THE LATHE OF MORPHEUS
THE DREAM SONG
LATHE OF MORPHEUS
THE DREAM SONG
H. G. Commin,
Though oft-times ill-sifting memory with deft digits thickly draws
Ashen grey curtains thwart my vagrant brain;
She ne’er from me can hide thy face and form,
Nor cloaked Oblivion, from streams of Lethe borne.
Ensnare in sable trammel, behind her basalt doors
Thy eyes, thy lips, thy smile,—that ere again
My gaping senses steep
And lull to fragrant sleep.
Fiercer in Morning Sun than in turgid hues of Night
Calcined and adust, parching my thirsting sight
Thy welcome form appears,
Grief-giving while it cheers.
Bridget! Unreal! Dead phantom of a form
Yet living, breathing—sneering, wreathed in olive scorn
Haunt not my seered soul pierced by thy secret sting;
Death to a pulsing throb, Life to a pulseless thing!
Now through the Gardens of Sleep, I see thy lovely mystic face
Pale ’gainst the scandent tendrils and resin-bleeding cones
Paler than ivory white, colder than bleachened bones,
Pallid and alburnous, fired for a lingering space
By eyes that never human in earthy regions saw.
Let me yet behold thee, far fairer than ere of yore!
For ’neath that polished painted mask of seeming deadened Love
I know some poignant passion must course in sinuous stream
Plashing with crystal foam in lustrous realms above,
From a sea, where the gods’ romances are woven in wondrous dream.
Bridget unmask! speak to me, awake, and radiant rise!
Phœnix-inspired flying from former fires into cerulean skies!
Though still wrapped in the scented cerements of the mummy I thought was you
I would gaze on the risen Bridget, as a being both real and true;
Nothing strange or new—just true.
In the place of a ghost of a woman, whose self I never knew
In the place of an empty phantom as cold as the summer dew.
THE GARDEN OF SLEEP.
Lo! there in the Garden I behold my princess
Yea! there in the Garden of Sleep.
There in the Garden I fain would caress
My lovely princess
In the Garden of Sleep.
’Neath the jasamine trees, and the lilac and rose
There stands my princess—so close—yes so close.
Alloyed with the lilies—the orange pink lilies—
Among the roses and lilies
Stands my azure princess
Lo! there in the Garden of Sleep.
Midst the trembling narcissus and cadmium dillies
Midst the daf-o-down-dilies
Glides my faëry princess
In her gold-azure dress.
Veridian the foliage packed heavy in creepers,
Olive the pine tree with sap-oozing cones;
Each rustling leaf bestirring the sleepers,
The brown buzzing bees and the resonant drones.
Dreaming with legs all bespattered with pollen;
—The passionate kiss of a love giving flower—
While velvety moths in flight silent and solemn,
Creep dreamily forth from each scent-giving bower;
And purple clematis with quivering tendrils
Drink in the pure air, and sleep-whisp’ring wind
Sad pale perfumed firs wave feathery branches
In Columbine’s fingers gently clasped and entwined
In Columbine’s pensile and pale greeny tendrils
There in the Garden of Sleep.
Where silver fountains leap
Hid in a deep recess
There roams my dear princess
’Neath the Castle of Dreams.
Sunk there in a carpet of starwort and cress,
Where myrtle and eglantines gracefully sway
Anent the feet of my lovely princess
Lies a large bronzen bowl where the dragonflies play
In the sunbeams that blue amber lotus caress.
Filled to the brim through a lazuli funnel,
Fed from the meads by a soft lisping brook;
Pours itself forth int’ a silvery runnel,
Which laughing, flows on through that cool shaded nook,
Cool as the shadows that lie in the dress
Of my peerless princess;
Blue and crystal the bronzen bowl, reflecting the vault above
Sapphire and crystal the red bronze bowl, reflecting the face of my love
Red and gold the glittering carp that sport in the waters below
Ruby and gold the shimmering carp—the hues of a sunset glow.
White, ivory-white, and golden green are the lights that fall from the lilies
Golden-orange and orange-green, the shades of the daf-o-down-dilies.
But far more fair in that fair recess
Are the ivory hands of my pale princess
—There in the Garden of Sleep—
And her lustrous eyes of ebon black
Curtained with lashes so silken and sleek,
The poise of her head, the line of her back,
Arched, as she culls the blood red rose
What a wonderful, classical, graceful pose
One tapering finger wantonly plays
With a lambent jewel that gently sways
O’er her breast.
In that Garden of Rest,
Where all that is purest, tenderest—best
One with another loving contest
For a smile or a kiss or a passing caress
From my azure princess.
*THE LATHE OF MORPHEUS.
Hid in a tenebrose valley veiled by the mushroom pine,
Aloof in the lathe of Morpheus—I know a sombre tomb
Engraved on its brazen portal is enchiseled this mystic sign:
“Behold thou vagrant pilgrim, dark Morphia’s Hetacomb.”
Seizing the knocker in my outstretched hand
I crashed the head athwart the leaden sign;
An answering echo wandered o’er the Land
Breaking in thunderous knocks, a pale reflex of mine.
Slowly before my wondering eyes the door
Broke in a thousand fragments to the floor;
Disclosing a gaping orifice with rusty mildewed rim
The entrance to a stairway, torturous, long and grim,
Whose polished steps trailed from the sight to denser gloom within.
Then passing ’twixt two monoliths engraved one “Death,” one “Sin.”
I heard in the chasm below me the Marid’s enchanted hymn,
And I felt the chill of their icy breath,
As they dully intoned that Song of Death:—
“Black and green; with sober sheen;
They wander to and fro.
But none of mortal birth may glean
The rhythm; or why ’tis so.”
Aghast by these secret words of power,
From my forehead dripped an acrid shower
Of clotted sweat, and my trembling knees
Quaked together, like nude limbs of trees
Bark and knock on a wintry night,
For the pith of my soul was bathed in fright.
So catching my breath for a mighty shout,
I felt my life with my breath go out.
Yet only a whisper hissed forth from my lips,
Breaking between my chattering teeth in strangled shivering lisps
As I wailed to the dimness within;
“O! ye who haunt these fœtid bowers, cold Winter has gone and Spring
Hath come with her flowers.”
But all that I heard in answer, up the ebon polished stair
Was the Deathless chant of the Marids; the Jinn with the shimmering hair;
That woeful hymn of the Marids—that canticle of despair.
“Scarlet and blue in radiant hue
They wander through Space and Time.
But none of mortal birth, save Thou
May know the rhythm or rhyme.
Great is Suleyman Daood’s son!
Great is Allah! the Only One!
When Life is lost, then Death is won.
But by virtue of the sacred fire
Here be the few who may ne’er expire.” …
Faint and weary with soul oppressed,
I was fearful to list for the fateful rest
Of the Song of Death—the dirge they sang—
That ne’er had been learned by mortal man.
So grasping the banister lest I fell,
Madly I shouted: “Hail, Jans of Hell!
Servants of Iblees! Peace where ye dwell!
Ye chanters of songs that none may tell,
Ye who shun the light of God’s good day,
Answer me! set me on my way
Down these labyrinth corridors of this Tomb of fire;
Built by Magins round smoking Pyre
Where Vathek offered through lust of Power
All the youth of his City,
Without sorrow or pity,
To the gluted ghool who on evil hour
Came to his Palace with Satan’s dower.”
And still no answer—but louder grew
That fearful hymn that no mortal knew.
And through the transcendent stillness of the air
I saw their beryl eyes and gleaming hair;
Each holding aloft one leprous quivering hand
The other chained o’er the heart by a molten burning band.
And up from the darkness, deep down beneath,
There came the murmur of voices and the moving of teeth.
Then as if at a sign, or previously bidden,
The two pillars close and the entrance is hidden,
And from corner to corner the vaulting is riven.
The banisters vanish to float thinly away,
The black sheeny steps coil, totter and sway,
All is Darkness around, above and below,
And blood-chilling fingers brush my forehead, like snow;
A hurricane rose, and a wild whistling wind
Swept up from beneath, and in it entwined
Were the shadowy Marids with luminous eyes,
And a stench like to woodlands where the undergrowth dies
Assailed the dank ether; whilst thousands of flies,
The minions of Iblees sped whirling around;
And flesh semi-fermented smoked on the ground.
Then in the midst of this utter distress
I breathed forth the NAME of my azure Princess.
To me awaking from this evil dream,
Rose tinted morn appeared in fulgent light,
While great Apollo with his spears did seem
To be dispelling all the hosts of night,
Proud Helios in chariot thwart the sky,
Coursing through fleecy clouds kept on his way,
And in the dimmer distance, I descry
—Where Night her maukish raiment casts away—
A crowd of fleeing objects, gleaming hair
Flying behind them in the morning air.
But brimming joys my sorrowing senses greet,
For ’midst the blossoms, sun-kissed at my feet,
There where the leaping springs the thirsty banks caress
Appeared the vision of my pale Princess.
*Lathe (lath)—Anglo-Saxon laeth: a division of a county. Here the Division belonging to Morpheus in the County of Sleep, itself a division of the Realm of Unconsciousness.
THE VISION GLORIOUS.
When Luna o’er the vault would fain hold sway
Striving the steeds of Phœbus to assay;
And he, the drifting racks with gilded spear had riven;
With ochreous steeds coursing the plain of Heaven,
Bore high aloft his flambent crimson bowl
Steering on ruddy Hesperus for goal.
And far behind his chariot’s dust did leave
That frail ætherial gleam—the Star of eve.
I, wearied with the day’s fatiguing sorrow
Called to proud Helios “Hasten thou the morrow”!
Then clapped dim eyes upon the scene around
The sullen austere hills, the humid misty ground
Sad that the spectral lances of the moon
Essayed the glowing firmament so soon.
For when tired Earth the arms of Day is leaving
For those of sterner Night, yet fondly cleaving
Still to Sunshine’s fingers, rose tipped as they lie
Aslant the woods, the valleys, ground and sky,
The heart of man,—in that calm solitude—alone
Sighs for his faded hopes now cold as stone
Weeps for his sins, hoping yet to atone
For actions past, unalterable—and done—
Performed, accomplished, finished—everyone—
Then inly prays with eager expectation
To Holy patron Saint,—for his salvation—
With some such thoughts as these, I sadly gazed
Over the moonlit garden’s scented air
And peering through the mist, I stood amazed,
For—lo! my patron Saint was standing there.
Gabled in raiment pale-azure as the sea
Of Northern climes, thus she appeared to me;
Azure and Silver, like to a frozen tear
Shed into Ocean by some arctic Mear;
Holy her features—haloed her raven hair,
Black eyebrows curving over dreaming eyes
She stood awhile in ecstacy, radiant, passing fair;
No one more lovely being beyond our earthy skies
Stirred by this hallowed mirage, my heart gave forth a cry,
“Blessed St. Bridget save me! intercede for my soul on High.”
Then came back a whispered echo over the sighing spray
“Blessed St. Bridget save me! Ora pro me.”
Serenely the lovely vision smiled peacefully on me,
Then slowly faded into the even’s mist.
Drying my dewy eyelids I sank on bended knee,
And prayed to the One who had suffered, nailed to a torture-tree,
Whose gaping wounds poor doubting Thomas kissed.
THE LEADEN TABLET.
Then to my couch I bent my weary way,
And deep in sage reflection sank my soul.
Striving in halting phrases still to pray.
Striving to purge my heart, my mind, my whole.
Sinuous seductive music charmed the air,
Sweet fragrance cast such perfume all around
That I was dazed, and seeking everywhere,
No trace or sign of ought was to be found.
Then in the pentiled garth in virent ramage clothed
Open to view when lying on my bed,
—A spot that in the sunlight much I loathed—
Transpired the vision of a lovely head.
Golden of hair with slanting eyes of green,
Sharp pearléd teeth, of glassy, milky sheen,
Red rounded lips, like cherry cut in twain,
Chiseled and shapely ears straight backward lain,
A nose that Venus, of the Greeks adored,
Would madly envy; e’en she could scarce afford
To match her perfect body with the limbs
That tardy came to view below the head.
And still my haunted memory dizzy swims
When’er I view in thought her glowing form.
Mutely voluptuous, standing by my bed,
Redolent of Eve! Scented like fragrant morn!
Those rounded breasts like snowy apple fruit
Culled from pomegranate tree with leaves of tourmaline
Not even Heaven could stand contented mute
If He beheld those arms so serpentine
Those humid lips, like plum blooms when the sun is warm,
Nude to the waist, there kirtled round
With Zone of silver, prank’d with palest grey,
Like misty fleeces which at dawn are found
Clinging round hills to greet the break of Day.
Then draperies of leaden hue
Veiled her legs and feet from view.
With supple motion, noble tread
Smiling she glided t’ward my bed;
And stretching forth her rippling arms
She bade me look upon her charms.
And forth from her lips this triplet came
“Ivan, Ivan, je t’aime, le t’aime.
Je te tiens et je te maintendrai
Je ne cherche qu’un et je l’ai merité”
Purling this triplet to a murmuring strain
A magic mean of pleasure and of pain
Languid toward my bed she came,
And my soul was burnt with a lusting flame.
Rising I seized her serpent hand, icy as Death it lay on my palm
As she kissed my lips, the winds’ wild band played through her hair the Marids psalm.
There ’twixt her naked bosoms swayed that awful leaden sign
Bearing that occult message, that terrible fateful line,
Lo! there trembled the leaden Tablet that hung on the Brazen tomb,
“Behold! thou vagrant pilgrim dark Morphia’s Hecatomb!”
With a howl of ghoulish laughter,
Like the noise of pouring water
She leapt into the air above me,
High into the air above me.
“Take me into thy arms and love me!
Or Burn till the crack of Doom!
Yea, I am the leaden tablet!
From the Night mare’s stable tomb
Forsake thou the eyes of thy Bridget!
The ebon eyes of thy Bridget!
And work with a sulphur digit
Through the weft of my firey loom.
Work on my loom of Passion
Where the threads of every fashion
That in Zamiel’s flax fields bloom.
Come twin-soul to my cavern!
Press firm thy lips against mine!
Drink from Love’s joyous tavern,
Drink deep of Passion’s wine!
And care no more and care no less
For the ebon eyes of thy pale Princess.
I will give you a golden promise of a pleasure that none have known,
And in mine own arms thou shalt learn it; just we two beings alone
Shall live in a world of Pleasure, in a Palace of utter Delight
Come sweet child, the love of my leisure, sleep in mine arms to-night.”
“Dost thou give me a golden promise of pleasure apart from pain?
Of a life that is always happy, of a rose-bed that none may gain,
Save we two being together, alone in a world of our own?
Take me, ‘my sacrifice,’ take me, to the Loom and the flaxen Zone.”
She lifted me into her bosom, caressing my hair the while,
And over her lips of crimson there played a terrible smile
“Yourself for the coming bridal, myself I will comely deck,”
And she fastened her teeth white and gleaming deep into the vein of my neck.
And I dreamed as ye dream with Morphia
Just a floating, fainting away;
A dream that is bought from Morphia
And Death is the price ye pay.
But horrid terror seized upon my heart
Bidding me fight.
So vainly struggling in unequal part
I fought for right.
Seeking by blows my ebbing life to save,
On through the night;
Fighting the fiend, who thirsting, tightly clave;
—A ghastly sight—
Teeth deep embedded, drinking from my vein;
Till morning light
Greeted by crowing cockerel, smiling came;
Then gripping tight,
I seized her gulping throat in clenching hands.
With all my might,
Thumbs fixed like iron bands.
Panting I crushed her skull,
Kneeling upon her breast.
Then with a vicious pull
I tore out her pulsing throat,
Leaving the quivering rest,
Eyes stagnant glazed and dull
Wrapped, morient in my coat.
Sweating and breathless, blindly I sought for water;
Prone to the floor I fell stumbling thwart Zamiel’s daughter.
Blood, from my aching wound, dripped to the floor;
Faint in a numbing swound I lay in my gore.
Then gentle hands poured cooling draught betwixt my parchéd lips
Forcing the elixir of life back in thirsty sips
And bending o’er my tumbled couch my azure pale Princess
Left on the Vampire’s burning wounds her cooling lips’ impress.
O Bridget! whose white skin is like to petals of the gladiola flower,
Remember this, that from that destined hour
When thou was christened, thou was named “POWER.”
Power thou hast—and that a wonderous awful gift—
Under whose diction thou can’st sink or lift
Souls, spirits, hearts, from mirky cleft and rift
To higher ways. But also thou can’st drive
Creatures so deep, that few can ever dive
Down to the depths and bring them up alive,
Power thy sister e’er will be through life.
“POWER” will rise victorious from every worldly strife.
Power is “POWER’S” heritage, manifest and rife,
Beware of Power—two edged—a double-bladed knife.
Dreams and haunting visions by thy name alone
I oft-times have conquered; trusting in thee I’ve gone
Through perils gaunt and numerous ground on Passion’s stone.
Bridget, although it ere may be thy mission
To play at games with Power’s mate—Ambition—
See! hidden at her back stands Sinuous Sedition!
Loving perhaps too much thy tenderer, truer side
I to my inward passion have at length complied,
Lest in the smothering of it, I to myself had lied.
Crudely and roughly shaken from Euterpe’s sieve
These frail halting stanzas now to thy care I give,
Feeling that every letter by thee wast made to live.
Scorn not then this limping, poor, procession
Of rhythmic lines; nor treat with proud aggression
These faulty verses; waiting at thy session
For tempered judgment; merciful then be
Ever with kindness keeping within thy memory,
That every written sentiment, is a living part of me.
Written at “Stagsden,”
How can I sing a song, love, when my heart is full of woe?
Grief that is hard to bear, love; grief that is gnawing and slow
Crimson rimmed are my eyes, love; bitter my soul within;
Bid me to mope and mourn, love, for I haven’t the mind to sing.
Though the Sun may shine in the skies, dear,
Though the day be blithesome and gay;
When the Mirth of my heart quietly dies, dear,
Poor homage to joy can I pay.
For I am far from thy love, dear,
From thee who my heart feeds with smiles;
More fair than the blossoms above, dear,
Or the Pearls of the fairy isles.
How then can I sing a song, love?
How then may I carol a lay?
When thee, for whom my eyes long, love,
Art far from my sight away.
April 10th, 1915.
When Mirth and Joy come flitting in,
The heart with glee is filled within.
When I shall journey back to thee
My soul will dance in gaiety.
Merriment shall reign supreme,
In every eye a joyous beam;
Mirth shall caper all day long,
In every heart an airy song.
Bid me to sing a round-a-lay
And I will trill to break of day
A Ballad, pastorale, stave or air
Or roulade to my Lady’s hair.
As blithesome lark from Morn’s pearl dew
Is lost to sight in Heaven’s blue
Rising with carol to the skies
So am I lost in my lady’s eyes.
April 11th, 1915.
Note: The form of these two Songs was suggested from reading a book of Elizabethan verse.
SONNET TO A BOWL OF GOLD AND SCARLET TULIPS.
O blossoms! when I gaze
Down into your fair, radiant faces,
Glowing up at me from verdant graces;
Your rarities amaze.
The very gold-bars of the Summer Sun
May well give place to your more candent hue.
For sunshine yet, I still can seek in you;
E’en when the Orb’s illuminèd course is run.
Your damask pinions, furled about your form
Give subtle sheen and incense to the air;
Your gold-dust tongues kiss to the winds pale care
Alone for peace and pleasure were ye borne.
Whilst to my mind ye bring me, by your grace,
A yet more lovely and more radiant face.
April 12th, 1915.