Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, IN A GREEK GARDEN, by BERNICE LESBIA KENYON



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IN A GREEK GARDEN, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: We have known it all before, in some far dream
Last Line: That soon must fall and fade and be no more.
Alternate Author Name(s): Gilkyson, Walter, Mrs.
Subject(s): Artemis; Greece; Mythology - Classical; Greeks


We have known it all before, in some far dream,
These lines of fountain-water, willow trees
Bending over a myriad tulips shining,
And the white walls alight in the evening sun,
And stillness, but for the water falling shattered.
There was a time beyond full memory
When standing here, where we never have stood before,
We knew it ours, as we know it again today.
So in return the wonder all comes back
Familiarly, from the dream to the suddenly real.
We have intruded on a sacred place
Not meant for mortal sight. Oh, long ago
We had forsaken it for fear of the gods;
But now we would claim it from them back again,
To behold it today in wonder and delight.
Even these shadows wove patterns in times before
On this pale grass, and over swaying tulips;
And we have seen the evening sunlight slant
Through willows trailing.
If to see it again
May be but the late return of an old dream
Long since grown dim, oh, then remember well
How we stood breathless underneath these willows,
When we had entered through the amazing gates;
And made our ancient challenge to things unreal,
Through senses when the senses seem to fail:
"This thing may vanish; therefore hold it now;
Even for this one instant hold it close --
Fill ears and eyes with it -- drink up its air --
Gather its fragrance -- bend before its light --
Then, let it vanish!" But it does not vanish.
So we have proved with the old test of sense,
And found no dream. Oh then let us put off
Strangeness, and doubts from the doubting age we know,
And let them slip like garments down from us;
And feel the ageless wonder of this place
Sweep over us like tides of moving air --
Sun-filled blue air, that drowns us with its coming.

These are the skies of Greece, and Artemis
Poised here in marble, with her fair disdain,
Looks out into the West, whence gods must come
In the high splendor of their loveliness.
She waits some great event, who takes no pleasure
In gardens of the gods, or the slow passing
Of long, uncounted hours. She with her bow,
Artemis, comes not from her wildwood groves
Nor pauses here in shadow of marble walls
But for some strange portent that the gods must know.

These are the skies of Greece, and the day-moon, faint,
Like a high-blown feather, shows the depth of them
Unclouded to the tops of distant trees. . . .
Though we are mortal, in these formal ways
Let us move stately and slow, as if we too were gods.
Oh well we know these ways are not our own!
Why you are not half so tall as the fountain-water!
I could lose you behind the drooping ends of the willows,
And you are as nothing in this portico --
This pillared circular temple, with its rim
Of whitest marble high above your head,
That frames a round blue roof that is the sky;
You are as nothing here, but yet move slowly,
Being a god for a while. At least your eyes
May see this place as the heavenly ones must see it. . . .
Or break from stately ways and run as a nymph --
Put off your close black dress, and move in the air!
You are a stranger from a foreign land,
And have forgot that it is summer time!
Do you think the pool that laughs below your feet
Can mirror you in black? The marble fish
And the marble crab upon the sand-rayed floor
Would laugh at you, breaking out of their stone
To move in mirth along the floor of their sea!
Was ever a nymph in black in summer time?
Put off your little shoes and run in the grass;
And if a god should see you, do not mind it.
Artemis of the wilds would understand,
As she watches there, from the ever-depening shadows.

Shadows -- shadows -- shadows. . . . The late round sun
Falls to the darkening West, and so is gone,
And twilight hangs in the warm haze of evening.
Now the wisteria along the wall
Looks whiter than blown foam, and tulips brim
In the half light with colors new and rare,
And violet shadows fall behind each leaf --
Dark leaf for green, against the marble wall.
To have seen this place after so many days
Is a coming back to an old forsaken dream.
We walk these paths now, and familiarly
Lean here against the columns, and look out
Over the valley below, and the pale river
Curving around the West past misty hills;
And even the ominous dark comes on as before.
There was a night in our lost familiar garden
When we stood watching the moon grow white, and knew
That Artemis must waken from her marble --
That all the gods must soon be coming together.
Almost we heard them passing, but did not see them;
And Artemis stood unchanged. And soon we felt
The time had not yet come; as standing tonight
Watching in silence while the dark comes in,
We know it is not the time. . . . But listen again,
And tell me that you can almost hear them passing
Beside us over the steps, with robes aflutter
And light feet pressing soft on the yielding grass.
We have intruded on a mystery
That soon must fall and fade and be no more;
But now while the hour lasts, stand quietly here
And see the moon and the ageless stars of summer
Caught in the circle of marble over this temple, --
All the blue darkness and height and brilliance of heaven.
Now are the edges of marble whitened with moonlight;
Pillars shine out, and shadows fall behind them,
While the high roof of stars turns slowly to Westward.

Artemis! Artemis, there in your marble niche!
Come alive and see a strange thing brought to pass!
Come alive and flee away -- come alive and escape
Out of this place unholy! There is a sign
Must fill your eyes with dismay: look up and see it --
Here on this night at the highest point of heaven
Silently flash the long fires of the North;
Coldly Aurora shines athwart the moon
With shafts of light that waver and break and fade,
And rise again. O Artemis, be afraid!
What shall avail your long and disdainful waiting
Here in the North? Proud Artemis, be afraid!
Darker these skies than ever the skies of Greece;
More strangely cold and high and ominous.
Now is the new light shaken over the walls
In purpling colors, and red of the far North,
Unseen by the ancient gods. Here Artemis
Must stand all moveless in the unholy place,
With broken moonlight colored over the walls.
Oh, far is the moon, whose long light out of the West
Slants to this garden, faintly. She must pass,
Leaving the sky to shafted Aurora fires --
Silently moving lines of changing light.
Soon the moon must pass, and Artemis
Be wrapped in shadow, alone and proud and forsaken,
Under cold skies, in this garden of the North.

Come, let us close our eyes, and pass from the dream.
We have intruded on a mystery
More strange than any we knew in any dreaming.
Now with the wonder upon us, let us go --
Let us slip out through the gate in the slanting moonlight
That soon must fall and fade and be no more.





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