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The Bitter Root: A Book of Poems

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THE BITTER ROOT* * BOOK 0^ POEMS *
by
?
Janet Piper
A dissertation submittad In partial fulfillment of
the requirements for the degree of Doctor of
Philosophy, In the Department of English, in the
Graduate College of the State
University of Iowa
June, 1940
ProQuest N um ber: 10805536
All rights reserved
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and there are missing pages, these will be noted. Also, if m aterial had to be rem oved,
a n o te will ind ica te the deletion.
uest
ProQuest 10805536
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ii
for
i 'r’>r'- >
F. F.
ill
Down whatever wave
Of whatever world
The spirit hereafter
Drifts, or Is soundlessly driven.
Is softly or violently whirled.
So long as It Is given me to remember
Anything, however email.
Of this life and Its loves and Its lovers.
One memory I shall hold to. shall cling to
Longest, latest of alii
Mot of your face* not of your voiee.
(Though familiar these are and dear)
But of the klnd> the sustaining clasp of your h a n d :
This comfort I shall be loath to relinquish.
Even In that fare that unimaginable land*
iv
Certain of the following poems have appeared
In The Midland, The gorge, The Harp. Poetry* A
Magazine of Verse* The Lyric* The Saturday Review
of Literature. American Prefaces, The Prairie
Schooner. Hew York Herald Tribune Books* Boz&rt*
The Carillon* and other journals*
V
CONTENTS
FIRST YOUTH
What is beauty
2
Apocalypse
3
The Stranger
4
Foreboding
5
Words About Death
6
Hear, 0 Love
Ora Pro Noble
7
8
RETROSPECT
Lovely and illusory
11
Song
12
Since Even Leaves
13
Harbinger
14
Hands
15
Vi
Recurring Dream
16
Songs For a Spinet
17
So is the meagre banquet spread
Residuum
20
21
t m BITTSR ROOT
A thorny hedge surrounds my heart
S3
Introvert
24
Transubstantlation
25
Elementary Doglc
26
Ingrate
27
Counsel In April
28
Class House
29
Second Thought
30
Dictum
31
Pursuit of the Muse
32
Visitant Visited
33
vii
To My Subconscious
34
Melodrama
35
The Virtu© in Analysis
36
Preference Stated
37
Dialogic
38
Dedioat Ion to the Intellectual £*lfe
41
So much you are offered
The Question
42
43
XNTIRIAJDE
As in time swift-gathered floods
'
*
Ii'esprit s'ad r esse al 1 am©
45
46
/
Reflexions
47
Ohanson
48
viii
ALIEN BIRD
What is thla I who beats her wings
50
Illusion
51
Figure With Annotation
58
Shadow
53
Day
54
Dark
55
those Flowers
56
Be assured, be oomforted
Pastoral
57
58
SONGS B1F0RB WINTER
Sometimes it seems a ourloue thing
Songs Before Winter
60
61
ix
Strange
65
Night Piece
66
Approximation
67
Economics and the Ego
68
Heredity
69
Environment
70
Progrese
71
Balm to the mind
72
Winter-Bound
75
FOR A FEW PERSONS
For Hartley Burr Alexander
75
Remembered Spring
76
To An Acquaintance
77
Not in Qalllee
78
X.
Nativity
79
In Xts Wisdom or Treason
@0
When Dally theBlack Doubt
@1
Mea Culpa
82
Song
85
In Answer
84
Coffee Hour
85
FOR MY $0N
Hush thee,hush thee#
Sometimes
Xwill sing
X come upon you unaware
87
88
You are my flower of youth with extreme
care
89
The aeorn falls# the milkweed sails
away
90
Although your thought lies in my open
hand
91
xi
Tliis afternoon an infant oomes to oall
98
Your sudden piercing cry sounds in ray ears93
This afternoon I have had much to say
94
Now in an April morning after rain
95
Here is a weight of loveliness to hear
96
And daffodils have drunk a sunny dew
97
Knowledge is like a vast and anolent
grove
98
A people whose sweet tongue I do not
speak
99
I think there will be music on the earth 100
This is the little picture of a world
101
Watching the horses from a neighboring
field
102
Always the mist and rain have had high
power
103
Now as blue evening pales, tall trees
move near
104
xii
Through flushed end flowering spring,
through burning fall
To ©harm your ear is now my privilege
105
106
EPILOGUE
The spirit naked and alone
106
1
FIRST YOUTH
2
What Is beauty
Of sound or thin#,
that It should leave me
What are dreams
And what la song,
What I should serve them
My life long;?
Am 1 a viol.
Fain the how,
that wistful music
Is all X know?
3
APOCALYPSE
X dare not be too long alone
Lest X awake and find me gone;
Lest there oome thunder in my ears#
A rush of wings# a clash of spears#
A riving of timber and in my eyes
A 8tinging smoke and paradises
Under my breast my heart might grow
Too hot and high to be held so;
My sentient self might in me say#
"I am very strong# X will not stay;
Xt is no task to tear apart
The puny prison of your heartIn
X dare not be too long alone
Lest X awake and find me gone*
4
*TH£ STRANGSR
X do not know this stranger,
Furtive, meanly dressed;
kove it was, all clothed with light,
1 hade to he my guest;
"Impostor!* shall X say to him
And send him on his way.
Or give him wine, anoint his hair,
Remembering yesterday?
5
wonmmim
X knew the sound of its dark coming,
X heard lte step and caught ay breath;
A fragile tune which X was humming
Game to a sudden, silvery death*
X felt the touch of a shadowy hand
And trembled in a black embrace;
"To-day," X said, "X shall understandJ"
But X did not see its face*
3
WORDS ABOUT DEATH
Words about death
Are like petals drifting;
I would cover my sorrow
With words about death.
But they are so few.
7
"Hear, 0
or Death take m e /”
Is nor youth *e brief litany.
Sorrow, Love and Death, these three.
The Farsons of my Trinity,
ORA PRO HOBIS
Ivor sines she came upstairs
Mary Agnes has been saying prayers*
"Ood, the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us
It is cruel that I should be lying
Warm and safe while she is crying*
"Holy Mary, Mother of dod, pray for us
Nothing but a wall between,
Lath and paper thin as screen*
"Virgin most beautiful
I suppose she quarreled again with Jim;
Ho girl should care for a boy like him*
"Virgin most prudent
Hush, Mary Agnes, d o n ’t care, d o n ’t cryJ
y o u ’re as good a girl and better than I*
"Mystical rose
9
If ah© keeps crying the whole night through,
Shall I go in to her?
What will X do?
"Comfortress of the afflicted
Dear Ood, what does one say
Late in the night when one needs to pray?
"House of gold, pray for us -•
10
BK8tO»FE09
11
XiOvely and illusory*
Dreams do well enough for m i
Shall X not then, If X ohoose,
Wear winded sandals for my ahoes?
12
SONG
Flowers are dead 1n garlands you wove*
the bird and the blossom gone from the grove:
Are you grieving for love?
1 grieve for the tree not bursting to leaf,
1 grieve for all beauty blighted and brief:
X am grieving for grief.
SINGE EVEN LEAVES
X have hidden my hair in a shadowing hood
And fled away to this far wood:
Hero, my silken searf unwound,
X shall lay me on the ground.
What is life hut constant fears,
Geaseless sorrow, quenchless tears?
Let such birds as will, come cover
Me from love, now and forever • • • •
Still X weep, since even leaves
Lie heavy on a heart that grieves*
14
HA1BJW0ER
Within an icy fastness
My spirit, worn and old,
5/tables and shivers, brooding on
the evil of the cold*
Just now a scarlet singing bird,
A sudden radiant stain
Against a startled, snowy eliff
Glowed and was gone again*
15
HANDS
Musi© slips from her fingers,
Thin slanting drops life© rainj
It sways and gleams - did you listen?
It Is gone again.
Her fingers are flowers or fire,
fh® tips are as flames*
foueh them - they are ©old as snow falling,
fragile as dreams*
13
RECURRING DREAM Of EVIL PORTENT
serpent preceded me In the garden*
Long ago
Was the hud blighted, the tree stripped at the root *
Hothlng will grow
Where the flowers should have been now, and the ripening
fruit*
These wounds are forever unhealed*
Snow
Drifts over the scarred and meaoried waste •
Only the vulture, the orow,
Foe of innocent years, remain*
Nor they at the last.
17
SONGS FOR A SPIimr
X
Petals loosened ’
Break and blow
On a breath of wind
fo the ground
Like snow,
Like notes
In a music
Heard long ago,
A delicate dirge
For a fragile woe.
13
II
All music
Inferred
From the note
Of one bird,
All truth
From one word:
All gardens
Guessed
From one petal
Pressed,
All rest
From one breast.
Ill
To-night
The snow
falls light*
Oh fair
And sold
And white*
Upon all old
Delight*
Upon old
Sorrow.
So Is tho me&gre banquet spread*
Dreams my hunger and my bread.
RESIDUUM
Dreams spent, I rest now, think, find what I have
Remaining * sudden, lovely silences
That rose like music, deepened harmonies
Of swift and poignant meaning, mounting wave
On wave above my drowning sense, your grave,
Rich-patterned words, low-voiced intensities*
My mind is closely carved with memories,
Its walls are bitten deep —
all I must save*
They are become a part of me, to grow
With my growth, die with my death only*
Time
fill cut new records and the mind will show
Changed patterns; these, the years cannot efface,
Although your spuriouslustre. Is-grbwn: dim,
The metal of your b e i n gproven .base*
SB
THE BITTER HOOT
A thorny hedge aurrounds my heart
It hag this virtue:
All the spines are pointed ins
$hey will not hurt you*
24
IHTHGV1RT
High on a mountain or deep in th© s©a
Bury the creature I a all m®*
Gnawing, worrying, as a dog at a bone,
Z have never been able to leave her alone;
Sniffed, bitten, pulled, torn,
Harried, driven, from the day she was born,
Pity the creature with hunted eyes,
Distraught, cornered*
When she dies,
Say in mercy, 11So let it be •
The quarry escapes; the prisoned Is free,”
TPANSOBSTANTXATXOH
Being starved, X lately said,
"In G o d fs name, a little bread*
Heed assuaged, I would partake
Freely of the wine and cake*
Hungering now for these alone,
Proffered bread becomes a stone
26
EXilMENTARY £.0010
X have made my bed;
X will lie in Its
X shall not lie easy#
Not for a minute#
But if X moan
Or toss about#
Xt will be after dark#
The lights put outs
Xf X speak truth
And no oheap lie#
X make virtue
Of expedieney,
Since X am one who#
hiving or dead#
Will never rest
Xn any bed.
27
INGRATB
Close to ft orack In the prison wall
My greedy mind presses but all
She can see or the best thereabout.
Is your mind doubtfully peering outs
My mind sighs and turning her baok,
Begins to dig at another creek*
28
COUNSEL IN APRIL
Arm yourself against the spring
Or hide, seek covert
The day of your meagre blossoming
Is done with, over.
Not for you does the green blade
Leap, the sap quickens
Cover your eyes - there is no aid
For one new stricken*
29
GLASS HOUSE
X can almost forget its substance,
So delicate it is and thinly blown:
Yet sometimes hearing shattered glass,
X know a stone is thrown,
And seeking whose hand flung the missile,
Stare, startled, at my own*
SECOND THOUGHT
Having seen a small truth plain,
Sha said, ”X shall never he the same again.
But a woman may falter a lifetime through,
Blinded by a truth or two*
31
DICTUM
These outworn selves, malformed, pathetic,
Active, passive, energetic,
Timid, forward, glum, elate,
Impartial, 1 repudiates
Nor, frankly, do 1 contemplate
With satisfaction this
Current metamorphosis*
PURSUIT OP THE MUSI
My mind Is a nag 1 must ride till X dies
"Dodderer, dolt.1
Make haste,1" X cry;
"The rest have gone by,'*
When spent and asweat, we are left in arrears,
X tremble with fury and reward her with jeers;
"Body and soul for a mount like theirs
33
VISITANT VISITED
0 subtle analyst,
Quick to discover
The hidden spring, the secret twist
In conduct of another,
Turn the clear light in,
What does it uncover?
1 dare not say, but 1 suspect
Innocuous vacuity.
Wherein fancy can detect
(Malevolent assiduity)
Evil in its protean shapes
To confound my fatuity.
34
to m
SUBCONSCIOUS
A distinct inconvenience,
If not a disgrace,
is to have a subconscious
Which won't keep Its place*
Reputedly devious,
Sxpert in guile,
Tour embarrassing candor
Straitens my style;
Since you tell me so much
1 had rather not know,
Heed the censor, if any.
And please go below*
35
MELODRAMA
Surgeon, you boar him no ill-will,
Pause, suspend your knifes
Forbear to exercise your skill
Upon his paper substitute for life.
THE VIRTUE IN ANALYSIS
The sorrows of my youth were due
To a perverted point of view
Imposed upon me as I grew -*
This I have lived to judge is true
The torments of my present lot
Are equally, as like as not.
Of blindness bred, by lies begot And still X shiver, sweat and rot#
37
KtEFSREBCS STATED
Cowardie© is a doubtful shield,
Gourag© a sword I cannot wields
on the bloody field,
t would abandon both, and yield*
38
DIALECTIC
I
Say It la a penance
For my sin*
Or for grapes my grandparents
Ate seed and skins
Gall it a sentence,
A term to serve.
Set teeth, body tense,
Steeled nerve
Are common sense.
Hardly heroic;
In self-defense
One assumes the stole.
63
But if a penance
By whom imposed?
If a prison, whence
And by what closed?
Obvious inference
Derives from doubts
When not in durance*
One walks out*
40
m
Still* in deferens©
To all those
Who viewing the evidence,
Hardily ©hose
Patient endurance,
Maintain the pose -
Slightly off-balance
Grotesque, stiff.
At least insurance,
In case, if -
41
D eDICATION TO THE INTEEI3SCTUAL LIFE
I have dabbled tentative toes In a mighty sea,
All but Infinitely wide, as variously fedj
Now the w a ^ r is up to my knee,
No, it is over my heads
These currents are powerful, multiple, crossed;
I shall swim If 1 can, or drown,
Holding it gain to be lost,
Better far to go down
Breasting this vital flood.
Than to live on land,
£«acklng 3jilt In the blood,
Ohoked upon sand.
42
So much you are offered^
This fritter root;
Seek not seed,
Hope not, fruit.
If you hunger,
Take 1%, eati
To the hungry
Bitter is sweet.
THE QUESTION
0 narrow house which holds the brain
Source and instrument of pain;
Set of cells wherein X live,
A prisoner and fugitive;
from your windows I can mark
m e bursting horror on the dark;
Griea of terror, suffering, fear
Aseail the rampart of my ears
1 stifle in this airless room,
If fortress, prison still, and tomb
And were you granted now its keys.
What would you do with your release?
44
INTERLUDE
45
Ae in time awift-gathered floods
Deflected from their course.
Seek new channels underground.
Unmindful of their source;
So limpid pa s b Iona whloh the mind
Dlfldalne and mooke.
Dig d a .tro yln g chaws
In w W tW M M n rocks.
L*ESPRIT S rADRESSS A L 1 AMS
On fabrique beaucoup de mondes
Au ooura de la vie
Pour te donner, ame tremblante,
Un final abri.
A
Sacha snfin, reveuse, aveugle,
Quo 09« mondes forte
H*existent point*
Pour tout rafugo
Tu n'aa que le corps*
Tu n'aa que le eorpa, mon faible,
a 9eat mei quti le dies
Tea citadelles, tea royaumes,
je lea al bails*
47
I
REFLEXIONS
Nous habltona dans Is mams raonds,
tout pres* contemporains;
H o b regards so touehent par hasard
St quelquefoie nos mains*
Hob regards reneontrent at nos esprlts
S 'approehent* curious,
Puls se retlrent* mondalns, aceptiquee,
Bt memo soupoonneu^t*
Hals nos antes sagos so regardant
Longtemps, gravement* fort,
In aachant bion qu'alias no ronoontront
Qu*en passant vors la mort*
46
CHANSON
Qu'eet-ee que a'eat done que 1 'amour,
Eet-ce Xa Joie, la peine?
N
N
Tout a la foie ou tour a tour,
G 'eat Xa peur, o'eet Xa haine.
Que veut dire Xe mot aimer.
Eet-ce vlvre ou raourir?
C'eet avoir falm et <s'eet manger,
•
A
/
C'eet m i t r e et perir.
/
Que eait X'amour de Xa toeaute
De X'eepolr, de Xa foi?
✓
Pee yeux, Xee mains de I'aime,
See parolee et ea voix*
49
ALIEN BIRD
50
that la thl» I who
har wing*
With low lament Ilka m o w n l t m dova.
Or, frae a moment, flying, alnna.
Who faintg ylth f«ar* dissolves with love?
Uneasy reas cn tUi?s the tether
Blth chiding or wlth'moaklnK word.
Or
ft fallen feather^
Marvels at the alien bird*
51
XS&USXOIS
In a thin-blown paradise,
Prism-colored, brittle as lee,
Safe ae dew an hour past dawn.
Secure as shadow in the sun,
X move, remote and exquisite.
Aware of the world yet apart from it*
In a dream of pity 2 know your sorrow;
X am faintly stirred and yet to-morrow,
To-day, this I is a ghost These walls are water, this citadel lost*
52
FIGURE WITH ANNOTATION
X am a tree without roots
In the fecund, comforting earth.
Only the tremulous tendrils tossing,
Uneasy hunger and dearth}
Go it has been from my birth •
From birth has it really been s$r1‘
Even a seedling tha t ’s sound,
Forced time and again from the ground
By weather or spade or hoe,
Will scarcely root deep and grow;
Starved, thirsting, where
Seek sustenance save In the air?
Deep, deep toward the sky
I grope, and fail, and will die*
SHADOW
Unhappily the egoist
Sees life through a triple mist,
Dimly sensing where you stand.
He gropes in vain to find your hand}
Metaphysically speaking,
His form obscures what he is seeking.
Still across the shining meadow
Falls his ever*lengthened shadow*
Always X walk beside a pit
So deep the soul faints viewing it;
With at my right hand, opposite,
A wall of cliff so sheer and high
Its reach is lo^t in the dim sky:
With unsure step and limbs that sway
I move along thisfnarrow way
From tomorrow on |© yesterday*
55
t>ABK
Within night'a shadowed sphere.
Palpable, resilient.
As one in arms long dear,
I lie at rest, content:
Pillowed on yielding space,
X fling an arm afar
Seeking peace, truth and grace,
Cupping the tranquil air*
56
THESE FLOWERS
These flowers, If they are flowers, I said,
Are engendered, are fed, where the spirit has bled;
They have roots In no ground
Save the heart's hurt and the soul's wounds
So 1 said and spoke falsely, denying
The ranked body's erylng,
Its hunger and fever and languor, In vain.
And the fralt, If these are fruit, of Its pain*
57
"Be nasurad. bo comforted."
So to mv grieving haart I gala.
"As gliding wind ovar banding areas.
All thlnga paaa."
By haart wouldnot, be comforted.
Mr heart. atlll grieving. only gald.
Again and again os she ever has,
Ala 8 . . a a iasj11
58
PASTORAL
(After Theocritue)
Th© w o l f 1© Jaw® have olosed upon
The youngling kid so whit© and tender*
Leaving neither a®h nor bon©;
Rone was near who might defend her*
Yet* my fhyrsis, ©ease from grief,
Life, at best* is only brief;
The wolf pursuing, as the kid that flies*
Lives its moment and so dies*
Then, Thyrsis* dry thine eyes*
S0NU3 BEFORE WIHTKR
60
Sometimes It aeems a curious thine
How like Hovember ma.v be to eorl m u
Alono In a wood I sat on a log.
Smelling the around, tasting fog.
Seeing black and dripping trees.
Hearing birds#
Because of these
It seemed the morning of the year —
I wish it wereI
I wish it were i
61
SO NGS BEFORE WINTER
I
Already on this hillside
Stern winter has set foot;
Here linger only drying weeds#
Small withered fruit
To mark the vanished summers
See even now a flock
Of late leaves hurry
Across the blackened rook.
62
XI
the wind^a insistent melodies
In rustling leaves and sere
Ar® autumnal counterpoint
Heard of every ear.
there is a ghostly music
Known to the heart alone,
A song of other autumns
long since gone.
63
III
“Whence this secret dolor,
Why this stifled oryf*
"I am stabbed with the sharp color
Of trees against the sky.”
“Mow as the light Is falling,
Why do you stand forlornf*
“1 hear the wind's low walling
In fields of dying corn.“
Through stripped trees of December
The wind with whistling breath
Speaks loud the end of autumn,
The summer’s second death*
Mow chill earth yields reluctant
A meagre sustenance;
/
Life endures, but diminished.
Withdrawn, tense*
65
STBA&OE
There 1*3 nothing there?
Nothing but air?
Look again!
They are only wraith?
You see right through them?
Ah well, I oould have sworn
Sine© they were born
In pain,
Beaten to breath,
There was some life to them*
66
HIGHT FZEGS
Three are awake in the moonlight,
The melancholy owl.
The lone dog barking down the road
And the fretted soul;
The owl, monotonous, complains,
The dog vents sudden fears;
The soul, a worn campaigner.
Reviews Its tattered oares.
67
APPROXIMATIOH
When the mind composes
Itself to endure
Lack forever
And nothing more,
A coil at tension
Finds release.
And a quiet ensues
That Is almost peace.
68
ECONOMICS AND THE BOO
Clinging to a straw by black waters whirled,
X might look abroad upon a drowning world;
X might look abroad and see If X would,
My sister and her children swept beneath the flood*
"Close your eyes and do not think
Of the unfortunate who sink;
Count only those who are afloat
Nor envy him who has a boat."
X know the creed, X keep its law
And thank God dally for my straw,
Enabled to forget the lost
At but a trifling moral cost*
69
HEREDITY
Lack and need
Beget greedj
These breed
Fear and distrust
(Hot germane to dust)
Because they must.
When to have
Does not Imply
A brother's grave,
A starved child's cry,
Base and enough
Engender love#
70
ENVIRONMENT
Man fears his brother -But wet
You, me?
1, you?
Is it true?
(Forgive us —
we bo I)
We dwell
With feart
Fears fill
This air —
We breathe no other*
71
PROGRESS
Hand over hand, a rung at a time,
X climb, % climb . . . ♦ .
Darkness above, darkness below,
How shall t know the way to go?
Or which Is up and which Is down?
Or who is sinner, saint or clown?
Bones ache - there is no skin
Left on knuckle, or knee or shins
Hand over hand, a rung at a time,
X climb, 2 climb • « . • •
Boot, to the a»r.
Wind In old leavag
At tha laat of tho year.
Calm to the aclrlt.
Peace to the eye.
Angular branches
Carving the sky«
73
WINTER-BOUND
You are wrong;
Here la no peace ot the spirit,
This chill repose;
It la winter
In the mind, In the heart;
1 am weighted with snows#
The burden Is grievous;
None the less X must bear it
Until the cold goes:
Until lee in the vein Is melted
And the buds start;
Until the tree grows#
74
FOB A FEW PERSOWS
FOE HARTLEY BURR ALEXANDER
f*X am that Hary who sat reverent,
Adoring* at another wise m a n ’s foot*
Finding his words and comprehension sweetjn
So X recall a youthful sonnet went,
And what the early sonnet said, 1 meant*
You only know how hard X was beset;
That you were more than kind, compassionate
X offer now this renewed testament*
You were the swinging censer and the light,
The high priest and the altar and the host;
You were the deep-toned organ and the choir
Cathedral sanctuary, food and fire
And shelter to a spirit drenched and loeJ»,
Abandoned in the ruinous, outer night*
76
REMEMBERED SPRING
Always In April with a thrust of pain
Z shall recall a lost and lovely springs
Swift, silver light and black olouds hurrying;
Wet petals blowing, sharpened scents in rain;
And you, and where we shall not go agpin
Together, a city, still, unllstenlng;
I shall reoall our yo u t h 1® shy offering,
Unspoken love; and beauty's sudden stain
Upon the gravestone® underneath the moon;
The verses chanted to our silent hosts;
fhe chill, sweet evening® that sped too soon.
Ail this Is done.
As yet X dare not ptss
That quiet place, fearing two weightless ghosts,
The boy you were, the dreaming girl I we®.
77
TO AN ACQUAINTANCE
Yours Is a nature too fluid for friendship,
too transient, too changing,
A surface reflecting too nearly
the bright or the dark skies*
As a mariner after the storm,
his hand raised, shielding his eyes,
Strains his vision toward some invisible point
where he hopes the land lies;
So now my friendship, even at your urging,
gases over the wide,
Shallow expanse of your being, finding nowhere
place to set confident foot,
Build a fire and abide.
NOT IN Q k h l h m
And did Be speak?
X do not know, X do not knows
Bis voice was low
And there was whirring, too, of wings
The senses stray for lesser things*
1 thought Be said,
•Take up thy bed,
Arise and go*"
But there were many thronged the way
And he had Journeyed far that day?
1 saw Him bend His head to pray
And guessed the pity He must feel
So many maimed, so few to heal*
79
SATXVITS
Let It be nameless ever which X swear
Was none the less conceived immaculate.
Although it© birth i® mortal and the date
Of its extinction set*
Fluid as air,
Xt bathes with light the common deny we share;
Stains with its radiance our earthly state;
Preserves apart our peace inviolate —
Making less ponderable the clay we wear:
Xt Is as though our spirits comprehended
Completely and at ones and without speoch,
The deep essential verity of each;
Rejoiced; g&sed long; embraced; and so subtended
This vital arc* this breath —
Its sure appointed end —
which soon must reach
but is not ended.
80
IH ITS WISDOM OR TREASON
Thera will he no hymn at this burial
And few word8 saidj
Mo prayer Intoned for the early,
The newly dead*
Qhoet, unfamiliar, long alien,
Who run at my aide,
lager, hopeful, expectant,
Xnnooent-eyedj
Who dally elt at my table
And are not fedj
Who lie night-long In the darkness,
Awake In my beds
The heart. In lie treason or wisdom,
In pity and pain,
Grlee at length, 11Let the untimely risen
Be burled again. **
There will be no crypt, no vault, no tomb,
Mo funeral urn;
The grave will be deep, be narrow You will not return*
81
WHEN DAILY THE BLACK DOUBT
Sick, shaken, when dally the black doubt recurs,
My heart from Its aching depth, from its innermost cell,
Calls, cries out, sends forth to yours
Its desperate. Its desolate, despairing appeals
Only believe * whatever false changing shadow obscures
The surface; whatever crack in the crumbling facade harsh
lights reveal;
Whatever vain mist betrays or darkness of weakness blurs
For a moment the contour; the strong, the delicate, steel
Skeletal base - the essential structure - endures;
Stands till the end; is real.
62
ma
culpa
I have Injured my friend.
My friend who was kinds
My friend in a world of ill,
Did more than wish me well;
1 was heedless and blinds
Mow powerless to mend
The widening rift,
X am lost and bereft,
Foreknowing the ends
I have injured my friend*
83
SONO
(For an Elizabethan air)
Beat not your wings so blindly,
Wild bird within the breast,
We dreamed his voice said kindly.
Said gently, "Rest, Love, rest
Silence your wings, 0 wild bird,
Heed then and be still 2
Xt was his voice we heard •
His wish Is our will,
Our will*
Rest Is a still communion,
And two, though far apart,
May share that silent union,
Bach true to his own heart »
Fold your wings then, weary bird,
Be at peace and still ’
Xt was his voice we heard His wish is our will.
Our will*
84
IN ANSWER
We journey together, you say;
\
No, Beloved, you walk In the Ways
Men scurry rush-rushing,
Push-pushing, orush-crushing,
through streets leading nowherej
You do not walk therei
Wastes where men circle alone,
these you have not k n o w m
Dim alleys we haunt in our sin,
Here you have not b e a m
Ah Beloved, you say, X know,
these are the Way you go —
0 Lamp, 0 Light, I grieve,
Seeing, not to believe*
65
COFFEE HOUR
(tatinous pulse, uneasy brain,
Hooves of thunder, rush of rain,
And then the sweep of the hurricane*
The desperately lifted futile shout.
Simultaneous terror and doubt;
A lightning flash, the soul stripped bare;
Chill drenched skin and dripping hair;
lethal horror and then the blind.
Freeipltate flight of the ordered mind*
Perception with aooompanylng shook
Of you, too, flattened againBt this rock;
The naked gase and through clasped hand
The staccato blood beat*
We understand —
Electric communion and then once more
The blinding flash, the deafening roar*
Truth being true under whatever form,
Upon the whole 1 am glad of the storm*
86
FOR MY SON
87
TO MY SOM
Hush thee, hush thee. I will sing
A song to be thy comforting!
Light as petal, soft as wing
Of dove.
Hush thee* hush, hot little love.1
Sea foam, thistle, cherry flower.
Lend thy U * h t n e « » for an hour.
Lend thy grace unto m
»om.
they » U 1 not be needed Ion*.
Be heeded long • • . .
86
to my
mu
I
Sometimes I come upon you unaware
And see, who have been blind, being too near it,
Your tangible, warm beauty, substance, spirit,
Drawn, colored, formed against the heedless air
Which lately held you not, you being nowhere;
You were unmade, unborn, who now inherit
Hy hope, my dreams, all that my slender merit
Taut*stretched, oan offer you in love and ears.
And this solicitude will have availed
A little, doubtless, in the final sum;
But of your difficult journey you have eome
So short a way.
Seeing, 1 am assailed
With wonder and with fear,
Shat have X done
Who have conceived, brought forth a child, a son?
69
II
You are my flower of youth with extreme ear©
Cherished, elose-petaled through safe-sheltering night,
Unfolding dally to the friendly light,
Breathing new fragrance on the fragrant air*
0 radiant, you are my perfeet share
Of good, w e 11*shielded from all foreseen blight,
My promise, hope, and image of delight.
The faith and pattern of my constant prayer*
"Wfrr flower,w 1 say, "my blossom, fruit and seedI*
And shudder at the he a r t 1s unconscious sin*
Bhat is this love that masks itself as greed,
This mask of low© that hides the greed within?
Bolding you close, 0 flower of flesh and blood,
1 only know that life and love are good*
90
XIX
The aeorn falls, the milkweed eailg away.
The thin moons drift, the round moons golden rise;
With evening and with morning dew each day
The grass is wet.
great rains splash down the skiess
The rohln yields the fenee post to the jay.
High overhead the great hawk olrollng filesj
In ehlll snow feathers, furry rabhlte play
At dawn.
Z see these wonders with your eyes.
Or so 1 say, and so 1 would believe,
Watehlng beside me your small lighted faoe,
noting the quiver of your hand.
1 live
Again In you my childhood Joy, retraoe
host images.
Tour thoughts are fugitive
from mine forever, looked in a secret place.
91
Although your thought lies in my open hand,
Transparent, plain, for all the world to see.
Being not you, and lacking the true key,
Still 1 stay newer wholly understand*
nl am the eorn, you are the ehlekadee
ft eking me up*
And will you eat me, mother fn
Mere is a simple game like any other.
And in It mind's impliedt mystery*
Time Is my enemy, 1 am aware.
And subtler foes will follow in his trains
this is nor eertaln best, this now and her# 2
$0 1 am prey to sharp and sudden fear,
So I am stabbed with Immemorial pain,
Kin to all mothers, lovers, anywhere*
92
?
Uhls afternoon an Infant comes to call,
On© not a sixth your age, sinoe yon are threes
You stand abashed hofora this mystery
Recurrent In your vivid world, this small,
And vibrant creature, this live doll
Which cannot walk nor speak, though It can see,
Can smile, can wave Its anas engagingly
And show Itself irate or amiable*
Your color heightens and your gase Is wldej
You smile, you dance, you bring the toys you prise,
A harp, a bear, and lay them at his aide,
Wonder and supplication In your eyes*
the baby, watching, laughs, a sweet cascade
Of joyous sound, like sudden butterflies*
93
n
your sudden piercing cry sounds in my oars,
A noise to burst your round, Indignant throat,
And boats again the resistant air to connote
What thwarted wish, what anger, threatening fears?
Before my mind your outraged face appears,
Stormy, reproachful eyes, curved lips pressed out,
Red mouth soon wide in the protesting shout,
the bright cheeks darkened, streaked with sliding tears*
X hasten, catch my breath in swift relief
fo find you safe, console you in my arms;
Pensive, foreboding, chilled, X touch your hairs
My love, your miniature rage and grief
Bo not amuse me.
Indeed, X would spare
you even these small, these early alarms*
94
This afternoon I have had much to say.
Striving by stratagem, reproach, appeal,
to bend to mine your small and stubborn will.
And you, as 1, intent to have your way*
We are each aotor in a separate play,
Mine the more urgent, earnest, seeming-real;
this script may hold your future written small
And mine as well, since yours is half my day,
Puck, cherub, gamin, elf, chameleon child,
How time my entrance, exit, know my ouef
Here is an art wherein 1 am unstyled,
Unskilled, unsurej the role besides is new,
tutor and guide, parent-phllosopheri
1 con the part —
and tremble if % err*
95
VIXI
How In an April morning after rain
We visit this warm eastern slope to find
The fairy bluebells lifted In the wind,
Where not a fortnight sinee the snow has lain,
Wood violets, and beauty without stain,
The pale hepatlea's, the mayflower's veined.
Frail bloom that lives long only in the mind,
And will within the month be gone again.
So is young lovei as fair, as soon to go,
As ehaste, as delieate, as brief as these,
Brief as the eroeus thrusting through the snow,
Brief as the windflower's, the anemone's
bight petals on the fragile stem*
This, though
1 tell you, you will not believe, not know*
96
IX
Here Is a weight of loveliness to bear
When the pink oak-leaves from the hud unfold
And violet and snowdrop pieroe the mould*
Perfection is within our grasp* is here
When blossoming April seents the heady air
With subtle essences* when trees are filled
With singing birds some home* and nests to buildt
this is the apex of the natural year*
long time and long* In wheeling light and shadow
the young earth grew before her lands appeared*
And grasses waved upon a sea-wide meadow*
And canyons split* and huge rook-ranges reared*
But we live now!
Our Barth has wooded hills*
Oak trees and apple* and yellow daffodils!
97
X
And daffodils have drunk a sunny dew
Prom the Elysium of poetry*
Songs tremble In them that the herdsmen knew
In ancient pastures high In Slelly*
(thiknown Island* unknown tongue!
Oh* learn
for me the wisdom of the world and hooks!)
The flippant hoofs of goats that used to turn
Through daffodils to drink from Etna’s brooks
Must haunt them still; by any upland stream
Tall asphodels watch asphodels In water*
Their shadowy* windy souls; and where they flutter*
Poet-shepherds, pausing, stare* and dream
Of fleeing nymphs and satyrs, Pan —
although
These folk were all forgotten long ago*
98
XI
Knowledge is like a vast and aneient grove,
A mighty forest, every Individual tree
A mind, a man «—
or so It seems to me,
As eager, hesitant, 1 slowly move,
touching their trunks with wonder, terror, love,
Sensing the deep and sombre mystery
Of time, and m a n ’s ambiguous history}
Below decay, the brooding boughs above.
But there are men, bold foresters who go
With line and compass through this shadowed maze,
Strong men and confident, who chart the ways.
Where others follow safely and come through;
And they live arduous and dangerous days,
Xet si eh as 1 devoutly wish for you*
99
XXI
A people whose sweet tongue X do not speak
(Although by sight and voice X know them well
And the enduring city where they dwell.)
They touch firm strings, lift silver horns and make
Concerted heavenly sounds that all but break
The heart of one outside the citadel,
Bearing all night, who with loud dawn will steal
Away, hot tears still wet upon the cheek*
Inthralled like us and subjset, still they know
A state transcending our illiberal state,
Breathe freer air, serenely come and go.
Resolving in pure sound discordant fate*
Listen —
the star-like echoes*
lake my hand ~~
These pathways lead to that enchanted land*
100
XXII
I think they© will be music on the earth
Forever, or until the polar snows
So meet about Its equatorial girth
that leaves no longer bud, nor water flows*
the elangor of the world may even increase —
X stifle this black terror, trusting surely
that you, at least, may enter halls of peace,
Where silvery sounds will flower singly, purely,
fill music quickens, riding like a gull,
Serene above a wide, deep-pulsing ocean,
And melodies upwing until the air is full
Of Interweavings of pellucid motion,
Unseal your ears) let them bear measured thunderI
though men make clangor, yet they make this wonder.
101
XIV
this is the little picture of a world,
the one we know heat, ours*
See, with my hand
1 hide this continent on which we stand
But here are more and here are islands curled
In a blue sea*
this sun-lit hall free-whirled
In space, holds to it streams and rivers, land.
Volcanoes, glaciers, cities, desert sand,
Plants, birds, beasts, men, the air with clouds impearled*
Shared as it is with millions from your birth,
Bled for, fought over, find upon its shores
Some vantage place; there stand, appraise its worth*
What you can compass of its breadth and girth
With supple mind and seeing eye is yours;
this Is your ample heritage, the earth*
102
XV
latching the horses fro® a neighboring field,
A simple woman X# and you a child,
!e hand in hand stand quiet and beguiled,
Seeing these patient browsing creatures, skilled
To drag a stubborn plow through the untllled
Stiff soil - strong beasts grown heavy now and mild
And slow, that once were small and fleet and wild,
M a n ’s world as yet undreamed and still to build*
A white horse comes up to the pasture bar
In biasing light*
Startled, we look at him
And know our brother who gives back our stare,
his kin*
the sun drops down the horlson rim,
But for a moment, as it disappears,
Time steps, moved backward half a million years*
103
XVI
Always the mist and rain have had high power
Upon me to engender dreams, beget
Wild joy and singing.
X remember yet
A child's clear chant as in an unwatched hour
Once, small and young, and naked as a flower,
X slipped outside and in the dripping wet
Lifted my arms, my eyelids, lips and met,
Icstatle, face to face, a summer shower.
In terror and delight against a wall
X stand while thunder shakes the rattling doors
Behind me and the singing torrent pours,
fo watch dissolving heaven earthward fall —
Be spt red this lyric anguish, fruitless pain.1
fhe sky is airj the rain is only rain.
104
XVIJ
flow as blue evening pales, tell trees move near
‘That were apart and far; their steep boles blacken,
the small stream narrows and the shadows thicken.
While overhead the gradual stars appear.
I lift my eyes and face the diszy air,
Striving to know, although my pulse# slacken
And my assaulted senses reel and sicken,
For what they are, the fiery worlds hung there;
And think of you and pray that sound and whole.
You may endure the wicle-pathed heaven, trace
the lighted course ^here Atair, Vega, Mars,
Where red Arcturus, Algol and the Foie
How rest upon the curving arm of space,
Kinsman to earth, familiar of the stars.
XVIII
Through flushed and flowering: spring, through burning fall,
Your hear and you and I in various weather.
Make this slow Journey through the pork together.
Stare long and gravely at e&ah animal,
The quick raccoon, the ducks, the geese, the small
Hed fox.
You study now a moulted feather
And 1 this quiet scene, wondering whether
It 1® to you as clear, indelible#
Oh long, long after these swift days are gone,
I & a l l still see the padding lion cub
Test in the sun bis rippling muscled strength,
Still see the brown bear rise and stretch and rub
Against the bars his clumsy bulk and length,
And on the still lagoon the silver swan*
106
XIX
to charm your oar Is now my privilege,
Since all my tales are new and you are young,
TCet knowing well these words upon my tongue
Will seem less golden to your growing age,
1 practise thrift and make these rhymes, a bridge
from my still eager youth to your youth flung;
Ho expert structure, still how sound and strong,
How true its span, will toe for you to judge,
flesh of my flesh, I say, bone of my bone.
Citing the natural bond, the tie of blood,
But you live orphaned and I die alone
Unless love*s miracle has made its goods
If in my vain unwisdom, dumb and blind,
I am no kindred to your heart and mind.
107
BFXLO&FS
lGd
The spirit» naked and alone,
Re tracks the journey it has gone}
Finds again the biasted plain,
Crossed before in blinding pain;
Treads once more the burning sand,
Deniad the comfort of your hand;
Cowers beneath the fiery hail,
And this time dares not fall or fall;
But scorched and fainting, must eleot
To walk unflinching and erect,
Glear-eyed and steady, noting well
the quaint topography of hell.
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