Author:

Andromeda

The smooth-worn coin and threadbare classic phrase
Of Grecian myths that did beguile my youth,
Beguile me not as in the olden days:
I think more grief and beauty dwell with truth.
Andromeda, in fetters by the sea,
Star-pale with anguish till young Perseus came,
Less moves me with her suffering than she,
The slim girl figure fettered to dark shame,
That nightly haunts the park, there, like a shade,
Trailing her wretchedness from street to street.
See where she passes — neither wife nor maid;
How all mere fiction crumbles at her feet!
Here is woe’s self, and not the mask of woe:
A legend’s shadow shall not move you so!

Monody On The Death Of Wendell Phillips

I

One by one they go
Into the unknown dark–
Star-lit brows of the brave,
Voices that drew men’s souls.
Rich is the land, O Death!
Can give you dead like our dead!–
Such as he from whose hand
The magic web of romance
Slipt, and the art was lost!
Such as he who erewhile–
The last of the Titan brood–
With his thunder the Senate shook;
Or he who, beside the Charles,
Untoucht of envy or hate,
Tranced the world with his song;
Or that other, that grey-eyed seer
Who in pastoral Concord ways
With Plato and Hâfiz walked.

II

Not of these was the man
Whose wraith, through the mists of night,
Through the shuddering wintry stars,
Has passed to eternal morn.
Fit were the moan of the sea
And the clashing of cloud on cloud
For the passing of that soul!

Ever he faced the storm!
No weaver of rare romance,
No patient framer of laws,
No maker of wondrous rhyme,
No bookman wrapt in his dream.

His was the voice that rang
In the fight like a bugle-call,
And yet could be tender and low
As when, on a night in June,
The hushed wind sobs in the pines.
His was the eye that flashed
With a sabre’s azure gleam,
Pointing to heights unwon!

III

Not for him were these days
Of clerky and sluggish calm–
To the petrel the swooping gale!
Austere he seemed, but the hearts
Of all men beat in his breast;
No fetter but galled his wrist,
No wrong that was not his own.
What if those eloquent lips
Curled with the old-time scorn?
What if in needless hours
His quick hand closed on the hilt?
‘T was the smoke from the well-won fields
That clouded the vetran’s eyes.
A fighter this to the end.

Ah, if in coming times
Some giant evil arise,
And Honor falter and pale,
His were a name to conjure with!
God send his like again!

Books And Seasons

Because the sky is blue; because blithe May
Masks in the wren’s note and the lilac’s hue;
Because — in fine, because the sky is blue
I will read none but piteous tales to-day.
Keep happy laughter till the skies be gray,
And the sad season cypress wears, and rue;
Then, when the wind is moaning in the flue,
And ways are dark, bid Chaucer make us gay.
But now a little sadness! All too sweet
This springtide riot, this most poignant air,
This sensuous world of color and perfume.
So listen, love, while I the woes repeat
Of Hamlet and Ophelia, and that pair
Whose bridal bed was builded in a tomb.

The Last Caesar

I

Now there was one who came in later days
To play at Emperor: in the dead of night
Stole crown and sceptre, and stood forth to light
In sudden purple. The dawn’s straggling rays
Showed Paris fettered, murmuring in amaze,
With red hands at her throat–a piteous sight.
Then the new Cæsar, stricken with affright
At his own daring, shrunk from public gaze

In the Elysée, and had lost the day
But that around him flocked his birds of prey,
Sharp-beaked, voracious, hungry for the deed.
‘Twixt hope and fear beheld great Cæsar hang!
Meanwhile, methinks, a ghostly laughter rang
Through the rotunda of the Invalides.

II

What if the boulevards, at set of sun,
Reddened, but not with the sunset’s kindly glow?
What if from quai and square the murmured woe
Swept heavenward, pleadingly? The prize was won,
A kingling made and Liberty undone.
No Emperor, this, like him awhile ago,
But his Name’s shadow; that one struck the blow
Himself, the street-sweeping gun!

This was a man of tortuous heart and brain,
So warped he knew not his own point of view–
The master of a dark, mysterious smile.

And there he plotted, by the storied Seine
And in the fairy gardens of St. Cloud,
The Sphinx that puzzled Europe, for awhile.

III

I see him as men saw him once–a face
Of true Napoleon pallor; round the eyes
The wrinkled care; mustache spread pinion-wise,
Pointing his smile with odd sardonic grace
As wearily he turns him in his place,
And bends before the hoarse Parisian cries–
Then vanishes, with glitter of gold-lace
And trumpets blaring to the patient skies.

Not thus he vanished later! On his path
The Furies waited for the hour and man,
Foreknowing that they waited not in vain.

Then fell the day, o day of dreadful wrath!
Bow-down in shame, O crimson-girt Sedan!
Weep fair Alsace! weep, loveliest Lorainne!

So mused I, sitting underneath the trees
In that old garden of the Tuileries,
Watching the dust of twilight sifting down
Through chestnut boughs just touched with autumn’s brown–

Not twilight yet, but that illusive bloom
Which holds before the deep-edged shadows come;
For still the garden stood in golden mist,
Still, like a river of golden amethyst,
The Seine slipt through its pans of fretted stone,
And, near the grille that once fenced in a throne,
The fountains still unbraided to the day
The unsubstantial silver of their spray.

A spot to dream in, love in, waste one’s hours!
Temples and palaces, and gilded towers,
And fairy terraces!–and yet, and yet
Here in her woe came Marie Antoinette,
Came sweet Corday, Du Barry with shrill cry,
Not learning from her betters how to die!
Here, while the nations watched with bated breath,
Was held the saturnalia of Red Death!

For where that slim Egyptian shaft uplifts
Its point to catch the dawn’s and sunset’s drifts
Of various gold, the busy Headsman stood. . . .
Place de la Concorde–no, the Place of Blood!

And all so peaceful now, one cannot bring
Imagination to accept the thing.
Lies, all of it! some dreamer’s wild romance–
High-hearted, witty, laughter-loving France!
In whose brain was it that the legend grew
Of Mænads shrieking in this avenue,
Of watch-fires burning, Famine standing guard,
Of long-speared Uhlans in that palace-yard!
What ruder sound this soft air ever smote
Than a bird’s twitter, or a bugle’s note?
What darker crimson ever splashed these walks
Than that of rose-leaves dropping from the stalks?
And yet–what means that charred and broken wall,
That sculptured marble, splintered, like to fall,
Looming among the trees there? . . . And you say
This happened, as it were, but yesterday?
And here the commune stretched a barricade,
And there the final desperate stand was made?
Such things have been? How all things change and fade!
How little lasts in this brave world below!
Love dies; hate cools; the Cæsars come and go;
Gaunt Hunger fattens, and the weak grow strong.
Even Republics are not here for long!

Ah, who can tell what hour may bring the doom,
The lighted torch, the tocsin’s heavy boom!

Tennyson

I

Shakespeare and Milton–what third blazoned name
Shall lips of after-ages link to these?
His who, beside the wide encircling seas,
Was England’s voice, her voice with one acclaim,
For threescore years; whose word of praise was fame,
Whose scorn gave pause to man’s iniquities.

II

What strain was his in that Crimean war?
A bugle call in battle; a low breath,
Plaintive and sweet, above the fields of death!
So year by year the music rolled afar,
From Euxine wastes to flowery Kandahar,
Bearing the laurel or the cypress wreath.

III

Others shall have their little space of time,
Their proper niche and bust, then fade away
Into the darkness, poets of a day;
But thou, O builder of enduring rhyme,
Thou shalt not pass! Thy fame in every clime
On earth shall live where saxon speech has sway.

IV

Waft me this verse across the winter sea,
Through light and dark, through mist and blinding sleet,
O winter winds, and lay it at his feet;
Though the poor gift betray my poverty,
At his feet lay it: it may chance that he
Will find no gift, where reverence is, unmeet.

Corydon

A PASTORAL

SCENE: A roadside in Arcady

SHEPHERD.

Good sir, have you seen pass this way
A mischief straight from market-day?
You’d know her at a glance, I think;
Her eyes are blue, her lips are pink;
She has a way of looking back
Over her shoulder, and, alack!
Who gets that look one time, good sir,
Has naught to do but follow her.

PILGRIM.

I have not seen this maid, methinks,
Though she that passed had lips like pinks.

SHEPHERD.

Or like two strawberries made one
By some sly trick of dew and sun.

PILGRIM.

A poet!

SHEPHERD.

Nay, a simple swain
That tends his flock on yonder plain,
Naught else, I swear by book and bell.
But she that passed, you marked her well.
Was she not smooth as any be
That dwell herein in Arcady?

PILGRIM.

Her skin was as the satin bark
Of birches

SHEPHERD.

Light or dark?

PILGRIM.

Quite dark.

SHEPHERD.

Then ’twas not she.

PILGRIM.

The peach’s side
That’s next the sun is not so dyed
As was her cheek. Her hair hung down
Like summer twilight falling brown;
And when the breeze swept by, I wist
Her face was in a sombre mist.

SHEPHERD.

No, that is not the maid I seek.
Her hair lies gold against the cheek;
Her yellow tresses take the morn
Like silken tassles of the corn.
And yet–brown locks are far from bad.

PILGRIM.

Now I bethinks me, this one had
A figure like the willow-tree
Which, slight and supple, wondrously
Inclines to droop with pensive grace,
And still retains its proper place;
A foot so arched and very small
The marvel was she walked at all;
Her hand–in sooth I lack for words–
her hand, five slender snow-white birds.
Her voice–though she but said "God-speed"–
Was melody blown through a reed;
The girl Pan changed into a pipe
Had not a note so full and ripe.
And then her eye–my lad her eye!
Discreet, inviting, candid, shy,
An outward ice, an inward fire,
And lashes to the heart’s desire–
Soft fringes blacker than the sloe.

SHEPHERD.

Good sir, which way did this one go?

PILGRIM, solus.

So, he is off! The silly youth
Knoweth not love in sober sooth.
He loves, thus lads at first are blind–
No woman, only Womankind.
I needs must laugh, for, by the Mass,
No maid at all did this way pass!

Egypt

Fantastic sleep is busy with my eyes;
I seem in some waste solitude to stand
Once ruled of Cheops; upon either hand
A dark illimitable desert lies,
Sultry and still — a zone of mysteries.
A wide-browed Sphinx, half buried in the sand,
With orbless sockets stares across the land,
The wofulest thing beneath these brooding skies
Save that loose heap of bleachèd bones, that lie
Where haply some poor Bedouin crawled to die.
Lo! while I gaze, beyond the vast sand-sea
The nebulous clouds are downward slowly drawn,
And one bleared star, faint glimmering like a bee,
Is shut in the rosy outstretched hand of Dawn.

Sleep

When to oft sleep we give ourselves away,
And in a dream as in a fairy bark
Drift on and on through the enchanted dark
To purple daybreak — little thought we pay
To that sweet bitter world we know by day.
We are clean quit of it, as is a lark
So high in heaven no human eye can mark
The thin swift pinion cleaving through the gray.
Till we awake ill fate can do no ill,
The resting heart shall not take up again
The heavy load that yet must make it bleed;
For this brief space the loud world’s voice is still,
No faintest echo of it brings us pain.
How will it be when we shall sleep indeed?

The Sisters’ Tragedy

A.D. 1670

AGLÄE, a widow.
MURIEL, her unmarried sister.

It happened once, in that brave land that lies
For half the twelvemonth wrapt in sombre skies,
Two sisters loved one man. He being dead,
Grief loosed the lips of her he had not wed,
And all the passion that through heavy years
Had masked in smiles unmasked itself in tears.
No purer love may mortals know than this,
The hidden love that guards another’s bliss.
High in a turret’s westward-facing room,
Whose painted window held the sunset’s bloom,
The two together grieving, each to each
Unveiled her soul with sobs and broken speech.

Both were young, in life’s rich summer yet;
And one was dark, with tints of violet
In hair and eyes, and one was blond as she
Who rose–a second daybreak–from the sea,
Gold-tressed and azure-eyed. In that lone place,
Like dusk and dawn, they sat there face to face.

She spoke the first whose strangely silvering hair
No wreath had worn, nor widow’s weed might wear,
And told her blameless love, and knew no shame–
Her holy love that, like a vestal flame
Beside the body of some queen
Within a guarded crypt, had burned unseen
From weary year to year. And she who heard
Smiled proudly through her tears and said no word,
But, drawing closer, on the troubled brow
Laid one long kiss, and that was words enow!

MURIEL.

Be still, my heart! Grown patient with thine ache,
Thou shouldst be dumb, yet needs must speak, or break.
The world is empty now that he is gone.

AGLÄE.

Ay, sweetheart!

MURIEL.

None was like him, no, not one.
From other men he stood apart, alone
In honor spotless as unfallen snow.
Nothing all evil was it his to know;
His charity still found some germ, some spark
Of light in natures that seemed wholly dark.
He read men’s souls; the lowly and the high
Moved on the self-same level in his eye.
Gracious to all, to none subservient,
Without offence he spake the word he meant–
His word no trick of tact or courtly art,
But the white flowering of the noble heart.
Careless he was of much the world counts gain,
Careless of self, too simple to be vain,
Yet strung so finely that for conscience-sake
He would have gone like Cranmer to the stake.
I saw–how could I help but love? And you–

AGLÄE.

At this perfection did I worship too . . .
‘T was this that stabbed me. Heed not what I say!
I meant it not, my wits are gone astray,
With all that is and has been. No, I lie–
Had he been less perfection, happier I!

MURIEL.

Strange words and wild! ‘T is the distracted mind
Breathes them, not you, and I no meaning find.

AGLÄE.

Yet ‘t were as plain as writing on a scroll
had you but eyes to read within my soul.–
How a grief hidden feeds on its own mood,
Poison’s the healthful currents of the blood
With bitterness, and turns the heart to stone!
I think, in truth, ‘t were better to make moan,
And so be done with it. This many a year,
Sweetheart, have I laughed lightly and made cheer,
Pierced through with sorrow!

Then the widowed one
With sorrowfullest eyes beneath the sun,
Faltered, irresolute, and bending low
Her head, half whispered,

Dear, how could you know?
What masks are faces!–yours, unread by me
These seven long summers; mine, so placidly
Shielding my woe! No tremble of the lip,
No cheek’s quick pallor let our secret slip!
Mere players we, and she that played the queen,
Now in her homespun, looks how poor and mean!
How shall I say it, how find words to tell
What thing it was for me made earth a hell
That else had been my heaven! ‘T would blanch your cheek
Were I to speak it. Nay, but I will speak,
Since like two souls at compt we seem to stand,
Where nothing may be hidden. Hold my hand,
But look not at me! Noble ‘t was, and meet,
To hide your heart, nor fling it at his feet
To lie despised there. Thus saved you our pride
And that white honor for which earls have died.
You were not all unhappy, loving so!
I with a difference wore my weight of woe.
My lord was he. It was my cruel lot,
My hell, to love him–for he loved me not!

Then came a silence. Suddenly like death
The truth flashed on them, and each held her breath–
A flash of light whereby they both were slain,
She that was loved and she that loved in vain!

The Shipman’s Tale

Listen my masters! I speak naught but truth.
From dawn to dawn they drifted on and on,
Not knowing wither nor to what dark end.
Now the North froze them, now the hot South scorched.
Some called to God, and found great comfort so;
Some gnashed their teeth with curses, some laughed
An empty laughter, seeing they yet lived,
So sweet was breath between their foolish lips.
Day after day the same relentless sun,
Night after night the same unpitying stars.
At intervals fierce lightning tore the clouds,
Showing vast hollow spaces, and the sleet
Hissed, and the torrents of the sky were loosed.
From time to time a hand relaxed its grip,
And some pale wretch slid down into the dark
With stifled moan, and transient horror seized
The rest who waited, knowing what must be.
At every turn strange shapes reached up and clutched
The whirling wreck, held on awhile, and then
Slipt back into that blackness whence they came.
Ah, hapless folk, to be so tost and torn,
So racked by hunger, fever, fire, and wave,
And swept at last into the nameless void–
Frail girls, strong men, and mothers with their babes!

And was none saved?
My masters, not a soul!

O shipman, woful, woful is thy tale!
Our hearts are heavy and our eyes are dimmed.
What ship is this that suffered such ill fate?

What ship, my masters? Know ye not?–The World!

Wolf And Hound

You’ll take my tale with a little salt;

But it needs none, nevertheless!

I was foiled completely – fair at fault –

Disheartened, too, I confess!

At the splitters’ tent I had seen the track

Of horse-hoofs fresh on the sward;

And though Darby Lynch and Donovan Jack

(Who could swear through a ten-inch board)

Solemnly swore he had not been there,

I was just as sure they lied;

For to Darby all that is foul was fair,

And Jack for his life was tried.

We had run him for seven miles or more

As hard as our nags could split;

At the start they were all too weary and sore,

And his was quite fresh and fit.

Young Marsden’s pony had had enough

On the plain where the chase was hot;

We breasted the swell of the Bitterns’ bluff,

And Mark couldn’t raise a trot.

When the sea like a splendid silver shield

To the south-west suddenly lay,

On the brow of the Beetle the chestnut reeled –

And I bid good-bye to McCrea.

And I was alone when the mare fell lame

With a pointed flint in her shoe,

On the Stony Flats: I had lost the game! –

And what was a man to do?

I turned away with a fixed intent

And headed for Hawthorndell:

I could neither eat in the splitters’ tent

Nor drink at the splitters’ well.

I know that they gloried in my mishap,

And I cursed them between my teeth: –

A blood-red sunset through Brayton’s Gap

Flung a lurid fire on the hearth.

Could I reach the Dell? I had little reck,

And with scarce a choice of my own

I threw the reins on Miladi’s neck –

I had freed her foot from the stone.

That season most of the swamps were dry,

And after so hard a burst

In the sultry noon of so hot a sky

She was keen to appease her thirst –

Or by instinct urged, or impelled by Fate

(I care not to solve these things)

Certain it is that she took me straight

To the Warrigal water springs!

I can shut my eyes and recall the ground

As though it were yesterday:

With shelf on the low, grey rocks girt round,

The springs in their basin lay.

Woods to the east and wolds to the north

In the sundown suddenly bloomed:

Dead black on a curtain of crimson cloth

Large peaks to the westward loomed.

I led Miladi through weed and sedge,

She leisurely drank her fill:

There was something close to the water’s edge –

And my heart, with one leap, stood still!

For a horse’s shoe and a rider’s boot

Had left clean prints on the clay:

Someone had watered his beast on foot –

”Twas he! – he had gone! – which way?

Then the mouth of the cavern faced me fair

As I turned and fronted the rocks:

So at last I had pressed the wolf to his lair!

I had run to his earth the fox!

I thought so! Perhaps he was resting?

Perhaps He was waiting,

watching for me?

I examined all my revolver caps;

I hitched my mare to a tree.

I had sworn to have him, alive or dead!

And to give him a chance was loth:

He knew his life had been forfeited!

He had even heard of my oath!

In my stockinged soles to the shelf I crept –

I crawled safe into the cave:

All silent! – if he was there he slept –

Not there – all dark as a grave!….

Through the crack I could hear the leaden hiss!

See the livid face through the flame!

How strange it seemed that a man should miss

When his life depends on his aim!

There couldn’t have been a better light

For him, nor a worse for me:

We were cooped up – like caged beasts for a fight –

And dumb as dumb beasts were we!

Flash! flash! – Bang! Bang! – and we blazed away,

And the grey roof reddened and rang!

Flash! flash! – and I felt his bullet flay

The tip of my ear -Flash! bang!

Bang! flash! -and my pistol arm fell broke:

I struck with my left hand then:

-Struck at a corpse through a cloud of smoke!

I had shot him dead in his den.