Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, HYMEN, by HILDA DOOLITTLE

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

HYMEN, by                 Poet's Biography
First Line: From the closed garden
Last Line: (ah, love is come indeed!)
Alternate Author Name(s): H. D.; Aldington, Richard, Mrs.

From the closed garden
Where our feet pace
Back and forth each day,
This gladiolus white,
This red, this purple spray—
Gladiolus tall with dignity
As yours, lady–we lay
Before your feet and pray:
Of all the blessings—
Youth, joy, ecstasy—
May one gift last
(As the tall gladiolus may
Outlast the wind-flower,
Winter-rose or rose),
One gift above,
Encompassing all those;
For her, for him,
For all within these palace walls,
Beyond the feast,
Beyond the cry of Hymen and the torch,
Beyond the night and music
Echoing through the porch till day.
Where the first crocus buds unfold
We found these petals near the cold
Swift river-bed.
Beneath the rocks where ivy-frond
Puts forth new leaves to gleam beyond
Those lately dead:
The very smallest two or three
Of gold (gold pale as ivory)
We gathered.
Never more will the wind
Cherish you again,
Never more will the rain.
Never more Shall we find you bright
In the snow and wind.
The snow is melted,
The snow is gone,
And you are flown:
Like a bird out of our hand,
Like a light out of our heart,
You are gone.
Between the hollows
Of the little hills
The spring spills blue—
Turquoise, sapphire, lapis-lazuli—
On a brown cloth outspread.
Ah see,
How carefully we lay them now,
Each hyacinth spray,
Across the marble floor—
A pattern your bent eyes
May trace and follow
To the shut bridal door.
Lady, our love, our dear,
Our bride most fair,
They grew among the hollows
Of the hills;
As if the sea had spilled its blue,
As if the sea had risen
From its bed,
And sinking to the level of the shore,
Left hyacinths on the floor.

Strophe But of her
Who can say if she is fair?
Bound with fillet,
Bound with myrtle
Underneath her flowing veil,
Only the soft length
(Beneath her dress)
Of saffron shoe is bright
As a great lily-heart
In its white loveliness.

Antistrophe But of her
We can say that she is fair.
We bleached the fillet,
Brought the myrtle;
To us the task was set
Of knotting the fine threads of silk:
We fastened the veil,
And over the white foot
Drew on the painted shoe
Steeped in Illyrian crocus.

Strophe But of her,
Who can say if she is fair?
For her head is covered over
With her mantle
White on white,
Snow on whiter amaranth,
Snow on hoar-frost,
Snow on snow,
Snow on whitest buds of myrrh.

Antistrophe But of her,
We can say that she is fair;
For we know underneath
All the wanness,
All the heat
(In her blanched face)
Of desire
Is caught in her eyes as fire
In the dark center leaf
Of the white Syrian iris.
Along the yellow sand
Above the rocks
The laurel-bushes stand.
Against the shimmering heat
Each separate leaf
Is bright and cold,
And through the bronze
Of shining bark and wood
Run the fine threads of gold.
Here in our wicker-trays,
We bring the first faint blossoming
Of fragrant bays:
Lady, their blushes shine
As faint in hue
As when through petals
Of a laurel-rose
The sun shines through,
And throws a purple shadow
On a marble vase.
(Ah, love,
So her fair breasts will shine
With the faint shadow above.)
From citron-bower be her bed,
Cut from branch of tree a-flower,
Fashioned for her maidenhead.
From Lydian apples, sweet of hue,
Cut the width of board and lathe.
Carve the feet from myrtle-wood.
Let the palings of her bed
Be quince and box-wood overlaid
With the scented bark of yew.
That all the wood in blossoming,
May calm her heart and cool her blood
For losing of her maidenhood.
The crimson cover of her bed
Is not so rich, nor so deeply bled
The purple-fish that dyed it red,
As when in a hot sheltered glen
There flowered these stalks of cyclamen:

(Purple with honey-points
Of horns for petals;
Sweet and dark and crisp,
As fragrant as her maiden kiss.)

There with his honey-seeking lips
The bee clings close and warmly sips,
And seeks with honey-thighs to sway
And drink the very flower away.

(Ah, stern the petals drawing back;
Ah rare, ah virginal her breath!)

Crimson, with honey-seeking lips,
The sun lies hot across his back,
The gold is flecked across his wings.
Quivering he sways and quivering clings
(Ah, rare her shoulders drawing back!)
One moment, then the plunderer slips
Between the purple flower-lips.

Where love is king,
Ah, there is little need
To dance and sing,
With bridal-torch to flare
Amber and scatter light
Across the purple air,
To sing and dance
To flute-note and to reed.

Where love is come
(Ah, love is come indeed!)
Our limbs are numb
Before his fiery need;
With all their glad
Rapture of speech unsaid,
Before his fiery lips
Our lips are mute and dumb.

Ah, sound of reed,
Ah, flute and trumpet wail,
Ah, joy decreed–
The fringes of her veil
Are seared and white;
Across the flare of light,
Blinded the torches fail.
(Ah, love is come indeed!)

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