The Project Gutenberg EBook of Shepherd Singing Ragtime and Other Poems, by 
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Title: Shepherd Singing Ragtime and Other Poems

Author: Louis Golding

Release Date: November 14, 2017 [EBook #55963]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1

*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK SHEPHERD SINGING RAGTIME ***




Produced by Al Haines







SHEPHERD SINGING
RAGTIME

AND OTHER POEMS

BY

LOUIS GOLDING



LONDON
CHRISTOPHERS
32 BERNERS STREET, W. 1




BY THE SAME AUTHOR

SORROW OF WAR: POEMS
FORWARD FROM BABYLON




FOR JACK

KILLED IN FRANCE, APRIL THE FIFTH, NINETEEN HUNDRED
AND EIGHTEEN




CONTENTS

Numbers
Ploughman at the Plough
Creed
The Starry Lady
When the Great Arm of a Tree Bends Stooping
The Moon-Clock
Unnamed Fruit
Portrait of an Artist
Shepherd Singing Ragtime
Skylark Noon
The Singer of High State
Bird, Bird, Bird
Green Beads
The Wind, Whence Blowing
Lady of Babylon
This is the Happy Husband, This is He
Cold Branch in the Black Air
Ghosts Gathering
Lyric in Gloom
I Seek a Wild Star
My Lady of Peace
Our Jack
Peace
Silver-Badged Waiter
Sunset over Suburb
Shrift among Hills
Courage the Dreamers




NUMBERS

Three sheep graze on the low hill
        Beneath the shadow of five trees.
                Three sheep!
        Five old sycamores!
(The noon is very full of sleep.
The noon's a shepherd kind and still.
The noon's a shepherd takes his ease
Beneath the shadow of five trees,
        Five old sycamores.)
Three sheep graze on the low hill.
Down in the grass in twos and fours
Cows are munching in the field.
Three sheep graze on the low hill;
Bless them, Lord, to give me wool.
Cows are munching in the field;
Bless them that their teats be full.
Bless the sheep and cows to yield
Wool to keep my children warm,
Milk that they should grow therefrom.

Three sheep graze on the low hill,
        Beneath five sycamores.
Cows are munching in the field.
        All in twos and fours.

On an elm-tree far aloof
There are nine-and-twenty crows,
Croaking to the blue sky roof
Fifteen hundred ancient woes.

In a cracked deserted house,
Six owls cloaked with age and dream,
In a cracked deserted house,
Six owls wait upon a beam,
Wait for the nocturnal mouse.

In the stackyard at my farm
There are fourteen stacks of hay.
        Lord, I pray
Keep my golden goods from harm,
Fourteen shining stacks of hay!

Fourteen shining stacks of hay,
Six owls, nine-and-twenty crows,
Three sheep grazing on the hill
        Beneath five sycamores,
Fat cows munching in a field,
        All in twos and fours,
Fat cows munching in a field,
Fourteen shining stacks of hay.

At a table in a room
Where beyond the window-frames
Glows the sweet geranium,
At a table in a room
My three children play their games
Till their father-poet come,
Stop a moment, listen, wait
Till a father-poet come.
Lovely ones of lovely names,
        He shall not come late.

Fourteen shining stacks of hay,
Six owls, nine-and-twenty crows,
Fifteen hundred ancient woes,
Three sheep grazing on the hill,
        Beneath five sycamores,
Fat cows munching in a field
        All in twos and fours,
Fourteen shining stacks of hay,
My three lovely children, one
Mother laughing like the sun,
Sweetheart laughing like the sun
    When the baby laughters run.

Now the goal I sought is won,
Sweetheart laughing like the sun,
Now the goal I sought is won,
        Sweet, my song is done.




PLOUGHMAN AT THE PLOUGH

He behind the straight plough stands
Stalwart, firm shafts in firm hands.

Naught he cares for wars and naught
For the fierce disease of thought.

Only for the winds, the sheer
Naked impulse of the year,

Only for the soil which stares
Clean into God's face he cares.

In the stark might of his deed
There is more than art or creed;

In his wrist more strength is hid
Than the monstrous Pyramid;

Stauncher than stern Everest
Be the muscles of his breast;

Not the Atlantic sweeps a flood
Potent as the ploughman's blood.

He, his horse, his ploughshare, these
Are the only verities.

Dawn to dusk with God he stands,
The Earth poised on his broad hands.




CREED

I shall insistently and proudly read
Into the mud of things a mudless creed,
Out of mud fashioning a palace so
Clamant with beauty and superb with snow,
That in this glory shall men's eyes be blurred,
Stars be made slaves to this most potent Word.
I in thick mud shall hear swift stars proclaim
The intolerable splendour of the Name.
I in a beetle's nerves shall search and find
The processes of the chaos-cleaving mind,
On my clock's second-fingers I shall see
The tidal journeyings of Eternity.




THE STARRY LADY

            Now with anger,
            Pomp and royal clangour,
            Now where his Lady is
                Starry with her crown;
Now the hills waking from the day's languor,
Now with many instruments in puissant harmonies,
            The sun goes down.

            Now rivers splendid
            Now song attended
Throw ranks of music forward to the sea.
            Now hills like vocal moons
            Blow their prolonged bassoons
            Forth where the Monarch swoons,
                After long labour ended,
Swoons for his Lady—ah starry she!

            From dim clouds wheeling
            Song down comes stealing
Round flowers whose petals shaking
            Silver of song are making;
            Round the grand bronze of trees
            Whose trumpets pealing
            Peal through the sunset till
            Flower, tree and cloud and hill
Fuse in the splendour of song that girdles the seas.

            The Sun now is set—and now
            Lips on her calm cool brow!
            Now there is heaping
            Of star-dust steeping
With deep and drowsy scents
            Their bodies sleeping.

            Quiet now, quiet,
            Of golden instruments!
Now still, most shadowy still
                Are cloud and hill;
            Still, in this solemn hour
            Lie cloud and flower;
            Still, most shadowy still
                Lie cloud and tree.
            Now under tranquil skies,
            Far, far the Monarch lies
Lone with his starry Lady—ah starry she!




WHEN THE GREAT ARM OF
A TREE BENDS STOOPING

When the great arm of a tree bends stooping
        Across the dark road ...
                Beware, beware!
Beware lest fingers searching, scooping
    Snatch up your body by your hair,
                Beware!
Think this no leafing clod,
    Insensible clay!
Know you that through long ages in tense calm
This tree hath held its arm,
The instinct fingers nerved by most high God:
    Until you knowing nought
    Because of thick false thought,
You came, frail fool, treading a secure way.

When the great arm of a tree bends stooping
    Across the dark road ...
                Beware!
Beware lest fingers meet within your hair,
    A stern arm clasp you round,
    Bear you from the ground;
    And you shall be held tight
    Against a bloodless breast
    Till human blood be pressed
    From finger-nails and eyes,
    And all the little cries
    Your lips gave forth of old
    Shall now no more arise
        Where you hang cold,
    Where you hang dry and stark
    Against the granite dark,
        Frozenly upright;
    And deeper, deeper you
    Shall thick leaves hide from view,
    Your dead limbs shall be sunk
    Down further through the trunk,
    And all your veins shall wrap
    Channels of flowing sap,
    Your brain and lungs and blood
        Shall be stiff wood,
    Till you at last shall be
    The cold heart of a tree.

                Beware!
When the great arm of a tree bends stooping
    Across the dark road....




THE MOON-CLOCK

(For Alan Porter)

Tick-tock! the moon, that pale round clock
Her big face peering, goes tick-tock!

Metallic as a grasshopper
The faint far tickings start and stir.

All night tinily you can hear
Tick-tock tinkling down the sheer

Steep falls of space. Minute, aloof,
Here is no praise, here no reproof.

Remote in voids star-purged of sense,
Tick-tock in stark indifference!

From ice-black lands of lack and rock,
The two swords shake and clank tick-tock.

In the dark din of the day's vault
Demand thy headlong soul shall halt

One moment. Hearken, taut and tense,
In the vast Silence beyond sense,

The moon! From the hushed heart of her,
Metallic as a grasshopper,

Patient though earth may writhe and rock,
Imperturbably, tock, tick-tock!

Till, boastful earth, your forests wilt
In grotesque Death. Till Death shall silt,

Loud-blooded man, her unchecked sands
From feet and warped expiring hands

Through fatuous channels of the thinned
Brain. Till all the clangours which have dinned

Through your arched ears are only this,
Tick-tock down blank eternities,

Where still the sallow death's-head ticks
As stars burn down like candle-wicks.




UNNAMED FRUIT

(For A. E. Coppard)

What fruit grows viewless in my garden plot,
        So red the sun is shamed,
Tipped with green starshine and with opal flamed!
        Days shall not rot
My fruit so sacred that it is not named.

Not with a carnal lip shalt thou devour
        A pulp so tragic-sweet.
For here the juices of disaster meet
        When silly power
Gives form to fancy that a man might eat.

Leave us a single tree of precious fruit;
        One dream to be our own;
One shape which shall not stammer into stone;
        One sweet song mute
To sing with fleshless lips when flesh is flown




PORTRAIT OF AN ARTIST

I have been given eyes
Which are neither foolish nor wise,
Seeing through joy or pain
Beauty alone remain.

I have been given an ear
Which catches nothing clear,
But only along the day
A Song stealing away.

My feet and hands never could
Do anything evil or good:
Instead of these things,
A swift mouth that sings.




SHEPHERD SINGING RAGTIME

(For E. V. Branford)

The shepherd sings:
                "Way down in Dixie,
                Way down in Dixie,
    Where the hens are dog-gone glad to lay...
"

With shaded eyes he stands to look
Across the hills where the clouds swoon,
He singing, leans upon his crook,
    He sings, he sings no more.
The wind is muffled in the tangled hair
Of sheep that drift along the noon.
        The mild sheep stare
With amber eyes about the pearl-flecked June.
        Two skylarks soar
        With singing flame
    Into the sun whence first they came.
All else is only grasshoppers
Or a brown wing the shepherd stirs,
Who, like a slow tree moving, goes
Where the pale tide of sheep-drift flows.

        See! the sun smites
        With molten lights
    The turned wing of a gull that glows
    Aslant the violet, the profound
    Dome of the mid-June heights.
    Alas! again the grasshoppers,
    The birds, the slumber-winging bees,
    Alas! again for those and these
        Demure things drowned;
Drowned in vain raucous words men made
Where no lark rose with swift and sweet
Ascent and where no dim sheep strayed
About the stone immensities,
Where no sheep strayed and where no bees
Probed any flowers nor swung a blade
    Of grass with pollened feet.

He sings
                        "In Dixie,
                Way down in Dixie,
        Where the hens are dog-gone glad to lay
        Scrambled eggs in the new-mown hay...
"

The herring-gulls with peevish cries
Rebuke the man who sings vain words;
His sheep-dog growls a low complaint,
Then turns to chasing butterflies.
But when the indifferent singing-birds
From midmost down to dimmest shore
Innumerably confirm their songs,
And grasshoppers make summer rhyme
And solemn bees in the wild thyme
Clash cymbals and beat gongs,
    The shepherd's words once more are faint,
    Once more the alien song is thinned
    Upon the long course of the wind,
        He sings, he sings no more.

    Ah now the dear monotonies
    Of bells that jangle on the sheep
    To the low limit of the hills!
    Till the blue cup of music spills
    Into the boughs of lowland trees;
    Till thence the lowland singings creep
    Into the dreamful shepherd's head,
        Creep drowsily through his blood;
    The young thrush fluting all he knows,
    The ring dove moaning his false woes,
    Almost the rabbit's tiny tread,
        The last unfolding bud.

                But now,
Now a cool word spreads out along the sea.
Now the day's violet is cloud-tipped with gold.
    Now dusk most silently
Fills the hushed day with other wings than birds'.
Now where on foam-crest waves the seagulls rock,
To their cliff-haven go the seagulls thence.
So too the shepherd gathers in his flock,
    Because birds journey to their dens,
    Tired sheep to their still fold.

    A dark first bat swoops low and dips
    About the shepherd who now sings
    A song of timeless evenings;
    For dusk is round him with wide wings,
    Dusk murmurs on his moving lips.

        There is not mortal man who knows
        From whence the shepherd's song arose:
            It came a thousand years ago.

        Once the world's shepherds woke to lead
        The folded sheep that they might feed
            On green downs where winds blow.

        One shepherd sang a golden word.
        A thousand miles away one heard.
            One sang it swift, one sang it slow.

        Two skylarks heard, two skylarks told
        All shepherds this same song of gold
            On all downs where winds blow.

        This is the song that shepherds must
        Sing till the green downlands be dust
            And tide of sheep-drift no more flow;

        The song two skylarks told again
        To all the sheep and shepherd men
            On green downs where winds blow.




SKYLARK NOON

                Now the tall sky
                Is pricked with stars of song as the sky at night
                With stars of light.
        I am loosened, I fly
    Till never a lark is near to the sun as I.
Now through the steeps of air do my swift wings cut.
        My wings are seen and not seen
Even as dawn-drenched waters that twinkle and shut,
As I rise to the tops of the noon where no bird has been.
                Fleet
            My wings beat.
        I climb, I climb
High hills of noon that soar from the plains of Time.
                But lo!
            As I go,
        Half flame, half snow,
So far through unwinged places that even the brown
                Larks of the dwindling down
Are as dust, and dimmer than dust are men and town—
        Who are these, who are these
        New larks whose song is so proud
            That my own is cowed?
        From what lands, what seas
Have they flown with song so kingly my weak songs fade;
        Such song as no bird has made
Though Love called long in Spring and his heart obeyed?

Such song is theirs as the winds have always sought
        But the winds not found;
Such song as the seas at dawn have almost caught
        Ere the song was drowned;
        Such song as no birds achieve,
        Though nightingale may grieve,
        And lyric thrush may scold,
        And blackbird make so bold
As to declare this silver and his own song gold.
        Who are these whose singings here
Compass the noon with splendour, but my heart with fear,
        Lest I, unworth this height,
Drop through narrowing deeps of unplumbed night?

            Lo! the dead poets they
        Who passed through flesh this way,
        These with no lips of clay
Now sing supremest song throughout the duskless day.
        In the music now they make
        My own few notes forsake
My heart that rocks in silence as a lone bird on a lake.
                I vail within my wings
    I vail my head in worship before the poet kings;
                Until from the far brink
            Of this last Song whence I shrink
Ah slowly now and slowly down the tall noon I sink.

So am I wrapped in quiet, still trancèd by their Word,
        Until I reach the airs
        Where a mortal skylark fares
But not in his first rapture shall match his song with theirs!
And now my feet are fallen, I am no more a bird,
Now for my little seeing the high gold noon is blurred;
                For now where grey roads wind
I walk the low world mutely among my human kind.




THE SINGER OF HIGH STATE

On hills too harsh for firs to climb,
    Where eagle dare not hatch her brood,
    On the sheer peak of Solitude,
    With anvils of black granite crude
He beats austerities of rhyme.

Such godlike stuff his spirit drinks
    He made grand odes of tempest there.
    The steel-winged eagle, if he dare
    To cleave these tracts of frozen air,
Hearing such music, swoops and sinks.

Stark tumults, which no tense night awes,
    Of godly love and titan hate
    Down crags of song reverberate.
    Held by the Singer of High State,
Battalions of the midnight pause.

On hills uplift from Space and Time,
    On the sheer peak of Solitude,
    With stars to give his furnace food,
    On anvils of black granite crude
He beats austerities of rhyme.




BIRD, BIRD, BIRD

"Oiseau!" said the French boy, "oiseau!"
        —but the word
                Was absurd!
"Vogel!" said the German boy, but that
                Fell flat.
"Bird!" said the English boy—the fresh word rolled
                Pure gold.

                Bird, bird, bird, bird!
            When the quiet branches heard
                        Bird, bird!
            Lovesome and immortal word!
They tossed their plumes of green in delight through the clean
Glory of the morning for the wind blew keen;
For the clouds that had stayed like a will-not-answer maid
Went shining, the white girls, in their marriage things arrayed;
            Till the leaves in the dark dells
            Were a chorus of swung bells
            At the bidding of a word,
            Were the din of many bells
            The tall towers fling
            On the lyric day that tells
Of the beauty and the splendour and the crowning of a King.

                    Bird!
                Said the boy,
            With the voice like a flute.
        His feathered brothers heard
            In their warm nests mute,
                Bird!
            Said the boy
        With the morning in his cheeks.
            Bird, bird, bird, bird!
                Joy!
His feathered brothers answered from the silver of their beaks.

There was lifting of bright heads and a gleam of little eyes,
        And a twitter of surprise,
        And a flutter of alarm.
                        Bird!
                Said the boy,
            Bird, bird, bird, bird!
There fell a shining moment of wide wet calm.
                        Calm!

Then suddenly a music from a hundred thousand throats
Crashed like the bows of the ocean-cleaving boats.
A phalanx of swift song made assault against the day,
                The winds made way.
            Birds rose stark in an ecstasy of fire
                To the heart of Song's desire.

The last skies shook with the throbbing of their flight
        Through the blue far height.
There were only birds and song where the globe sped along
                To the limits of the far
                        Blue height.
                There was neither sun nor star,
                There was neither day nor night,
                There was one thing heard
                In the limits of the far
                        Blue height.
                Bird, bird, bird, bird!
                        Bird!
                    Said the boy,
        Said the boy in the morning of the world.




GREEN BEADS

Whence have you drawn, O shining beads,
    The tints which blind my sight?
"Down in the woods a wild cat bleeds,
    He moans along the night.
He gave his green green eyes to deck
The whiteness of your lady's neck.

"He moans into the dark, he dies.
    He has not eyes nor blood.
Your lady's beads may shine, he lies
    Stretched cold within the wood.
—But she shall never lose again
The wild cat moaning in her brain."




THE WIND, WHENCE BLOWING

From what land where the winds meet
Art thou come, O Wind, O ruthless feet,
O cloak of the most High of Lords,
O shattering thrust of untamed swords?

From what land where the winds tell
Of ancient Powers sin-swept to Hell,
Of meagre men by Christ's craft
Borne to the Throne where Satan laughed?

From what land where a Hill stands,
The stars uplift upon his hands;
A Hill stands, and round his knees
There is concourse of all seas?

        "I from the sheer crags of the skies,
        To thy hair and hollow eyes!"




LADY OF BABYLON

Pink face of deftly prepared flesh,
Soft limbs whose language you employ
In scheduled hours of bartered joy
Against the limbs of a pale boy
Who flounders in your mesh.

What ashes hide beyond your eye,
What dry winds fanged with thin disdain
Below the convex of your brain
Howl through the bleached bones in the plain
Where your sucked lovers lie?

God save you, exquisite-obscene,
For her poor sake who one time bore
Your sword-edged baby limbs that tore
Red lumps of flesh from her heart's core,
Christ save you, Magdalene!




THIS IS THE HAPPY HUSBAND,
THIS IS HE

Like a sleek slab of pork his pate
Bends moonwise over the heaped plate.

And from his twin-topped whiskers stoop
Icicular, two beads of soup.

His belly whimpers in the dun
Processes of digestion,

While his fat fingers play like nice-
Behaved and clean-licked sewer mice.

His speckled orbs lurk deep and squat,
Two sick thick toads in a pool's rot.

Before him on the platter lies
A girl's heart salt with miseries.

His lip sweats thirst. A withdrawn cork
Plops ... he lifts his knife and fork...

Down the pink champaign of his chops
Glucose appreciation drops...




COLD BRANCH IN THE BLACK AIR

Who taps? You are not the wind tapping?
        No! Not the wind!
You straining and moaning there,
Are you a cold branch in the black air
        Which the storm has skinned?
                No! Not a cold branch!
                    Not the wind!

Who are you? Who are you?
                                                But you loved me once,
                You drank me like wine.
The dead wood simmers in my skull. I am rotten.
And your blood is red still and you have forgotten,
                And my blood was yours once and yours mine!

Are you there still? O fainter, O further.... nothing!
                Nothing taps!
Surely you straining and moaning there,
You were only a cold branch in the black air?
                ... Or a door perhaps?




GHOSTS GATHERING

(For B. C.)

You hear no bones click, see no shaken shroud.
Though no tombs grin, you feel ghosts gathering. Crowd
On pitiful crowd of small dead singing men
Tread the sure earth they feebly hymned; again

With fleshless hand seize unswayed grass. They seize
Insensitive flowers which bend not. Through gross trees
They sift. Nothing withstands them. Nothing knows
Them nor the songs they sang, their busy woes.

"Hence from these ingrate things! To the towns!" they weep,
(If ghosts have tears). You think a wrinkled heap
Of leaves heaved, or a wing stirred, less than this.
Some chance on the midnight cities. Others miss

The few faint lights, thin voices. Wretched these
Doomed to beat long the windy vacancies!

Some mourn through forlorn towns. They prowl and seek
—What seek they? Who knows them? If branches creak
And leaves flap and slow women ply their trade,
Those all are living things, but these are dead,

All that they were, dead totally. What fool still
Knows their extinguished songs? They had their fill

Of average joys and sorrows. They learned how
Love wilts, Death does not wilt. What more left now?

But one ghost yet of all these ghosts may find
Himself not utterly faded.
                                                        Through his blind

Some old man's lamp-rays probe the darkness. Sick
Of his gaunt quest, the ghost halts. The clock's tick

Troubles the silence. Tiredly the ghost scans
The opened book on the table. A flame fans,

A weak wan fire floods through his subtle veins.
No, no, not wholly forgotten! Loves and pains

Not suffered wholly for nothing!
                                                        (The old man bends
Over the book, makes notes for pious ends,

—Some curious futile work twelve men at most
Will read and yawn over.) The dizzy ghost,

Like some more ignorant moth circles the light...
Not suffered wholly for nothing! ...
                                                        "A sweet night!"

The old man mumbles.... A warmth is in the air,
He smiles, not knowing why. He moves his chair

Closer against the table. And sitting bowed
Lovingly turns the leaves and chants aloud.




LYRIC IN GLOOM

Knights and ladies all are dead,
    Heigh-ho! so am I!
Now the sunset falls like lead,
Never a star is in the sky.
                Near or far,
                Never a star!
Knights and ladies all are dead.
    Heigh-ho! so am I!

We shall never be born again!
    Heigh-ho! why should we?
Jesus, first and last of men,
Christ I crucified in me.
                Near or far,
                Never a star!
We shall never be born again,
    Heigh-ho! why should we?




I SEEK A WILD STAR

What seek you in this hoarse hard sand
That, shuffles from your futile hand?
Your limbs are wry. With salt despair
All day the scant winds freeze your hair.
What mystery in the barren sand
Seek you to understand?

        All day the acute winds' finger-tips
        Flay my skin and cleave my lips.
        But though like flame about my skull
        Leap the gibes of the cynic gull,
        I shall not go from this place. I
        Seek through all curved vacancy
        Though the sea taunt me and frost scar,
        I seek a star, a star!

Why seek you this, why seek you this
Of all distraught futilities?
The tide slides closer. The tide's teeth
Shall bite your body with keen death!
Of all unspaced things that are
Vain, vain, most hideously far,
Why seek you then a star?

        I seek a wild star, I that am
        Eaten by earth and, all her shame;
        To whom fields, towns are a close clot
        Of mud whence the worm dieth not;
        To whom all running water is
        Besnagged with timeless treacheries,
        Who in a babe's heart see designed
        Mine own distortion and the blind
        Lusts of all my kind!
        Hence of all vain things that are
        Fain, most hideously far,
        A star, I seek, a star!




MY LADY OF PEACE

In the sickening away of the trumpets and the shuddering
                of the drums,
She comes, my Lady of Peace, with her grief, her grief,
                she comes.
With the blood on her teeth she comes, the lost wild
                eyeballs stare;
There is foam in the blood on her lips; ashes are strewn
                in her hair.
Like flowers are her dry fingers, pale flowers grey frost
                has nipped,
Being empty of hands they held like desolate seas
                unshipped.
And she dances, the strayed white woman, she dances a
                forlorn tread,
Being sad for the men that are living and glad for the men
                that are dead.




OUR JACK

Our Jack is dead, our jolly and simple Jack.
To him are fierce stars clay and snow is black.
Black blinding silences are all his hours,
He knows not birds nor laughter nor any flowers.

And when white winds come calling over the hill,
To him no white winds call, he lies so still.
And now, when all his singing pals come back,
He'll not leave France behind, our little Jack.




PEACE

There were three men when grey dawn broke
        That walked in a sad wood.
There were three Solemn Men who spoke
        No speech I understood.

The singings of the singing birds
        In lorn beaks were subdued.
There was a grief enchained the herds
        That beat this bourneless wood.

One Man was Moses. Lo! he struck
        A grim stone with his rod.
There was no living fount that shook
        From the far wells of God!

One Man was Christ. Around His head
        The jagged thorns were keen.
But all the blood His body shed
        Made not the foul world clean.

One Man was Everyman. He went
        Blank-eyed to the dark mesh.
One Man was Everyman that rent
        From his own bones his flesh.

No boon hath Moses rendered, nor
        Shall Christ His bleeding cease.
For swift as Peace hath stifled War,
        Huge War hath stifled Peace.




SILVER-BADGED WAITER

Poor trussed-up lad, what piteous guise
Cloaks the late splendour of your eyes,
Stiffens the fleetness of your face
Into a mask of sleek disgrace,
And makes a smooth caricature
Of your taut body's swift and sure
Poise, like a proud bird waiting one
Moment ere he taunt the sun;
Your body that stood foolish-wise
Stormed by the treasons of the skies,
Star-like that hung, deliberate
Above the dubieties of Fate,
But with an April gesture chose
Unutterable and certain woes!

And now you stand with discreet charm
Dropping the napkin round your arm,
Anticipate your tip while you
Hear the commercial travellers chew.
You shuffle with their soups and beers
Who held at heel the howling fears,
You whose young limbs were proud to dare
Challenge the black hosts of despair!




SUNSET OVER SUBURB

(For Neville Whymant)

The sun setting down the suburb holds
Impermanent crimsons and elusive golds.
See the false banners! folds on magic folds
                Sway down deluded streets!
Refuse and ruin now most featly kissed
                By lips flushed amethyst!
The walls are shimmered with a vaporous dusk,
                    A glamour glooms
                The sorrowful pale husk
        With rich twilight of witchcraft blooms.
Ah! spurious wizardry that flows and fleets
Where sword-gems flash and melt in a moon-mist!

        The roofs so ashen-dark of old
        Flare down the streets like lifted brands,
        Flare like the burning arc of sands
        Where the recurrent seas have rolled
Long breakers molten from astounding gold

                The chimneys which all day
                    Scowling have stood
                Against the devouring mills,
                Boding no thought of good
                For whoso came that way—
                Lo now! from evil thought
Soaring through steeps of fire their brows are caught.

Columnar topaz in this time of shrift,
                Their tall heads lift
        Among the bases of celestial hills.

Ah streets, rent roofs, ah chimneys, I am blind!
                I dare not find
You lifted so from purgatorial dooms.
                I cannot breathe.
Hold me! I sink where the dense colour fumes!
Now opiate hands close round me, draw me down,
Foam-lulled where soundless tides of sunset seethe!
                Hold me! I drown!

    My eyes open! ah so wretched eyes!
                Have ye no gift to steep
                Your seeing in swart sleep?
                Cannot your harsh lids close
                Tighter than midnight knows,
Make sleep a burial whence the last star dies?
Now ebbing like the blood in a faint pulse,
                Relentless, with no pause,
Shorn of the lying sapphires, aureate cheats,
                The glamorous tide withdraws.
                    The false sky dulls
From redmost roses into drooping weeds.
Ah dying beauty now that dying bleeds,
                Your banners fail in dust!
                A slow rot gnaws
The disillusioned roofs with teeth of rust.
                Now chimneys reassume
                Their ominous dark doom.

Sick grey, sick brown and grey once more are penned
Within the network of the haggard streets.
The suburb stretches drably to life's end!

                Like sheep in a mange-ridden flock
                Once more the aimless houses sprawl
                    Along the dishevelled streets,
                Where grocers shew their flyblown stock,
                Where butchers shew their pulpy meats,
                Where down a tin-heaped backyard wall
                    Thin cats and women call.
                As night comes close the suburb flares
                To petty sins and cheap carouse
                Along its foolish thoroughfares.
                The smirking adolescents stand
                About the corners in coarse groups.
                Somewhere a blind knocks like a hand,
                A lodger rings a stuttering bell,
                A stray tree mutely droops thin boughs.
                A window opening throws a smell
                From kitchens where smeared saucepans boil
                Their quarts of scurfy soups.
                An unlatched door swings wide and wails.
                A patch of wilted grass exhales
                Scents not of dust nor dustless soil.

For lo! this twofold sorrow was set down
On the doomed suburb till the last of days,
Which hath been placed in intermediate ways
Between two bournes from which her heart is sealed:
The intimate keep of the far midmost town,
The green quick raptures of far outmost field.

She knows not the heart throbbing nor the tense
Roads shimmering where the hundred thousand feet
                Make thunders where they meet.
Nor tumult storming in loud sense on sense:
                Eyes where the profligate hues
Mingle in whirlpools of untamed delight,
Where scarlet or shrill green pursues
                Purples and yellows and star-blues,
                        And find or lose
Their bodies in white day or profound night;
Smells of strange spices from uncharted lands,
                Of blood on unwiped hands,
Of woman's hair, of ripe flamboyant flowers,
Of buildings leaping to the displaced skies,
Of all the body's and soul's mad merchandise
Sold through the crowded unremitting hours;
Sounds of innumerable singings since the dawn
                Came dancing and, her gown withdrawn,
Her white breasts blinded night's most impotent eyes;
Cracked murmurs of pale harlots in their beds,
Who have paid more than gold for nothing bought;
The mumbling of old women with drooped heads
Who are defeated though they sternly fought;
Music and terror and the shock of wings!—
Not these she knows—colours and sounds and smells,
                The conjoint heavens and the massed hells,
                    No, not these things!

Not these she knows,—nor these, nor these:
The snowdrops under the dark yews,
The challenge on the young lips borne
                Of brave blackthorn
Against the jagged teeth and the harsh beard
                Of winter seared.
Nor primroses washed with sweet dews,
Nor daffodils where bees are stuck
Who probe too deeply for their sweet,
Nor celandine whence they refuse
        To move until they suck
Their heads drunk and a stupor to their feet.
Ah the dog-violets on low hills
And woodland sorrel in deep woods
And blackbirds with fine yellow bills
And thrushes of a thousand moods
And nesting-time when these make rhyme
Amid the youngling leaves that climb
On sycamores and chestnut trees!
        Not these she knows, not these!
She hath not seen the kingfisher
By willowed waters dart blue fires.
She hath not seen the skylark stir
When a sheep's foot came near his nest,
And rise to lead the morning choirs
From flushed East to pale West.
Nor all the blossoms of all fruit,
Apple and pear and rosy peach,
Nor, palisaded from man's reach
Behind a guard of frowning fir,
Wild cherry tipped with dawn.
Nor heard grass-belfries chink and chime
When poplars sway like a slim faun,
Nor known the tardy oak-tree suit
His body to the crescent time.

Not these things and not these she knows
Behind her rampart of pale woes,
For she with twofold grief is sealed
From midmost town and outmost field.
Ah sunset! thou who lying came
To flood her streets with traitor flame,
                Come thou no more
                With gilded lies!
Her heart is numbed, her eyes are sore,
Her heart is troubled with sick shame.
                Open no more
One fitful instant the wild door
Which brought one breeze of Paradise.
In this dun midway where she lies
Each day a twofold death she dies.
Thou false and lovely, come no more
With warm wings touched of Paradise!




SHRIFT AMONG HILLS

The gaunt stones upright on nude fells
Alone shall be his gods: naught else
Hold his urgent blood and sense
Subdued in proud stern reverence.
Only to these who make their house
Among clean winds he bends his brows.
On their austere lips he shall place
The spent passions of his face.
The cupped midnight like a great bowl
Shall lave him. He shall go forth whole.




COURAGE THE DREAMERS

(For Anthony Bertram)

We swing our swords against the bare
Bleak brows of granite. Yea, we dare.
    We of clay limbs, armed with frail rhyme,
To taunt the passive globes that stare
    From the eye-sockets of stern Time.

Though our long anguish may not dint
His towering flanks, yet from this flint
    Our swords strike such fierce sparks of light,
The moon is blanched, the fool stars stint
    Their weak flames at the crest of night.

Yea though we bleed from crown to heel,
Yea though the points of our split steel
    Make futile glories and then die
Against Time's blear immensity,
    Yet for black woe there shall be weal!

Stauncher than Time our dream is built.
    Despair not, human dreamers, for
    We shall prevail after much war.
Yea, the poor stump of our sword's hilt
    At length shall be Time's conqueror!




A number of these poems are reprinted from Voices, Coterie, the Nation, the English Review, the Englishwoman, To-day, Colour, the Apple, the New Witness, the Sphere, the Saturday Westminster, and other journals; and from "A Queen's College Miscellany," "The Oxford and Cambridge Miscellany," and Messrs. Palmer and Hayward's "Miscellany of Poetry."




THE WHITEFRIARS PRESS, LTD. LONDON AND TONBRIDGE.









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