancies along the lone sea-line.
In the huge longing of the far sea-spaces,
The tremulous rim about the waters curled,
Waits the eternal Gentleness, and traces
His sad horizons ’round the fading world.
Cloud beyond cloud, the arch of heaven goes over—
Steep beyond steep, the patient skies descend:
The illimitable wastes and waves discover
Loneliness—loneliness—without an end.
Inexorable Compassion, may I never
Reach the last verge and limits of Your love!
Beyond me, still beyond me melt forever
The eternal margins, fading as I move.

51

OF DAY CAME NIGHT

WE lay by the sea, and knew
Darkness must make us one:
Heaven was thrilled clean through
By the trumpets of the sun,
The sea burned gold and blue.
The sand in the pale heat
Was parched as desert sand—
Your wrist where the veins meet,
The cool veins of your hand,
Made thirst seem bitter-sweet.
Never a word was said
Of what must be so soon;
In longing and in dread
The golden afternoon
Burned down, till dusk was shed.
It was not hope, nor fear,
Yet something of them both,
That held us trembling here,

52

Half eager and half loath
For darkness, dread but dear.
Few were the words were spoken,
But in each other’s eyes
We read the certain token
That sealed our destinies—
Our wings of pride were broken.
So, while the waters paled
Around us, and the west
Fainted, our hearts that failed,
In silence were confessed.
Silence at last prevailed.
And now up her clear stair
The evening-star began
To climb, where heaven was bare
A homing fish-hawk ran
Down avenues of air.
Night swallowed up the sun,
And darkness, like a hood,
Sank—and the sea breathed on;
In silence and solitude
The eternal will was done.

53

PILGRIM

THE cold wind cries across the rolling dunes,
The gray sails fleck the margins of the world:
I watch the rolling dunes along the barren sky,
And wan, white waters by the swift wind hurled.
O where are Queen Faustina, and Babylon, and Tyre,
And pale Troy, lost in a silver mist of tears—
And I, O earth, your child, more old than all these others,
What have you done to me these many thousand years!

54

BY THE GRAY SEA

WHERE the gray sea lay sad and vast
You turned your head away,
And we sat silently at last—
There was no word to say:
By the thunder,
By the iron thunder of the sea.
We could not speak, for the lost hope
Of the glad days before;
We sat beside the long sea-slope,
Watching the endless shore—
By the thunder,
By the iron thunder of the sea.
So that, as in the old despair,
I reached you pleading hands;
But you sat pale and helpless there,
Beside the barren sands:
By the thunder,
By the iron thunder of the sea!

55

THE FISH-HAWK

ON the large highway of the awful air that flows
Unbounded between sea and heaven, while twilight screened
The sorrowful distances, he moved and had repose;
On the huge wind of the Immensity he leaned
His steady body in long lapse of flight—and rose
Gradual, through broad gyres of ever-climbing rest,
Up the clear stair of the eternal sky, and stood
Throned on the summit! Slowly, with his widening breast,
Widened around him the enormous Solitude,
From the gray rim of ocean to the glowing west.
Headlands and capes forlorn of the far coast, the land
Rolling her barrens toward the south, he, from his throne
Upon the gigantic wind, beheld: he hung—he fanned
The abyss for mighty joy, to feel beneath him strown
Pale pastures of the sea, with heaven on either hand—
The world with all her winds and waters, earth and air,
Fields, folds, and moving clouds. The awful and adored

56

Arches and endless aisles of vacancy, the fair
Void of sheer heights and hollows hailed him as her lord
And lover in the highest, to whom all heaven lay bare!
Till from that tower of ecstasy, that baffled height,
Stooping, he sank; and slowly on the world’s wide way
Walked, with great wing on wing, the merciless, proud Might,
Hunting the huddled and lone reaches for his prey
Down the dim shore—and faded in the crumbling light.
Slowly the dusk covered the land. Like a great hymn
The sound of moving winds and waters was; the sea
Whispered a benediction, and the west grew dim
Where evening lifted her clear candles quietly …
Heaven, crowded with stars, trembled from rim to rim.

57

DISDAINFUL BEAUTY

ON the wide waste the web of twilight, trembling
Hangs low with stars and night;
The dying day in the worn west, dissembling,
Crowns his defeat with light.
Here by the grave, gray sea my soul sinks crying,
By beauty stabbed to death—
“O, in the dusk of the world, let me, too, dying,
Mix with all these my breath!”
There is no answer. In the cold heavens shining,
Star trembles unto star:
The virgin moon in the clear west declining
Hangs, like a scimitar.

58

MY LONELY ONE

EVEN as a hawk’s in the large heaven’s hollow
Are the great ways and gracious of your love:
No lesser flight or wearier wing may follow
In those broad gyres where you rest and move.
Most merciless, most high, most proud, most lonely—
In the clear space between the sky and sea
Wheel her huge orbits, where the sea-winds only
Wander the sun-roads of Immensity.
Yet have I known your heart and of what fashion
Your love, how great, how hardly to be borne—
Your tenderness, too perfect for compassion,
Your divine strength, too pure and proud for scorn.
You are most beautiful, but it is given
But few to find you, fewer still to keep
Your high path through the solitude of heaven,
My lonely one, your watch upon the Deep.
Now toward the gold glow of the sunset’s splendor
Veer your great vans. What haven in the west

59

Now draws you—while the mellowing light makes tender
Your dripping plumes—what islands of the blest?
Lift me, O lift me up to you forever,
Beautiful Terror! Let your sacred might
Stoop to me here, and save—O let me never
Sink from you now, to share a lesser flight!
Even as I pray, my wings of longing fail me,
And my heart flags. In solitude you move
Down the night’s shore: not praying shall avail me,
To lift me, fallen from your faultless love.

III
THE LOST TRAVELLER’S DREAM


63

WILD THOUGHT

SURF of song upon my heart
Breaks forever, where thou art;
The dark ocean in my breast,
Of wild love, may never rest:
Still one thought upon her shore
Breaks in dream forevermore!

64

JOURNEY’S END

FORGIVE me, dear, if I have lost my way,
In coming home to you
Through storm and shadow of the gathering night;
If I did stray,
Still I was seeking, and I never knew
How near me burned the dear and friendly light.
Now at your door, ere the great Dark begin,
Alone I stand, and knock:
Say not it is too late that I have come—
O take me in,
For I am yours! Darling, unlock, unlock—
All Time to this was but a journey home!

65

BELATED LOVE

COME home to me, are you come home to me,
O heart of mine—but in what dolorous guise!
And the great hour, O ’twas otherwise
Love had imagined it in days to be!
These pleading hands—these lips—How dreadfully,
At what strange lips and in what alien eyes
Have you sought mine? Beneath what darkening skies
Come home to me at last, come home to me?
I would not know the reason: here upon
This breast of sorrows loose your aching breast;
Tell me again and yet again, and say
Still the eternal word, still babble on
Your voiceless tale of some unhappy quest—
How in the night and storm you lost your way.

66

A LEAVE-TAKING

WELL I remember it, that night in May,
That last, sweet night in the Old World long ago,
The last ere my departure—the dark room
That brooded ’round us, and the drowsy breath,
Out of the courtyard, of the linden-trees,
Pungent and sad. Only your hand I felt,
Reached to me in the darkness; and the beat
All through its fingers of the unconscious blood,
Your life at battle, in the silence told
Immortally to mine its plaintive tale
And doom eternal—only your hand I felt,
Reached to me in the darkness—yet it seemed
In your hand’s touch I touched your very self,
Your very presence, changeable, careless, wild—
But O how poignant—sharp with all delight,
And gracious with dear bounties to bestow,
How greatly granted! Drowsily then at last,
In the old way, you begged me for some legend
Out of my boyhood’s record, some romance
From the far world that bore me; and my voice,
In the sweet, alien tongue, your mother-tongue,

67

Moved through the darkness with a peace unfeigned—
For a grave peace was on us, and the fear
That thrilled the midnight, fell away. The street
Slumbered, save where, departing, like a ghost’s,
Faint footfalls down the farthest distance sighed;
And dwindled out forever…. So you slept.
Well I remember it, that night in May—
The sleep, the hushed awakenings, full of dread,
From haunted meres of horror and disdain,
From dreams of terror—and the mad return
Into the bounteous pity of two arms,
The comfort and the kindness. O the return
Forever and forever, wild and sad,
Seraphic with all weariness and pain,
Insatiate with all love—as if to slake
In one abandon all the desperate drought
Of the years to come! Upon my own I felt
The wet, salt quivering of your lips, and all
Your being fold me in, urgent to save,
Urgent to hide the approaching loneliness,
Our bitter portion; prismed in tears, the dusk
Swam ’round with dizzy color: the nightingales,
Beauty’s disdain above the war of things,
Beauty’s high pity from her virgin heights,

68

Our meeting hearts pierced with a single pang—
Like a bright sword of sorrow through the breast
Driven, and like a bruising sword withdrawn.
The sun arose—
Fled were the nightingales, the love, the joy—
And with him rose at last the relentless fear,
Like a harsh face never to be pushed back,
Between your face and mine; till all the terror,
The loneliness, the irrevocable fate,
In the dim twilight hugged me, and a cry,
Up from my self to your self, would have rent
My hesitant lips, in the great need, to you
Turned for the last compassion…. But you slept.
At peace you lay. Over you in the dawn
I leaned, and knew you truly what you were.
Then a great love
Triumphing over sorrow, like the light
Clearing the west when sunset’s wrath has waned
Before the risen stars—a mystery—welled
Up through me radiant, helpless where you lay
In the calm pose of sleep: and above Time,
Our little passion, and the circumstance
Of temporal tumult, self to self we met;

69

And sundered reverent…. Faintest breath of flowers
Stirred in the twilight fragrantly, and there
The pathos of our days together filled me
With a new wonder—flooding on me came
A host of memories, as to one long dead,
Lifted beyond his living; till all seemed
Marvellous and immortal and benign.
And now
The hour was come. Beside your quiet breast
I begged forgiveness for my many sins
Done to you, though unwitting—all the hurt—
In a swift prayer, and even for this last—
To wake you to your sorrow. And your lips
Forgave me—yes, in the silence. So I touched
Your lids with kisses. And you woke, and wept.
But brave to the end with a heart-breaking bravery—
Gallant and gracious, dear with sacred eyes,
You let me go. With a half-kiss we parted.

II

Along the city-ways
Already day’s vehement tumult had begun:
Through street and justled alley, court and square,
The tireless and eternal Heart poured forth

70

Its myriad human faces, grave or glad,
On the old course of toil (a choral hymn
From the lips of Life) each face a testimony
Of some prefiguring love. O the delight,
The incredible bounty and sustaining will
Of passionate longing, peopling all the earth—
And the joy of man and woman! The laughing boys!
The milkman clanking along in his cart, and there
Two bonneted old women, and there a thief,
Perhaps, with a night’s booty sneaking home!
Yet solemn all and sacred, with new eyes
I saw them then, and in each face I seemed
With a new soul to read the soul beneath;
Through love and pain and sorrow having passed
Into the breast of all humanity—
Through love and sorrow. Yes, and for your sake,
Being human, all things human touched to love
This heart of mine, made holy; and the thought
Of the million other hearts beyond the dawn—
The gladness, and the sadness, and the pain—
Came back upon me like a lifting music,
Beautiful, and most sorrowful, and divine.
Till a vast compassion
Up through the springs of all my being welled

71

Intolerably! Ah, even as to myself,
Unfaithful, the exuberant Bounty stooped
With arms of pity; so I longed to do—
To lose myself at last in the Great Self
That beams upon the just and the unjust,
Carelessly shedding radiant light around:
Compassing finite hate with infinite love,
With beauty, ugliness, and death with life!
So through that street of pouring souls I passed,
Torn between grief and ecstasy. But none
Guessed the immortal secret that I bore
Close at the fluttering heart—the fear—the joy—
The very beat and memory in my blood,
The exquisite sense and lingering pain of you.

72

BUT LOVE—

FLOWING in the sunlight here,
The river shines like a glass,
Even as it did last year;
On the hillside the grass
Bows, as the breezes pass—
But my love is gone, my love is gone.
Where is she—where, and how?
Has she forgotten me yet?
Ah, she has forgotten me now!
She is too lovely for regret:
Would that I ever could forget,
My love is gone, my love is gone!
It is so still—so still …
The sound of a rumbling train
Rushes into the hill.
Autumn comes again
With the old wonder and pain—
But love comes never again

73

ANNE

BELOVÈD—O adorable and false—
Whom have you taken now in the dear toils?
By what pale margins do your footsteps stray,
Or what enchanted wood? What valleys hold
The lily of your loveliness? What hills
Have known your weight upon them, what far shores?
Twilight comes tenderly, while evening lifts
Along the pallid rim her lonely star—
O happy heart on which your heart is laid!

74

THE SILENCE

IN the evening, in the quiet Park, we walked together
After so many and after so many years—
We walked again in the evening, in the warm May weather,
After the partings and tears.
And under the splendor, under the starry skies,
We walked, without sound or sigh, in a calm unbroken;
As the dead walk together in a long-lost Paradise—
Silent, with no word spoken.

75

EXULTATION

BEFORE the dawn the very thought of you,
That wakes me, as the morning wakes the night,
Floods all my heart with most exultant joy.
The thought of you that rises with the stars,
When evening wheels all glittering through the dark,
Floods all my heart with most exultant joy.
O life and joy and breath and death of me,
With every breath I draw you in like air!
O I shall die of you, of you, of you!
Though now you banish me forevermore,
Never to look upon your face again—
Think you that I shall sorrow for my love?
Though I shall lie upon my bed of death
And know you have forgotten me forever—
Think you that I shall sorrow for my love?
O life and joy and breath and death of me,
I shall cry out exultant—and lie dead!
O I shall die of you, of you, of you!

76

O love, I love you better than you know!
I love you as the water loves the sea.
I love you as the twilight loves the dark.
The trumpets of the morning, to my heart
From shining towers blow the thought of you;
The waves of evening flood my heart with you.
O life and joy and breath and death of me,
With every breath I draw you in like air!
O I shall die of you, of you, of you!

77

SONG OF SONGS

MY heart is like a shady grove
That harbors, for a June,
My thoughts, like song-birds mad with love
Under the moon.
On all the windy boughs they sit
And in the blowing grass—
But one bird silently enters it,
And sings, alas!
Then all the rest grow sad and still
That made a happy noise:
There is no sound on all the hill
But that one voice,
Faint with the memories in his breast—
It is the thought of you
And when it ceases, all the rest
Are silent, too.

78

SORROWFUL FREEDOM

LONG days I begged of my heart to be
Released from a love that haunted me—
The memory of a last embrace,
A tyrannous and a lovely face.
“Free me,” I said, “from an old love,
The memory and the might thereof—
Free to follow and take my fill
Of beauty and laughter where I will.”
Never a word my heart replied:
But on a day the old love died;
Vanished, never to come again,
All the passion and all the pain.
Come—we are free to take our fill
Of beauty and laughter where we will—
O heart, are we free forevermore
From the old sorrow we loved before!

79

STARLESS MORNING

TOWARD starless morning, when deep night had bowed
On slumber’s pillow my unhappy head,
Through the dim room it drifted like a cloud—
And swayed in silence by my lonely bed.
What had they done to you, that dumbly so
You covered with your hands your quiet face—
Dear, out of kindness, that I might not know
What horror there had wrought its dark disgrace!
It was those hands, too passionately, too well
Loved, that betrayed you—O most piteous guest!
And to my heart, in the intolerable
Rage of despair, that shadow I had pressed,
Mingling in a shrill cry our grief supreme—
My sweet—my pretty! But, as I had drawn
That anguish to my arms, they clasped a dream;
And heaven glimmered with the approaching dawn.

80

PHANTOM

ALONG the edge of the great, moving sea—
That moaned forever on her barren bars,
The old, sad love came back again to me,
Moving quietly under the quiet stars.
O sad love, do not smile upon me so,
Nodding so gently with your little head—
All the old wonder of your eyes is dead,
And the sea-winds have chilled you long ago!

81

LEGEND

WHERE are you hid from me, belovèd one
That I am seeking through the lonely world—
A wanderer, on my way home to you?
Dark is the night and perilous the road:
At many a breast in longing have I leaned,
At many a wayside worshipped; and my heart
Is tired from long travelling.
Perhaps
In centuries to come you wait for me,
And are as yet an iris by the stream
Lifting her single blossom, or the faint
Tremulous haze upon the hills—and we
Have missed each other.
O if it be so,
Then may this song reach to the verge of doom—
Ages unborn—to find you where you are,
My lonely one; and like a murmuring string,
Faint with one music, endlessly repeat

82

To you, not even knowing I was yours,
Her plaintive burden from the dolorous past:
Telling of one upon a hopeless quest—
How in the dark of Time he lost his way!

85

IV
THE DIVINE FANTASY

BROTHER, from what dim world of lonely light,
Trembling on heaven’s pinnacles to-night,
Is lifted your sad face of love while you
Stare upward toward me, staring upward, too,
At that faint flame which is your home, between
The leafy branches of these poplars seen—
So hushed, so far! Perhaps to-night you scan
Your starry heaven for the star of Man,
High in the trellis of eternity
And glittering arches hung; perhaps like me
You, too, look up and wonder. Is it fair,
That world of yours? Are there great cities there,
Populous millions, hearts that beat as these,
Clear meadows and far mountains, shoreless seas,
Shadows of moving armies, thrones that shake?
Does the heart thrill for love there, does it break—
Tell me, are there hushed gardens, quiet tombs?
And mighty poets weaving at their looms
The old, dim wisdoms that outweary Time;
And saints, and lifted saviours, and sublime
Faiths and high fortitudes beyond belief?
—All blotted out by one small poplar leaf
In the light wind of languid summer stirred!

86

Brother, what news out of the night, what word
From the frontiers of mind beyond our ken,
Of mysteries unimagined yet of men,
Compassed by travail of your spirit? O
Could you but reach to us! Could we but know
Across the imperturbable old Dark
Some answering glimmer of the ancient Spark
Lifted—some token, tangible to sense,
Of the indomitable Intelligence
That thrones on matter—language visible—
Crying, “Eternity—and all is well!
Brother, be of good cheer; we, too, have known!
Not lonely moves, not utterly alone,
Your sad fraternity through the dark of God:
But the confederate legions are abroad,
Life’s flag advances on the starry way,
And Consciousness, still battling, still at bay,
Holds the bright forts against Oblivion—”
What answering thrill would ’round the planet run!
For we are one; all Consciousness is one,
Whatever form it wear, however dressed
In gray or glamour, in whatever breast
It lift its longing: glimmering it moves
Through the green wave; it stamps with startled hooves

87

The upland pastures of the world, and soars
In heaven with the eagle; on bright shores
It basks a sunny body, or in dread
Lifts from the undergrowth a snaky head
And darts a flickering tongue; it is most clear
In the lark’s throat; among the grasses here,
That couch the ant, it turns a tiny eye
Around the darkness; scampers and is shy
In the scared rabbit; through the murmuring air
Wheels with the beetle, and, where heaven is bare,
Southward with the wild crane at summer’s close,
Hungering, an eternal pilgrim goes
On quests implacable. And from the eyes
Of the poised panther gleam the cruelties
Of its stern need that roams the world, and rends
With tooth or talon; in the hawk descends
On the stunned squirrel; in the squirrel moans
As the hawk strikes; darkens the earth with bones
Of its own wreck and, hungering again,
Knows in its body the old spur. For when
Hunger, the shadow cast by death, draws near,
Life on her thousand thrones feels the one fear,
And in the lion’s roar at dusk is heard
The unassuagable, insistent word
Of urgent Being, clamorous to be.

88

Wreaking and wrought upon, eternally
Mingling and mixed; inextricably blent,
Victor and vanquished, in one sacrament—
Body with body—of delight and death,
It moves in splendor; lifts the shuddering breath
Of the spent stag; and in the mind of Man
Rebels against the miserable plan—
Flings its frail web of thought across the path
Of suns in heaven, and in holy wrath,
On blood of murdered brothers nourished, still
Thunders to all the world, Thou shall not kill!
And the worm’s death is in the sparrow’s song.
And I have seen it in the gnats that throng
Old shadowy forests, in tumultuous dance;
Or in the little measuring-worm advance,
Inch by slow inch, along the swaying stem
Of some exalted flower; or lift the hem
Of the frail butterfly’s embroidered cloak
In gentle breathings that the sun did stroke
Caressingly with fingers of his heat;
Or from the dog yearn upward, and entreat
With eyes of adoration or of fear
The great god, Man—“What message, master dear,
From the dim heights beyond me where you are?”

89

In the mare’s tremulous whinny, in the far
Lowing of cattle from the upland sward,
Or wail of whip-poor-wills, at twilight poured
On pools of silence plaintively, or cry
Of the lone wolf beneath the glittering sky
Of soundless winter, I have heard the same
Splendor speak forth, and utter the one name
Of Life, the dreadful, the magnificent.
All afternoon the passion of heaven spent
On earth its fiery fury in blind, bright
Lightnings of dread and laughters of delight
Down shuddering deeps of shaken thunder, where
The delirious longing loosed its sorrowing hair
Of wind and shower and overshadowing cloud
Across the belovèd face, in darkness bowed
Or glimmering light revealed; and cried aloud
For anger of utter ecstasy; and shed
The wild love of the rushing rain that sped
To the thrilled heart, consenting, of the dim
And rapturous earth, that lifted up to him
Drowsed lips of thirsty flowers; and the cup
Of every flower for joy was lifted up,
And drank, and swayed! So, wearied out at length,
Flagged the bright pulses, and the ebbing strength,

90

With muttering of remembered thunders, passed
Down the large shores of evening: till at last
The exhausted heaven of twilight from afar
Shone washed of all her sorrows; and a star
Brooded above the fading storm, and saw
The winnowed reaches deepening into awe
Of gradual darkness, and the fields that lay
All drenched and wearied out at dusk of day
And the worn end of things; while far away
The receding fury moaned.
And now they lie
In the same peace around me, and the sky
Holds up her stars; now in the rain-drenched wood
The tree-toad drinks the rain and finds it good,
And trills for joy—the sliding waters grieve
Quietly—now the bat begins to weave
With intricate motion on the cloudy loom,
Of glamourous starlight mingled and gray gloom,
His dipping flight among the darkened boughs
And dreamy vistas; and the little mouse
Furtively hurries through the lane, his eye
Turned up in terror as the owl goes by:
On softest feathers of silence overhead
Flits the dim shadow of the ancient dread,

91

Hooded and vague, the cruelty of his beak
Bent on old lustful mysteries.—A squeak—
A scuffle—beating of wings—and in the lane
Silence—and the old wrong is done again,
That was ere Adam; the triumphant heart
And the defeated, each one doomed to his part,
They play it through, the old tragedy where one
Presence still wars and still is warred upon,
Slays and is slain: while fiercely all around
Shakes the eternal love-song in shrill sound,
Of grasshopper and cricket—sleepless flow
The immortal tides of longing to and fro
On waves of music; endless is the prayer
Of life to the belovèd, everywhere
Lifted in adoration: on dark shores
Beats the insistent passion that implores
The one dear breast of pity or disdain,
To be reborn, to be reborn again—
Nor perish wholly! The blind earth is thrilled
As with vague rites accomplished, dreams fulfilled,
Marriage and mystic union; all along
Her brimming meadows rings the bridal song
And chaunt ecstatic: that great heart of hers
Is touched now the eternal longing stirs
From hill to hollow and hollow to clear hill

92

In many voices mingled, or the still
Ecstasy of the firefly that trails
Among the shadows where the starlight fails,
His body’s burning love. Forever flows
The dreadful drama to its stately close
And endless ending—the fierce carnival
Of death and passion, wherein each and all
Mix, and are mingled, slaughter, blend, and pass
Each into other—the high poem that has
No end and no beginning, that the one
Self in all living forms beneath the sun,
And on all worlds around him and above,
Weaves on the strands of hunger, death, and love.
I see it all, I hear it all, and lie
Under my swaying poplars, and the sky
Is fretted with frail leaves. The mortal dream
Is in my heart: I hear the night-hawk’s scream
Shatter the silver silences, I hear
The owl’s clear tremolo rise over-clear—
The mouse’s blood along his veins has made
His love-note lovelier and the night afraid
Of beauty’s dreadful secret—and I know
Soft shapes of stealth that in the darkness go,
Of furry lusts and gnawing hungers, small

93

Twittering things obscene, that flit or crawl
In furtive secrecy, vague mouths and blurred
Of the night creature or nocturnal bird—
Amorphous moth and bat-wing—and the earth,
With all her burrows, nooks and nests of birth
Crowded, and wreck of many a perished might,
By the ebbed waters of Life’s fierce delight
Washed up on shores of silence—spoiled and spurned
Altars where once the sacred fire burned—
Forms flowing back into the Formlessness;
In a supreme embrace, a long caress,
Mixing their bodies with the mother mould—
And all the heaven of stars around me rolled,
Whose brooding eyes have stared so many an age
Upon this theatre of lust and rage,
Of death and adoration. And a breeze
Rustles the branches of the poplar-trees.
Dear Spark, that shinest in the solitude!
One Consciousness, that in the brotherhood
Of all earth’s living creatures movest on
The shaken ramparts of Oblivion—
Whose starry cry, across the darkness hurled,
Makes music in the silence of the world!
Life, whose sole splendor in red slaughter spills

94

The blood of its own breast; in many wills
Wars on the one Will; and in wrath or dread
Feeds on itself and, on itself being fed,
Shines forth in song and color; gilds the dress
Of the green-fly; and pours its loveliness
In rapture on the earth; in theatres
Of crowded congregation sits—nor stirs—
Watching itself, itself the spectacle;
And builds the swallow’s breast, and shapes the shell
And all these mansions of its thought that are
Between the morning and the evening-star,
On earth, in heaven, or in the glimmering caves
And grottoes of the world below the waves—
Butchers the ox, and, gladdened by his meat,
In the young mother’s downward smile is sweet;
Or, sated on his body, walks abroad
In symphonies, and poems, and prayers to God;
Sins, and has conscience and, repenting, sins;
And in the lowly patient spider spins
Its fragile web; and in these words of mine
Flings out its groping utterance, line by line,
Across the intangible abyss of thought—
With infinite passion, infinite patience wrought—
Dread Loveliness! Be strong in me, be strong,
To utter forth your meaning in my song!

97

THE LION-HOUSE

ALWAYS the heavy air,
The dreadful cage, the low
Murmur of voices, where
Some Force goes to and fro
In an immense despair!
As through a haunted brain—
With tireless footfalls
The Obsession moves again,
Trying the floor, the walls,
Forever, but in vain.
In vain, proud Force! A might,
Shrewder than yours, did spin
Around your rage that bright
Prison of steel, wherein
You pace for my delight.
And O, my heart, what Doom,
What warier Will has wrought
The cage, within whose room
Paces your burning thought,
For the delight of Whom?