Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SONATA IN PATHOS, by CONRAD AIKEN



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SONATA IN PATHOS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Well, I am tired; tired of all these years
Last Line: I shall remember till I die.
Subject(s): Death; Memory; Shadows; Dead, The


Well, I am tired; tired of all these years,
The hazy mornings, the noons, the misty evenings,
Tired of the spring, tired of the fall;
The music starts again, I have heard it all,
I cannot escape, it whispers in my ears.
I have pursued you in so many places,
In a thousand times, with a thousand wistful faces,
I have pursued you so many times in vain.
Wherever I turn you rise in the shadows again,
Wherever I turn you are smiling there,
Touching the one white rose that stars your hair.
Why do you follow me, why do you seek me,
Why do you rouse strange music in my heart?
You laugh and enter the shadows and change once more,
You step transformed from a lamplit door,
You touch my arm and silently vanish away.
Why do you never stay?
This rainy afternoon,
There, in the darkness, where I listened to music,
You came and sat beside me, with golden hair;
Were you the music itself, come to betray me?
For the music stopped, and you were no longer there;
And I sought in the darkness for you, and touched but darkness,
Reached out my hands and touched but air.
And suddenly, in the evening, you came again,
Sombre, in silver rain,
And drew the darkness about you, and the gleam of lights.
Where have you gone? Through what succession of nights
Must I pursue you from place to place
And face to face?
You are like music, forever moving and changing,
Forever weaving a lovelier melody.
You are like music, weaving and interweaving;
You plead and sing, but will not wait for me.
I have touched the moonlight whiteness of your hands,
I have walked with you by the moonlight sea,
We have sat and watched the waves slide up white sands,
The waves that whispered to you and me;
And the dark hair, the blue-black hair like midnight,
And the soft bright golden hair,
And the hair that ripples like sun on moving water,
And the hair that is lighter than melody on soft air,
I have known and touched them all, I have loved them all,
I have played a ghostly music upon them,
I have played a starlight magic upon them, and held them, and let them fall.
You, the white-breasted one who danced before me,
Bearing narcissus in your hands;
You with the mouth like jasper, you with the feet like snow:
I have loved you all, I have loved you long ago,
But you have faded before me, and left me nothing,
And the caress of hands, the sighs,
The starless night of darkened eyes,
White throats that filled with laughter,—
They have perished like music that leaves no echo after.
I cannot remember the softness of a kiss,
The fleeting warmth of a breath.
The evening falls, and brings me only this,—
The melancholy of some forgotten death.

II.

The naked elms that lift their writhing branches
In sinister patterns against the twilight sky,
They are monstrous corals in the coldness of an ocean;
And beneath them strange things creep and die.
I am tired, I have come a long way from the sun,
I have forgotten the wind on hills of blue.
I walk in the twilight, under strange black branches,
And try in vain to remember a face I knew.
I would like to climb these corals, climb
To the shining waves where a bright wind moves:
I would like to climb these cold black boughs, and see
A star above the waters. But can that be?
You who have sought me, whom I have sought so often,—
Come down to me!
I would like to rise to a room where yellow candles
Shine in a golden row:
I would like to hear you talking of simple things,
I would like to sit with you, and hear soft music
Intensely and persuasively flow.
I would like to hear you talking of simple things,
Of leaves that hang on trees and softly fall:
And see your face, so white and young and fragile,
Against the golden darkness of a wall.

III.

This is the picture of you who died so young—
You, whose dreams were the quietness of music,
Whose life was a music abruptly brought to an end.
I hold the candle above you, and search the shadows.
You would have been my friend.
I never saw you. But holding the candle above you,
Striving to find the secret that lights your face,
Something, some music, comes over me, and I love you,
I desire to touch you, I desire to change this place
From a room with candles, and a faded picture,
To a room with you, a living music, there,—
You, with the dark strange eyes and sombre depth of hair.
You, the clear-browed—what are you wondering of
That gives your innocent eyes the dusk of love?
What is the music dreaming behind your mouth?
Your lips are closed for a moment, you hold your breath,
Waiting for your first kiss, the mouth of death.
And your young body, your young white body, is dead;
And covered with earth; and turned to leaves; and fallen to earth again.
And the music you dreamed is gone. And your swift steps are gone.
And the wind blows over you; and the ghostly rain.
I will walk where you have walked, and think of you;
And search on the earth for the music that you knew.
Yes, you are one more whom I have sought in vain;
One who has beckoned to me and vanished away;
One who has gone and will not come again,
One who came, but would not stay.
Why must the music move? Why will it never rest?
Why will it never meet me, breast to breast?
Perhaps it is death alone whom I shall love,—
Death alone who will cling to me, never to let me move.

IV.

Slow steps pass in the evening, slow steps echo and pass,
Like my own steps returning from other years;
It is I, perhaps, pursuing the ghost of a dream,
A dream that will end in a laugh, or a dazzle of tears.
I would like to cry, 'Come back!' but the steps are gone,
My ghost pursues its ghostly end.
It will pursue till the ghost is lost in the dawn;
It will pursue and dream till the stars ascend.
And the steps are woven gorgeously into a music,
A slow reverberant monotone:
I am weighed upon like one in a horrible fever:
I bear the weight of the stars alone.
And I must resurrect my dreams again,
Resurrect them all,
Endure them, like a tyrannous refrain,—
Obedient to their measures rise and fall.
I have touched the moonlight whiteness of your hands
And walked with you by a moonlight sea;
We have sat and watched the waves slide up white sands,
The waves that whispered to you and me.
And the dark hair, the blue-black hair like midnight,
And the soft bright golden hair,
And the hair that ripples like sun on moving waters,
And the hair that is lighter than melody on soft air,—
I have known and touched them all, I have loved them all,
I have played a ghostly music upon them,
I have played a starlight music upon them, and held them, and let them fall.

... Yet there are none who love me, and none I love;
And the mornings pass; and the noons; and the evenings die.
And I walk under freezing elms, whose branches writhe
Like tortured corals against a clear green sky.
And those who call me I follow; and those who leave me,
I shall remember till I die.





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