Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, DAPHNE; FOR GRAHAM ROBERTSON, by GORDON BOTTOMLEY



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DAPHNE; FOR GRAHAM ROBERTSON, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: That white and wondrous city near the sea
Last Line: "that love has sacrificed thee to despair."
Subject(s): Daphne (Mythology)


THAT white and wondrous city near the sea
Where Daphne walked, a whiter pageantry,
Was still, as though it listened for her feet;
And each vague-pillared moon-abandoned street
Held its dark breath to know if she were there
Mid the late feasters who with bloom-pearled hair
Went down its drowning dimness out of sight
Parting the heavy hangings of the night,
Mingling with silence and the distant gloom.
Ah, never came such else unknown perfume,
So clear a song, such whispering sandal-sounds
As Daphne scattered in those Cyprian rounds;
And those late lovers, arm and waist, forgot
To think of love when every moment's thought
Of love brought Daphne to their hearts again
Till man and woman felt with eager pain
In her the incarnation of desire;
Even women loved her with the lover's fire
For her imperial quiet, a crowned dove
That seemed to seek no lovers, only love.
And love was stirred by baffled questioning
Of this white maiden's source and issuing:
"Whence came she, by what faint exotic roads,
This handmaid of what pale forgotten gods?
First through gray streets seen lately wandering
Like an annunciation of new Spring;
Then since, with face uplifted, hands uptwined,
Passing us daily in white robes enshrined,
As though a sudden burst of music waved
Silk portals and the entering sunlight laved
A vision where an image had been seen.
She seems descendent from some banished queen
Who ruled here long ago in woodland days;
Her unfamiliar half-remembered gaze
Stirs faded love, old regal sins forgot."

But Daphne waked in a white hush of thought
Beside her dreaming lover slumber-deep
In their white ivory bed as cool as sleep.
The doubtful darkness, tangible yet not dense
Shewed little save a lighter darkness whence
A sound of wearying ebbing tides sobbed on
Beyond the glimmering foam-faint templed town;
But here and there upon the unseen walls,
Storied with Psyche, gleamed dim golden palls
And then a rose-white body calmly glowed
Where'er the Cyprian mid her flower-queens stood;
While a grey thing before that bright hard queen
Faint as by fluttering flitted in each scene
Like a bruised moth; no more of Psyche shewed,
Though ever implacably the goddess glowed.
"O me" mused Daphne, "that love's earliest bond
Should thwart the last essential love beyond."

At last she rose, no more than Psyche seeming,
A swaying dream scarce seen enough for dreaming,
And sought her heaped-up raiment by its scent,
White privet and rose almond blandly blent
As though in a May coppice: none might know
Her cheeks flushed with an unaccustomed glow,
Though night to her with musky crimson shook.
Then trickling flickering tire and robe she took,
And felt the linen soft like slow cream slide,
The frost-white falling silks purl down her side
And the cold opal clasps her shoulders touch.
Then, loosing from a pillar of the couch
The snood of faded poppy-white that tied
Last night's white jasmine garlands violet-pied,
Set there to lull her with their death-drowsed fume,
She bound her narded tresses, while the room
Seemed rippling with a rustling softness sweet
As from worn Psyche's wet rain-silent feet:
"Only the falling flowerets faint and fleet"
Sighed Daphne. To the greying casement turning
And leaning forth long-throated in tired yearning,
She murmured in waiting for the day's discerning
"This night that is the shadow of a star
Is like love's shade of unsuspected care,
And those within it passionately forget
The radiance that casts it at their feet.
Love never soothes till its fresh joys depart;
Pain is its food and fear is at its heart;
Its kindest, restful hours are when unease
Is dulled by aching till sensation flees.
'Tis love that makes the whole glad world less fair
And dims the face of friendship everywhere
By its new longings, strange, unsatisfied;
It knows not pity, of its end denied,
The end it never knows unendingly.
From this dear lover near me I would flee
Although his name, being uttered, makes for me
An ampler music than the choral stars,
And at its sound the chilly darkness flares:
For all that love to heal love's sadness brings
Is glad contempt for old, far dearer things
And fair forgetfulness of calmer joys,
Until the memory of the kiss-faint noise
Of my cool stream ebbs in my heedless ears
Like the dull lapse of uneventful years.
O little stream, wherenigh I found love's sweets
While far above us swayed tall marguerites,
A firmament of reeling swooning stars,
Once more I yearn for thy blue heaving tares,
To taste thine easy pleasures of content,
Ere, all subdued 'neath love's glad government,
I find such peace in gladness nevermore...."

At last morn came and shewed the waves dawn-hoar
Breaking upon the pallid dawn-lit shore.
So, kneeling by her darling's dreaming bliss,
She felt his soft brows with a moth-light kiss
As though she brushed the very down of sleep,
And left him, and with breath-tipped steps did creep
Out from the chamber to the mist-white hall;
Then, passing a tall curtain's sighing fall,
She went down shallow steps into the street;
Each made a pool of marble for her feet.
Day soon came flushing in a cloudy swirl
Across the soft-stirred sea of waking pearl
And made the marble rosy as the girl;
But Daphne saw no waters' jacinth glow
Nor marbles veined dreamily and slow;
For, pressing onward with an eager gaze,
She left the silent palaces in haze
And sought a far-off pathless dewy wood,
An undiscerned god-haunted solitude,
Where, under her feet and paled by the gleam thereof,
Like ladies humble for the sake of love
The still, bruised violets gave her sweets for blows.
And thus she vanished, like a leaf-hid rose.
And when her lover followed her soft flight,
Sick with his eagerness to feel the sight
Of her green-shadowed raiment water-white,
Deep in her stream-side blooms he only found
A passionate, lyric youth with laurel crowned,
Wide-aureoled as though from green mists round
The sudden sun dashed the wet leaves afire;
A shining youth who to a shining lyre
Sang languidly and lightly, loud and low,
A chant half careless joy, half careless woe.

"Ah, Daphne, never will thine arms drop down,
Leaving my head, to make my waist thine own;
But still thine arms give me my laurel crown.
The arms that thrust me from thee interfused
With trees, as though a dryad sank bemused;
Fear gave the laurel that thy love refused.
Ah, if thy love had crowned me unafraid,
Love's goddess would have been too poor to aid;
But then my fruitful sorrow were unmade.
Love is the poet's craft; 'tis never wrong;
Triumphant or rejected, brief or long,
The poorest passion yields at least a song.
Dear nymph, I joy that thou art thus leaf-blent,
For now I shall not to my punishment
Desert thee but to hear thy sweet lament.
Despised love is best; it never tires;
It knows no surfeit of attained desires,
But to unsullied visions e'er aspires.
Daphne, thy leaf-frail hands are in my hair,
While thy poor chosen love sleeps unaware
That love has sacrificed thee to despair."





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