Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE PILGRIM SOUL, by MATHILDE BLIND

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE PILGRIM SOUL, by                 Poet's Biography
First Line: Through the winding mazes of windy streets
Last Line: That all who beheld him were born once again.
Alternate Author Name(s): Lake, Claude
Subject(s): Mankind; Human Behavior; Human Race; Conduct Of Life; Human Nature

THROUGH the winding mazes of windy streets
Blindly I hurried I knew not whither,
Through the dim-lit ways of the brain thus fleets

A fluttering dream driven hither and thither. --
The fitful flare of the moon fled fast,
Like a sickly smile now seeming to wither,

Now dark like a scowl in the hurrying blast
As ominous shadows swept over the roofs
Where white as a ghost the scared moonlight had passed.

Curses came mingled with wails and reproofs,
With doors banging to and the crashing of glass,
With the baying of dogs and the clatter of hoofs,

With the rust of the river as, huddling its mass
Of weltering water towards the deep ocean,
'Neath many-arched bridges its eddies did pass.

A hubbub of voices in savage commotion
Was mixed with the storm in a chaos of sound,
And thrilled as with ague in shuddering emotion

I fled as the hunted hare flees from the hound.
Past churches whose bells were tumultuously ringing
The year in, and clashing in concord around;

Past the deaf walls of dungeons whose curses seemed clinging
To the tempest that shivered and shrieked in amazement;
Past brightly lit mansions whence music and singing

Came borne like a scent through the close-curtained casement,
To vaults in whose shadow wild outcasts were hiding
Their misery deep in the gloom of the basement.

By vociferous taverns where the women were biding
With features all withered, distorted, aghast;
Some sullenly silent, some brutally chiding,

Some reeling away into gloom as I passed
On, on, through lamp-lighted and fountain-filled places,
Where throned in rich temples, resplendent and vast,

The Lord of the City is deafened with praises
As worshipping multitudes kneel as of old;
Nor care for the crowds of cadaverous faces,

The men that are marred and the maids that are sold --
Inarticulate masses promiscuously jumbled
And crushed 'neath their Juggernaut idol of gold.

Lost lives of great cities bespattered and tumbled,
Black rags the rain soaks, the wind whips like a knout,
Were crouched in the streets there, and o'er them nigh stumbled

A swarm of light maids as they tripped to some rout.
The silk of their raiment voluptuously hisses
And flaps o'er the flags as loud laughing they flout

The wine-maddened men they ne'er satiate with kisses
For the pearls and the diamonds that make them more fair,
For the flash of large jewels that fire them with blisses,

For the glitter in the gold of their hair.
They smiled and the cozened, their bold eyes shone brightly
And lightened with laughter, as, lit by the flare

Of the wind-fretted gas-lamps, they footed it lightly,
Or, closely enlacing and bowered in gloom,
With mouth pressed to hot mouth, their parched lips drain nightly

The wine-cup of pleasure red-sealing their doom.
Brief lives like bright rockets which, aridly glowing,
Fall burnt out to ashes and reel to the tomb.

On, on, loud and louder the rough night was blowing,
Shrill singing was mixed with strange cries of despair;
And high overhead the black sky, redly glowing,

Loomed over the city one ominous glare,
As dark yawning funnels from foul throats for ever
Belched smoke grimly flaming, which outraged the air.

On, on, by long quays where the lamps in the river
Were writhing like serpents that hiss ere they drown,
And poplars with palsy seems coldly to shiver,

On, on, to the bare desert end of the town.
When lo! the wind stopped like a heart that's ceased beating,
And nought but the waters, white foaming and brown,

Were heard as to seaward their currents went fleeting.
But hark! o'er the lull breaks a desolate moan,
Like a little lost lamb's that is timidly bleating

When, strayed from the shepherd, it staggers alone
By tracks which the mountain streams shake with their thunder,
Where death seems to gape from each boulder and stone.

I turned to the murmur: the clouds swept asunder
And wheeled like white sea-gulls around the white moon;
And the moon, like a white maid, looked down in mute wonder

On a boy whose wan eyelids were closed as in swoon.
Half nude on the ground he lay, wasted and chilly,
And torn as with thorns and sharp brambles of June;

His hair, like a flame which at twilight burns stilly,
In a halo of light round his temples was blown,
And his tears fell like rain on a storm-stricken lily

Where he lay on the cold ground, abandoned, alone.
With heart moved towards him in wondering pity,
I tenderly seized his thin hand with my own:

Crying, "Child, say how cam'st thou so far from the city?
How cam'st thou alone in such pitiful plight,
All blood-stained thy feet, with rags squalid and gritty,

A waif by the wayside, unhoused in the night?"
Then rose he and lifted the bright locks, storm driven,
Which flamed round his forehead and clouded his sight,

And mournful as meres on a moorland at even
His blue eyes flashed wildly through tears as they fell.
Strange eyes full of horror, yet fuller of heaven,

Like eyes that from heaven have looked upon hell.
The eyes of an angel whose depths show where, burning
And lost in the pit, toss the angels that fell.

"Ah," wailed he in tones full of agonized yearning,
Like the plaintive lament of a sickening dove
On a surf-beaten shore, whence it sees past returning

The wings of the wild flock fast fading above,
As the melt on the sky-line like foam-flakes in motion:
So sadly he wailed, "I am Love! I am Love!

"Behold me cast out as weed spurned of the ocean,
Half nude on the bare ground, and covered with scars
I perish of cold here;" and, choked with emotion,

Gave a sob: at the low sob a shower of stars
Broke shuddering from heaven, pale flaming, and fell
Where the mid-city roared as with rumours of wars.

"Be these God's tears?" I cried, as my tears 'gan to well.
"Ah, Love, I have sought thee in temples and towers,
In shrines where men pray, and in marts where they sell;

"In tapestried chambers made tropic with flowers,
Where amber-haired women, soft breathing of spice,
Lay languidly lapped in the gold-dropping showers

"Which gladdened and maddened their amorous eyes.
I have looked for thee vainly in churches where beaming
The Saints glowed embalmed in a prism of dyes,

"Where wave over wave the rapt music went streaming
With breakers of sound in full anthems elate.
I have asked, but none knew thee, or knew but thy seeming;

"A mask in thy likeness on high seats of state;
And they bound it with gold, and they crowned it with glory,
This thing they called love, which was bond slave to hate.

"And they bowed down before it with brown heads and hoary,
They worshipped it nightly, loud hymning its praise,
While out in the cold blast, none heeding its story,

"Love staggers, an outcast, with lust in its place."
Love shivered and sighed like a reed that is shaken,
And lifting his hunger-nipped face to my face:

"Nay, if of the world I must needs die forsaken,
Say thou wilt not leave me to dearth and despair.
To they heart, to thy home, let the exile be taken,

"And feed me and shelter -- "" "Where, outcast, ah, where?
Like thee I am homeless and spurned of all mortals;
The House of my fathers yawns wide to the air.

"Stalks desolation across the void portals,
Hope lies aghast on the ruinous floor,
The halls that were thronged once with star-browed immortals,

"With gods statue-still o'er the world-whirr and roar,
With fauns of the forest and nymphs of the river,
Are cleft as if lightning had struck to their core.

"The luminous ceilings, where soaring for ever
Dim hosts of plumed angles smoked up to the sky,
With God-litten faces that yearned to the giver

"As vapours of morning the sun draws on high,
Now ravaged with rain hear the hollow winds whistle
Through rifts in the rafters which echo their cry.

"Blest walls that were vowed to the Virgin now bristle
With weeds of sick scarlet and plague-spotted moss,
And stained on the ground, choked with thorn and rank thistle,

"Rots a worm-eaten Christ on a mouldering Cross.
From the House of my fathers, distraught, broken-hearted,
With a pang of immense, irredeemable loss,

"On my wearying pilgrimage blindly I started
To seek thee, oh Love, in high places and low,
And instead of the glories for ever departed,

"To warm my starved life in thy mightier glow.
For I deemed thee a Presence ringed round with all splendour,
With a sceptre in hand and a crown on thy brow;

"And, behold, thou art helpless -- most helpless to tender
Thy service to others, who needest their care.
Yea, now that I find thee a weak child and slender,

"Exposed to the blast of the merciless air,
Like a lamb that is shorn, like a leaf that is shaken,
What, Love, now is left but to die in despair?

"For Death is the mother of all the forsaken,
The grave a strait bed where she rocks them to rest,
And sleep, from whose silence they never shall waken,

"The balm of oblivion she sheds on their breast."
Then I seized him and led to the brink of the river,
Where two storm-beaten seagulls were fluttering west,

And the lamplight in drowning seemed coldly to shiver,
And clasping Love close for the leap from on high,
Said -- "Let us go hence, Love; go home, Love, for ever;

"For life casts us forth, and Man dooms us to die."
As if stung by a snake the Child shuddered and started,
And clung to me close with a passionate cry:

"Stay with me, stay with me, poor, broken-hearted;
Pain, if not pleasure, we two will divide;
Though with the sins of the world I have smarted,

"Though with the shame of the world thou art dyed,
Weak as I am, on thy breast I'll recover,
Worn as thou art, thou shalt bloom as my bride:

"Bloom as the flower of the World for the lover
Whom thou hast found in a lost little Child."
And as he kissed my lips over and over --

Child now, or Man, was it who thus beguiled? --
Even as I looked on him, Love, waxing slowly,
Grew as a little cloud, floating enisled,

Which spreads out aloft in the blue sky till solely
It fills the deep ether tremendous in height,
With far-flashing snow-peaks and pinnacles wholly

Invisible, vanishing light within light.
So changing waxed Love -- till he towered before me,
Outgrowing my lost gods in stature and might.

As he grew, as he drew me, a great awe came o'er me,
And stammering, I shook as I questioned his name;
But gently bowed o'er me, he soothed and bore me,

Yea, bore me once again to the haunts whence I came,
By dark ways and dreary, by rough roads and gritty,
To the penfolds of sin, to the purlieus of shame.

And lo, as we went through the woe-clouded city,
Where women bring forth and men labour in vain,
Weak Love grew so great in his passion of pity
That all who beheld him were born once again.

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