The Poet’s Invitation
And have you come, at last, to read my book?
What joy is mine that you have come! Pray, sit.
I’ll bring quick to your comfort what I’ve lit
Some sorry pages with; what joy you’d look!
See: here it is, my sad and sorry pride;
It may not bear a trace of lofty minds;
It may not be what poet’s worth oft’ finds;
It may not; yet may. Its worth’s in who collide
With a fair judgement what I’ve writ and, prudent,
Pour upon a fellow’s mind some true
Regarded thought and time; so if these few
Find worth with you, the sounder time I’ve spent!
The Vineyard in the Fruitful Hill
“Now let me sing to my Well-beloved
A song of my Beloved regarding his vineyard:”
“I built my soul a lordly pleasure house,
Wherein at ease for ay to dwell.
. . . . . . . . . .
My soul would live alone unto herself
In her high place there.”
-The Palace of Art, Tennyson
I had a vineyard in a fruitful hill:
It was round and wide, so it would fill
My most immediate sense with its most lovely
Shape: sloping; every side as humbly
Verdured as a pasture; rising cloud-ways,
But with only such ambition, stays
A modest hill’s way from the heaven’s limit.
No mountain mine: a hill, and all that’s in it;
The vineyard yet a hill; a fruitful one,
Of promised fruit! With but some rain and sun.
It was a rich and swelling breast of nature,
Wherefrom I’d take my milk, like honey-dew pure.
And on the first of all the days whereof
I took upon me to labour up above
The pastures low; there on my hill of green
And wild grass; there could be distant seen
A curious people, where the slightest grade
Of my own hill did terminate, in a glade
Encapsuled by a great expanse of darkling
Forest; deep and dense; and the people, harking
Me with confusèd gesture, sure, made strage
Sounds at me; I heard not what, for the range
Betwixt us, I on the hill, they shouting noise
From the glade, distorted each one’s voice.
So built I, round my fruitful hill’s wide summit,
A wall; I fenced therein, and all that’s on it,,
My promised vineyard in the fruitful hill.
Those creatures saw, and soon the air was still.
The wall was low: it rose about chest-high,
And was of solid grey-brick risen nigh;
First set on by the next, thus layered sound
Up some seven bricks, and circled round
The hill, and met, and made a circle whole.
A gate I cut not, but a door; a hole
Of minor port to make me stoop when I pass
Through. A heavy cover placed I, of brass
As thick as oak trunks wide which reach to heaven.
Hinged cover closed, I crafted keys eleven
For as many independent locks,
And thus ensured to barricade my stocks.
And then I gathered out the stones thereof.
And there were some almost too great to shove
By human force; which grated the finer soil
Of my promised vineyard, close to spoiled
For the stones but that I gathered out
Each one by great, still greater pain and shout
Of consternation: till, at last! each stone
Was gathered at the base; pure soil lone
Was my reward. So I could grow and tend
My vines un-harshed, was free in place to blend
The arts: the fleshy fruit of nature’s boon
With my well-promising touch as goodly god, and soon!
My vineyard clear, and quarry-stones below,
I had a clear plot through which my grace could show.
From the stones I’d gathered out, I took
The choicest, and built, so I could better look
On all my vineyard in that fruitful hill,
A great tall tower, in the midst of that hill.
Tall it was, and great, and strong of stone:
It stood in the midst of the vineyard, monument and lone;
A tower in the very midst; a heaven-reaching
Arm: an effigy as fit for preaching.
A stairway close wound mazing to the top:
Wound up mazing inward till it stop,
Ending in a little room with viewing
Wide on every side, so all earth’s shewing
I could see at leisure: hill and vineyard mine,
The pastures low for grazing creatures fine;
Downward Glen and Darkling Wood, the shine
The moonlight leaps into the plashing waters,
Wandering ‘mongst the trees as Ocean’s Daughters
Fled from home; from terror Ocean hid behind
The drape of veily mists; obscured sublime.
On a shapely stone fir for a seat I sat,
And all I saw, I inward thought on that.
Therein, too, I made a handy winepress
Fit for bursting all the grapes to bless
My yard, though yet unrealized; to crush
Those fragrant globes, and from the fleshly lush
Ooze out that fragrant-flavoured juice for wine.
Sweet wine! To quaff a cup of what is mine.
To drip the drop of scented sweet, or savoured
Sour; with pearly drop the tongue is flavoured.
A full five days I took to fashion these:
The wall, so-high, my yard to portion right,
That the first of all the days secured my vineyard tight;
The stones I gathered out of the purer soil,
That took my second day of fruitful toil;
The tower great and tall built of each stone,
That took of days another two alone;
The winepress for my promised fruits to come,
Took one last day, which makes the portioned sum.
The sixth I took the choicest vines of earth,
And therein planted them with care; so: the birth
Of mine own vineyard on the sixth of days.
The seventh, I rested, done with my labouring ways.
And lo! I looked to my vineyard, that it should bring forth grapes;
And lo! the fruits of promise brought were wild grapes!
The gapes grew, wild, and useless to my purpose.
Wherefore would nature stoop and work so but to hurt us?
And would you judge? I pray you, go to, judge!
For I have naught; am desolate! Go to, judge!
What could have been done more to my vineyard,
That I have not done in it? O! Too hard!
Too hard nature’s judgement; too scarce, too swift
Her boon! For I, so careful, she’d not lift
The weight of Adam. What more could have been done?
Was my tower built to pierce the sun?
My wall to hold the Ocean’s tidal rage?
My press to conform the rocks a fractured age
To the priceless worth of diamonds? Am I a god?
Could I work miracles, with these hands of sod?
No. I am a man, and cannot bear distress!
I will not be a Job for you to dress
The hero, and thus take even of my glory.
To suffer so will not be of my story!
No! Rather, judge not; for, as for you,
I will tell you all of what I’ll do
To my vineyard. I will break into
My own vineyard, as a thief in the night,
Or as a Greek well hid from Trojan sight:
I shall break the wall that I had built;
It shall be trampled down and crumbled. Tilt
And topple so my tower strong of stone:
No longer stands it monument and lone!
The careful-tended hedge thereof I’ll take,
And feed it the first creature that will make
It a quick meal. It shall be eaten up.
Hedgeless, my vineyard; the hedge all eaten up!
My handy winepress I will savage wreck,
And trample every grape that’s ripe to pick.
I will not prune the vine, nor dig ground new
For planting fresh. Briers and thorns, in lieu
Of fruits, will come up from the earth instead,
And strong of growth, and choke the vines all dead,
And matt the ruined waste that was my vineyard;
Cover up with waste my ruined vineyard:
Briers and thorns, of all my fruitful hill,
Will sole inherit; and all, as in death, shall be still.
Such I will do to that which will not grow;
Destroy what mine own glory will not show.
A Vision by the Midnight Winter’s Moon
Ah! The Night-Moon rears itself to me,
And I am hushed in Winter’s silent majesty.
What matter is in this yard!
What gravity do I perceive about
This common ground of mine: what spirit shout
In the eerie not-so-darkness grows.
Stilly specters; sylphs and seraphs;
Wrapt up in Winter’s finest raiment:
Thornèd robes of withered hedge
Which stick not they that feel not thorn;
Bare wreathèd crowns of dormant vine,
Twinèd mazedly thru pallid locks,
And set with deepest snow-born frost
That well with vision sits
Atop those foreheads font of ghostly pallor.
Truly do I see them now:
About the mid-night blue
Of Winter’s deep, unearthly atmosphere;
They dance a dirge;
Their feet, they traipse upon the ground ,
But leave not an impression
For to tell their still progression;
Spirits, all! All moving pantomime,
The phantom host sublime,
Which circlets my sole self,
Pensive and solid, even in the very midst.
What of this thought? What of this somehow wild fancy?
To strip me of my earthly thread
And lay me on the heat-starved banks,
Or any snowy canvas undisturbed;
To wax as blank as they!
To wear the crown of wreathèd vine
About my hue-less neverflesh:
Oh, I would dance the ghostly pantomime
Of mid-dark Winter’s haunt divine!
These weighty boots, though, ah! They tread the ground;
They cleave themselves into the snow; they make an honest sound.
Yet must I make my honest sound.
And there’s no time for spirits, then,
To talk with women and with men,
To live the day-life come again.
Oh! Frozen nymphs ethereal,
I’ll visit you, in poesy and in dream;
I’ll view your dance in the mid-dark gleam.
But I’ll not dance with you:
I’m yet for the material.
The Deep Mood
The Four Stages of Creative Catastrophe:
Inspiration – Realization – Fear – Dejection
O! Deep Mood, settle on my restless soul;
Feed me a long while on the fruits of slightest sorrow:
Melancholy; pleasured ache; and till the morrow
Break your aye-consuming spell, I’ll take thee whole
And craft a worthy monument; from thee I’ll borrow
Up my lack: that languishing desire, moving,
As a thick potion, round my thin substance, proving
It; crush out that proof!
Mood! The proof is slow –
My thought-fruit rhind is thick and tough and bland; reproving
It with my scratching wit, I peel my wits away.
The barkèd rhind remains as strong; I soft as clay:
I lay in prodùctless stupor. Then; seeping, comes the soothing
Mood; Deep Mood; it oozes out a thick and airy
Balm; that Tranquility is called; and sets upon
To sleep my spirit sound.
Time! Long time I’ve run
A fever in this spirit (high energy un-merry)
Which sticks me; fills me full with fret from blazing Dawn
To succeeding Dawn; I journey: wall to adjacent wall –
What? North or South or East or West? I know not – call
The Atlas! . . . A northern wind blows wild the snowy lawn –
My room grows dim as streetlights lit to light them all
In the shade-shone darkness empty streets –
Clad leprous feet are seldom heard; but in the deeper roots
Of the city den; darkling alley; these footsteps fall.
Already fallen footsteps! The worn-sole scuff of mutes
Who scratch and tremble on the corner pavement’s chill, who noiseless render
Tragedies, and haunt me for my quarter: I surrender
At the mouth of a darkling alley. One moment streetlight shoots
The Alley gloom away.
What is it that I see
In the quick-cast glare? Only this: the sole and palsied
Sufferer of Galilee; who spared in faith no deed;
Who rolled no garment red with blood, but wholly he
Took the counsel preached; in holy imitation lead;
Who did all of these things . . . yet whose face was never touched
By the Nazarean’s hand, and there he stands all clutched:
The sufferer of Galilee.
No worthier bled
Than he! The shining shrinks away into a not-muched
Darkness: again the sufferer of Galilee
Is obscured in alley-shade, obscured as Hell is he:
Methought he did advance a step or two, all bunched
In ageless pain though he is, and gave a hand to me;
Timid to me prostrate, as if there moved some god
Across my way;
Or anything to laud –
But no! The grim-lit ghastly face recedes: I see
It here no more; dissolved; or perhaps it had never been! Shod
Shape from my own fancy – streets decay and fall
About my knees – my room does now material
Itself to me – re-shape my comforts known – and God
Is near me at my bed, or Hell devour me all!
And Galilee – what’s left of you?
The livid pall
Of pain? Was it a dream? Oh! Let no mortal nod:
How I would it were a dream! Oh, how I would.
It was no more a dream than is the man in hood
And jacket huddled nightly ‘gainst the freezing rod
Of icy death; half-sheltered in a door-well; could
I unsee that I’ve seen, I’d see it; but I know
There is a thing to know:
And row on row it unobscures; each versèd row,
Each gnaws my soul; too well I understand I should
Be doing, so I do: Deep Mood! You show
Too much to the willing fool. Do you know that fool
Forever curses your acquaintance? Yet you rule
The fool that blunders ‘neath your unforgiving halo.
Leave me for a time, Deep Mood, for I am low
Enough for solitude: Enough! You’ve dipped this pen in sorrow’s pool,
Now let I and the ink contrive. Wherefore I thought you sweet?
To torture us to sympathy: that is your only goal.
“Words are often accident”
Words are often accident:
They mean more than at first they’re meant;
For I had writ “Contrivances”
Not having, thought I, foolish bent:
But words arrive sans licenses,
(From thence the poet’s claims derive)
So, poet I, I did contrive,
And foolish my contriven rhyme!
Though I had thought with wit alive,
My pen was dull; it shan’t survive.
“This pen hath cut the paper so”
This pen hath cut the paper so that,
Having such a scriven scrawl upon’t,
This sheet shall ne’er be blank.
And should it wish back wordlessness?
Are mine enough for it?
“Great, Wild Life!”
Great, Wild Life!, apotheate yourself
From out the bonds of narrow retrospect
And grow beyond the furthest climes and wealth
Of future years to reach; not to detect
Tomorrow; an assurance of forever!
Like as the spirits calling from ethereal
Impossibility; which vain endeavour,
Sleep, they break, and I am woke by aerial
Choirs which needs compel me set down in scores
Of melodious verse this boundless energy;
Call that endlessness, which sweetly pours
From whence I know not, but from then to me
That I may turn it in my trembling palm
And feed my soul on its vast, electric psalm!
“Joy! Joy! Joy!”
Joy! Joy! Joy! I know not, joy,
Why you are: you are, and that’s enough.
Joy reasons life as reason’s lost in joy,
For joy is parted of extremest stuff:
The lily-stem doth droop; it wants vitality
What water’s surplus may, flooding, rectify;
So the human spirit wanes of vital purity
That joy’s deluge swells up to the berth of sky.
The wolf cries “Joy” when carcasses have glut
Him bursting full that he may roll and sleep:
No more must he waste leg or breathy howl, but
Fullness has allowed his life to keep.
So joy: that satisfaction means no want,
And wantless we may rest resistless on it.
Sonnet on Winter
Damn the Winter cold, and all it’s worth!
That north-wind sweeps, wild, down the ever-tips
Of steepy towers which clasp, in looming strips
Of steel and stone, the alley-scape’s broad berth;
He rushes on the wasted street, a jet
Of freezing blade, and bears down strong to wake
The mounted monuments of sleeping flake
Which toss and whirl upon naked cheeks to fret!
Damn cold! Damn snow! And Winter’s cruellest wind,
Damn you most of all! I’ll not set foot
Upon your outer clime ‘till heat has put
An end to Winter’s waste and blusty bind!
The hall runs chiller closer to my door:
I’ll not for aught pass through it any more!
The Poet Somewhere Caught
The Book is dim; “But where, but where?”
The mind is made a martyr ‘neath the hair;
The eye’s a sad and sorry engine run;
The fingers only feel, the page o’er won;
And the text is subject to the hand alone:
The Characters are blunt, and dull to stone.
Inanimate! Artful Beauty! leaves
A mind in quest enamoured; sieves
Out the pleasured bits that moan for more
Of This; there is no more; aught’s Beauty for?
To die: for that, not in its own, but here
At the seat of Adoration leaves a corpsy drear;
Sweet Death, that had endeared, more had seduced,
Itself to office, worn that pale, reduced,
And left a mould’ring thing Life cannot kill,
A starvèd dead Life cannot fill.
The songbirds stay
Our drears away:
Unto they lay
A sorry way
And sad; but stay!
For Beauties play,
And there’s no pay
What’s worth this: may
Gold flake to clay!
There is no beauty left for me to say.
I read a thing of Beauty, long away
And in my youth, and I was drowsed by th’ sway
Of Language: never felt; I selfly drooped
To sip myself; Narcissus I; that stooped
And drowned in visions I felt pure in soul
Were Pure and True: see Love and Love! A whole
In Two that’s unresolved: Too Loved and too much loving.
What were those silver visions, love Narcissus?
And is it well that I should drown in them – thus? –
Your healthy head ducks – vented East-wind fled
To West and ne’er returned; as if you’d said:
“I ne’er am sure; I cannot see;
But where? But where?
These things may be
A killing poison lively fair.”
And well, my friend, you said, but – Beauty’s catching:
I must peer the rasp’d surface tremble, hatching
Out a thousand fading zones, ‘neath what swim
A thousand-thousand fading worlds and dim:
What happens – there? – I am made happy witness?
A swollen bank? Of silvered grass wet in bliss,
Each glass-cased moon: that slips into a river,
Wide and just-so still as star-lit glance a-shiver
Of the breathless breeze: the distant view’s a mist
Of mountain, far, and nearer ceadern hills a-wist
And rolling finely ever. The air is warm
And damp; in the bank-rush stands the crickets swarm
And swell tumultuous confusèd tune;
The viewless owl ponders, joins the loon:
A mellow mixture on the silver bank.
But more: out yonder yards the river down
The liquid parts athwart a ghostly crown,
Then births a brow as smooth as grey bed-linen:
Eyes, great grey, wide, full of thought
And granite lips and gaping mouth as sought
Unholy charm to love that love that kills
The loving Brain by dread which thought it fills.
He is that very graspless phantom body!
Beauty: yes. This self-same thing ne’er thought we;
Thought you Beauty might be something fair?
Read a-new: the verse is there: but where?
Found it! Found it! Beauty found and true.
Now, Beauty found, what with it there’s to do?
“Write “Two and Two”
In versèd clue:
Pretend it’s something;
Throw a shoe,
For it is nothing:
Cocks that crew
And engines thumping
Said more sense than you.”
But read and write, and writ: the Book still dim:
The Poet pulls a melancholy whim
From off its face, and is that not enough?
This pen is dry; this paper’s far too rough.
The thing is gone, whate’er conditions had it:
I’ll no more suffer fancy’s ceaseless audit.
Scrap it all! And snap the spiteful pen,
Though I had read so long and deep, again,
Again, to give it force beyond itself:
It’s just a pen, and this a book: and here, a shelf.
The Spirit’s Salute
The Seraph, mid-flight drifting, will stoop its wing,
Dive into the electric atmosphere
From off her aery perch; her feathers sing
In the wind of fiercest movement, yet dead of fear;
Plummet: and this animate missile burn
Complete, no more a vision, behind the high hill
A far way off – so does the higher spirit,
In desire, yearn
On high, though ever condescend to fill
The lower earth, and with bold passion sit.