Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, CUPS OF ILLUSION, by HENRY BELLAMANN

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CUPS OF ILLUSION, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: From this tower room above the wall
Last Line: As bird shadows on the grass.
Subject(s): Imagination; Fancy

From this tower room above the wall
I have watched the sunworn city
And the sea.
I have seen the nights
Drain the streets
Of light and sound,
The days shrivel to thin sheets
Of wrinkled silver
On the tide.
I have seen men come
Like stippled shade along the floor,
And go, as lightly brushed,
As unremembered, as leaf shape
Tangled in a blur of glass.

I have made cups
With chisel and fire and stain;
I have made cups --
Amethyst, silver, and gold,
Emerald, agate, and bronze;
I have made cups for pride,
And cups for a woman's heart.

I have made cups
For the altars of God,
And cups for perfume and wine;
Ivory, iron and clay,
Red cups for feasting,
And cups for sacrifice;
Turquoise cups for a birthday,
Ebony cups for dice;
Cups of crystal
To pay for a bride,
And delicate cups for tears.

My cups were the pomp of kings,
And the solace of lonely men.
Long years I worked and copied
My thoughts on my colored cups, --
(Chisel and fire and crimson,
Sapphire and purple and pearl.)
But I knew as I burned and painted
The world on beautiful cups
That the world was a painted curtain
Cheating the artist's eyes;
I knew that the rainbow curtain
Hid a thing past all surmise.
Still I carved and burned and copied
On opal and copper and blue,
Wings, and the glory of woman,
And clouds,
And fishes,
And ships. . . .

I knew that beyond the curtain
Was a world of final surprise
Pure and poignant and perfect,
Passing all men's surmise.

So I said as I chisselled and carved
The world in scarlet and clay,
I can see what is there on the curtain,
Painted and seeming to stir;
But I know that behind the delusion
Are the things that really move.

I shall mock the thin confusion
Of this imaged veil of deceit;
I shall make a new cup of illusion
From a dream quite strange and complete.
I shall use not a bird, not a flower,
Not a sign from this world of defeat.
Then out of my deepest knowing
I made a new shape for a vase.
I fashioned and moulded and carved
A new line of a consummate grace --
A new shape,
A new lucent color,
And wings that shadowed a face.

Out of my depest knowing
I painted a curious glowing,
A light of imagined sea,
But never a river or tree,
Or even the ardent going
Of birds that ever could be.
Then every one could see
A flame of figures curl and twine
About the stem;
And every one could see
A brilliant wine that seemed to fill
It to the brim and shine.

Each saw a thing most different
Engraved upon the side;
Each saw a special vision
And looked again and cried.
Some said it was a thing of ill --
Some said it was divine.

But not again was any certain
If this world be not a curtain
Brocade with things
That seem to move, --
Or if there was a face
Upon the cup,
Shadowed with wings.

* * *

Looking down
From this room above the town
I watch the days
In long retreat,
And men upon their ways
Along the street.
They are like leaves across a floor,
Like phantoms flitting past a door, --
As lightly brushed,
As unremembered,
As bird shadows on the grass.

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