Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, PARASITICS: TO CERTAIN POETS, by CONRAD AIKEN



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PARASITICS: TO CERTAIN POETS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Who are you, now, that thus presume
Last Line: There will be music in his breath!
Subject(s): Poetry & Poets


WHO are you, now, that thus presume
To come with candle to my gloom?
Think you your candle-tip can shine
With more illustrious light than mine?
Think you my fire sheds not so far, --
Was yours begotten of a star? --
Leave me: your face and eyes are pale,
The faint words on your faint lips fail,
There is no warm blood in your veins,
You know no human joys and pains.
Let him, him only, sing of life
Who out of terrible triumph sings,
Whose soul comes glittering like a knife,
With savage laughter cuts and flings!
Out of the livid soil he came,
A naked shape as pure as flame,
His hands are red with dust and death,
His eyes flash fires of loves and hates,
For him the moon and sun are gates,
There is deep music in his breath!
This is the singer whom I love,
Unto whose music I will move.

Not he who sits till late at night
And shivers in his candle-light,
Shutting his eyes to this warm earth,
Seeking for some far stranger birth. . .
Under the twilight seas he goes.
He weaves, fantastic, skull and rose.
The sleet upon his window-pane
Goading his flagging wits again
Farther from earth and yet more far
He dreams of haunted moon and star. . .
Drunk is he in a hasheesh spell,
Frenzied he sings of heaven and hell. . .
Leave me. Your face and eyes are pale,
The faint words on your faint lips fail,
There is no warm blood in your veins,
You know no human joys and pains.

O ghostly shape! I pity you.
Nothing of life you ever knew.
With wistful eyes you muse and dream
And watch life's spectacle go by;
Your heart will never laugh or cry,
Things are not felt by you, but seem.
As the fear-stricken ghost will run
When cock shrills up the ruddy sun,
So in the wholesome light of day
Your tenuous substance melts away. . .
You are a vampire, and are fed
By kiss of those whose blood is red.

Let me not hear your faint sweet tongue!
Such songs were better left unsung:
Better the pale lips were not stirred
For utterance of this febrile word.
It is a strange, a ghastly thing
To hear a dead man softly sing
Of roses long since turned to dust
And loves that long since turned to lust;
Of lutes that tuned some lost romance,
Of broken hearts, of lovers dead,
Of leaves upon the green grave shed
Where come the gleeful rains to dance. . .
Let me not hear your faint sweet tongue,
Such songs were better left unsung.

Have you had lovers in the night,
Lovers as savage as the stars?
Bears your pale heart the smouldering scars
Of love that's cruel, love fanged to fight?
Know you the mouth that hides a hiss,
The Lamia's mouth that drinks a kiss
Insatiable and languorous,
The red mouth greedy still in sleep?
Know you the love that's tyrannous,
The taloned love that makes you weep?
Know you these things? . . . Ah, you have read
In many a well-bound book instead.
You have not loved! I know it well.
You have no lore of love to tell, --
No lore of hate; you never thrilled
In the warm blood of him you killed! . .
Sometimes, perhaps, you cry or laugh,
Moved by the cinematograph. . .
But flesh and blood! You know them not;
Only your little pallid dreams,
Wan hopes and fears and color schemes, --
If you knew more, it is forgot. . .
. . . Who are you, then, that thus presume
To come with candle to my gloom?
Think you your candle-tip can shine
With more illustrious light than mine?
Think you my fire sheds not so far?
Was yours begotten of a star?
I will not hear you. Leave me, then.
Warm your heart in the world of men.
Learn to laugh and learn to cry, --
So, you may sing to us, by and bye!

O sun of morning, sun of eve,
O brilliant noons of healthy eyes,
Shrivel this ghost beneath bright skies, --
Consume him, lest he further grieve,
With the almighty laugh of life,
Dazzling and vibrant as a knife!
Let him hear now his own heart sing,
A terrible and triumphant thing,
Masterful, tender, fierce and sweet,
A heart of warm and cosmic beat!
Let him see earth through eyes not dim,
Let loves and hates be dear to him:
Let him be stained with dust and death,
Confess his kinship with the earth;
He will be fired with mighty mirth,
There will be music in his breath!





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