Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE WEDDING FEAST: 3, by ANNA HEMPSTEAD BRANCH

Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE WEDDING FEAST: 3, by                 Poet's Biography
First Line: That god rode forth upon my mind
Last Line: "her will upon this night be done."
Subject(s): Marriage; Weddings; Husbands; Wives

That god rode forth upon my mind.
He perched upon my affrighted wit,
As meteors bristling in the wind
Amid their shining plumage sit.
I felt his glance around me stream.
His flaming hair flew over me.
His eyes laid hold upon my dream
And made me see as he did see.
When like great steeds appalled at night
My astonished eyes would rear and run,
He set his bit upon my sight
And made it drive into the sun.
He scourged it down into the dust.
He drove it down into the stone.
It ran as ridden creatures must
On magic journeys bound alone.
With blood and sweat my wits were wet.
He raced them through a solid wall.
It was a dream I might forget,
A dimness that was not at all
A soft, a pale, a silent thing,
My face did cleave and set it by,
And underneath its cloudy wing
I heard its separate atoms sing
Like the great stars in the sky.
For what is large and what is small
To spiritual eyes?
The great Lord careth not at all
For the dream that men call size.
But what thou dost, that art thou. Lo,
The atoms that rehearse
Their orbits in the stone are vast
As an aeoned universe.
The pebble has a curious will
That in my hand doth lie.
It seems as motionless and still
As the zenith in the sky.
It seems to make not any sound.
It does not hum nor sing.
It keeps a helpless simple round
Yet is a fearful thing.
Its molecules weave in and out,
They leap, they plunge, they dive.
Up from dark gulfs they whirl about
As if they were alive.
They live, they dance, they burn, they die,
Their Judgment Days draw on apace!
Between their smallest atoms lie
Oceans of darkest space.
Those atoms ache, they groan, they quake,
They hiss, they plunge, they roar!
And I that hold a silent stone
Lift up a living war.
It does not burst, it does not shake,
Nor fly dispersed in grains of sand.
Its shape is folded over it,
Like a divine great hand.
It is the hand that lies so still!
It never sets them by.
A shape serene, but under it
Those whirling atoms dance and flit
Like the quick stars in the sky!
This earth, it is not as it seems.
It is the strangest place!
Once did I run on solid stones,
But now I trod on space.
On empty gulfs of space trod I!
Worlds were beneath my feet,
And many a brightly speeding sky
And heaven spreaded sweet.
"Thou magic sprite, fearfully bright,
Now have I wandered far.
What are these gulfs of roaring night
Wherein whirls many a flaming star?"
"Substance, before thy mortal sight,
Shows all things as they are."
"What is this world so green, so fair,
That hovers brightly over me?"
"It is the atom in the air
Too small for human eyes to see.
"Behold, its forests and its lakes,
Its mountains and its rugged scars,
And like a bristling mane it shakes
Lights of innumerable stars.
"It has its sunrise beautiful
On shining mountains morning pale.
And many a praying temple stands
In many a quiet vale.
"Its magic towns are brightly set
Amid the spacious air.
Your heavy earth is the varying breeze
That sweetly hovers there,
Your mountains and your solid seas
To them are purest air."
Their casements open on the gale
But none of them are seen.
Another earth, another sky,
Strange gardens sweetly green!
"No siege to them was ever laid.
Unseen their bulwarks are.
With gulfs of nearness are they stayed
As distance stays the star."
"You cannot see their flashing eyes.
Their songs and prayers you cannot hear.
Oh they seem further than the skies
Because they are so near.
"A world within your world doth lie,
Hidden from mortal men.
Another world in that is furled
And a thousand worlds again."
The solid air around me there
Heaved like a roaring ocean.
And far and wide on every side
I saw the smoking planets ride
In waves of angry motion.
All faces of all living men
Among those waves did glide,
A moment palely floated, then
Were gulfed amid the tide.
Amid the gleaming, swimming sea
I saw my love drift dimly by.
"Oh lure him up, bright sprite, to me,
Or I of grief shall die.
"Out of this fluid flashing earth
Let one thing solid be.
His beauteous body that God made,
Lord, let it comfort me.
"I reach to thee with my hands, my love.
On lightnings I lay hold;
On clouds and citadels and domes
And kingdoms dark and old.
"Through unseen flesh of secret tribes
That no man's eyes may see,
Through wrath and hate and love and death
I lay my hands on thee."
I touched his garment and it seemed
A mantle wrought of cosmic pain!
Of sighing worlds and dying moons
And many a stellar hurricane.
For he was clothed in day and night,
And aching chills and chaos cold,
And groaning worlds and mortal blight
And all things terrible and old.
Then was I far that would be near,
And substance was a fearful thing.
I was appalled and full of fear,
That was the daughter of a king.
I plunged to him through whirling night.
The stars, the times, I swept aside.
Once more, upon his bosom bright,
I lay, his own anointed bride.
"Oh, let me kiss his lips once more,
His sweet lips, or I die.
So near they are no gulf, no star
Betwixt our breaths shall lie."
"Nearness, thou art a fearful thing,
And no man sails thy ghostly tide,
But angels with a flaming wing
On thy strange gulfs can glide.
Spirits, that walk on shining feet,
Can reach the other side.
Across the ocean will we float.
Thy kiss shall be a living boat!"
My radiant daemon cried.
"My eyes shall leave a fiery trail,
My spread wings be thy bellying sail,
I will be thy guide."
His face gleamed palely at my prow,
His spread wings were my sails.
His screaming voice bestrid the air
As a meteor rides the gales.
His glances streamed about my sides,
With light they burnished me,
Among the sails and in and out
His hovering vision flew about
As bright as it could be.
"What is this ocean, goblin bright,
This silent, smooth and crimson sea?
I have sailed all day and sailed all night.
Is there no port to left or right
Where I might harbored be?"
Above the prow, with happy brow,
I saw that radiant daemon shine:
"This is that nearness that divides
Thy true love's lips from thine.
"What is great and what is small?
What is near and what is far?
Unto the Lord that made us all
The mote is equal to the star."
"What is this shore to which I come,
Where sunrise reddens into day?
It seems a sweet and pleasant home
Where a wanderer might stay.
"Laughing folks move to and fro,
A gentle tribe are they.
The flutes they sing, the pipes they blow,
The harps they sweetly play!
"Upon my prow they lay their hands,
They draw me swiftly to the shore.
What are these heavenly happy lands
Where no man ever was before?
"They twine their garlands on my prow.
They clothe me in a garment fair.
With laughing flowers they crown my brow,
Then into happy vales repair."
The goblin spoke -- that fierce-eyed sprite --
He swayed me with his spell:
"These are thy gardens of delight
That in his lips do dwell.
Through many a Heaven shalt thou rove
In the mystic flesh of him you love,
And many a fearful Hell.
"His mortal flesh, it is a mesh
Of worlds and space and time.
A universe, it doth rehearse
Old chronicles sublime.
"Made in the image of the Lord,
Of moons and stars and suns,
And round about and in and out
His Heavenly nature runs.
"And thou art lit into a star
That on his lip doth flame.
But yet thou art so far -- more far
Than the world from which you came."
Amazed, I gazed upon the ground.
I looked upon the air.
White clouds were floating in the sky
And the wind was everywhere.
"Why did they greet me when I came
And garland me their queen?"
"His substance is thy living land,
Thy sacred own demesne."
"Thou magic sprite, thou goblin bright,
These sweet vales blossom so,
And forth to gather garlands green
The men and maidens go.
The flutes they sing, the harps they play,
The pipes they sweetly blow!
"It is the joy of his heart,
That keeps perpetual Spring.
In him lies furled full many a world,
And all rise up to sing.
They all rise up to sing -- to sing --
Meadow and hill and lea!
His body glows like a sweet new rose
Because he dreams of thee."
"Thou fierce-eyed sprite, daemonic, bright,
The singing season goes.
A barren waste, a faded tree,
And withering of the rose!
"The maidens with their flowering wreaths
Are shedding bitter tears.
Their eyes that laughed, their mouths that sang,
Are nebulous with years."
"It is the passion that devours
That eats his flesh away.
His youthful gardens glowing green
Are blasted with decay.
Where once they kept their festival,
Lo now, the bloodhounds bay,
And in his sweetest pastures rove
The wild-eyed beasts of prey.
This hast thou done that lured too far
The urgence of the clay."
"The earth is cracked, the sea runs dry,
The mountains sink into the ground!"
"It is the wreckage of his flesh
From his spirit's grievous wound."
"Whence came these priests with eyes austere?
They lay on me their hands.
See -- I am bled with cruel gyves
And bound with sullen bands."
"Their ancient god in angry mood
Looks down on thee with wrathful eyes,
Until on altars red with blood
Thou art the sacrifice."
"Who is that ancient god?"
"His Soul,
The great, the high, the superhuman!
He is beautiful and far.
He is throned upon a star,
Waiting for a mystic Woman."
"Master of light, thou daemon bright,
Now dawns the Judgment Day!
The earth that once did shine so bright
Is withered all away.
The earth and air and all the skies
Are folded up like scrolls,
And from the pit in which they cry
Comes the wailing of lost souls."
"It is the wrath his Spirit feels
For what His flesh has done.
He turns to a diviner feast
In the city of the sun.
In lovelier lands thou canst not see
He seeks a cosmic bride.
Beneath Her face He gathers grace,
He casts His flesh aside.
"For thou art Eve and thou dost tempt
And lead astray since time began.
But She is Mary and brings forth
The perfect Man."
"But who is she and what is she,
Thou blazing, bright, mysterious elf?"
"She is the empress over thee,
Thy deep eternal Self.
"Throughout thy flesh He seeks Her face.
Her lips He fain would kiss.
Wherefore He runs through roaring suns
And many a dark abyss."
"Thou magic sprite, daemonic, bright,
Lay then on me thy goad!
For if he seeks her face to-night
I will pursue the self-same road.
Through moon and sun I'll run. I'll rove
Through solid earth and flumes of fire!
But I will be his only love,
My breast, the end of his desire."
Then shalt thou search through thine own flesh
Thou shalt not find Him there.
For lo, 't is an enchanted mesh
Woven of unearthly air."
That goblin bright, that fierce-eyed sprite,
Loud and long laughed he.
He laid his bit upon my sight
And made me see as he did see.
The atoms of my body stirred,
Chanting cosmic tunes.
Through gulfs of time they wheeled and veered
Or through deep spaces dipped and steered,
Like great white separate moons.
In the caverns of my brain
I saw fierce planets whirl and dip,
Burn in the hollow of my hand
Or slide along my finger tip.
Where once my flesh was wont to be,
Great comets swept their fearful wars.
My bone, it shone with fires and seas,
My body shook with stars.
Sunsets with gold and scarlet crest
Through my flesh did gleam, did glide;
Through flashing hair and swimming breast,
Melting forehead and trembling side.
"Brightness, I see a shape that runs.
I see it sink! I see it rise!
Sometimes it clings to gorgeous suns
And now it drowns in dizzy skies."
"Thee He searches through and through,
Every world that in thee lies,
Seeking for a Heavenly Woman
In an ancient Paradise."
"But who is she whose spirit face
Appears to him so fair, so high?
Is she clothed in deeper grace?
Is she more beautiful than I?"
"She is enthroned on high -- afar.
Moons are wreathed about Her brow.
She shines brightlier than a star,
She is more beautiful than thou."
Who is she and what is she,
In her citadel of air?
Where can her secret bosom be,
That I may stab her, heavenly fair?"
She is hid in a palace of light,
Deeper than the midmost sky.
If thou shouldst wound Her breast to-night,
Swiftly, swiftly, wouldst thou die."
"Who is she?; What is she?
Thou blazing, bright, mysterious elf!"
"She is the empress over thee,
Thy deep eternal self."
"He follows Her through cloud and star,
He follows Her through death and dream,
Into a land lovely and far!
Her kingdom holy
Is lit with a spiritual gleam.
"With blessed food They shall be fed,
In Her citadel divine.
Thy flesh shall be the immortal bread,
Thy soul -- the everlasting wine."
"' Let me gaze upon her face
That is so beautiful, so far.
Let me behold her blinding grace
Throned upon her midmost star.
"I will rend her with my hands --
Hostile, bright, fearfully high.
I will wound her where she stands.
Then swiftly, swiftly, let me die."
Beware! Beware! I say beware!
Her eyes shall burn thee like the sun.
She is fierce and She is fair,
Her will upon this night be done."

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