Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, FOR E. L., by GEORGE CABOT LODGE



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FOR E. L., by             Poet's Biography
First Line: She stands before me till the space grows void
Last Line: The solemn portent of a final truth.


I.

She stands before me till the space grows void,
And round her form the desert's sterile heat
Throbs with the tread of strong, impassive feet
And song in fanes She builded and destroyed.
The tideless waters swell and fall, the beat
Of sunlight thrills along her limbs and glows
On jade and turquoise, and her even brows
With myrrh and natron seem forever sweet.
She, child of mightier days and larger loves,
Stands like a silence in the sound of life,
And recent things about her beauty seem
Vain and unlovely as our human strife;
Wise and ineffable as Truth She moves
As moves a great thought thro' a foolish dream.

II.

She moves in the dusk of my mind like a bell with the sweetness of singing
In a twilight of summer fulfilled with the joy of the sadness of tears,
And the calm of her face and the splendid, slow smile are as memories clinging
Of songs and of silences filling the distance of passionate years.

She moves in the twilight of life like a prayer in a heart that is grieving,
And her youth is essential and old as the spring and the freshness of spring;
And her eyes watch the world and the little, low ways of the sons of the living
As the seraph might watch from the golden, grave height of his heaven-spread wing.

She moves in the darkness of Time from the centuries large as her spirit;
From the magic of elder religions when the epic desires were strong,
And the old, grave glories that She, of the living, alone may inherit
Flow back from the harp of the past like the notes of ineffable song.

She moves thro' the trivial days in the might of the peace of her presence;
And, sweet as the death of a child, in the still high places of thought,
Her soul in the hunger of life is appeased in a perfect florescence,
Apart from the shadows and dust that our little desires have sought!


III.

Why are you gone? I grope to find your hand;
The light grows secret as your tenderness;
My tears that fall for utter loneliness
Seem sad as sunset in an alien land.
Old simple words that you could understand
And only you, are striving to possess
My lips with utterance and their weariness
Burns with the fever of a vain command.

Why are you gone? The large winds, seaward bound,
Tell of long journeying in the endless void.
Why are you gone? I strain to catch the sound
Of footsteps, watch to see the dark destroyed
Before your lustrous fingers that would creep
Over my eyes and give me strength to sleep!

IV.

Pour down thy hair between the world and me!
Between myself and my exhausted soul
Spread, in the dreadful vistas where my goal
Saddens and fails, thy love's euthanasy!
Fold me away from Time and let me be
Silent and ceased from bitterness, be thou
Tacit as childhood and thine ivory brow
Thoughtless, and be thou tender utterly!
Strength, give me strength to spare the futile tears!
Give me the consciousness of something proved:
Faith, wisdom, personal and briefly true.
I sift the scant earned knowledge of my years
Like dust between my hands, and all I loved
And hoped and dreamed dissolves and blends to you!


V.

She turned the falling light to fire,
Dull fire throughout her sombre hair;
It seemed She phrased the world's desire,
Desire that woke with fervent prayer
Thrills of a secret wonder everywhere.

Her eyes caught splendours from the sun,
Vague airs grew warm about her face,
She saw the fire-stained ripples run
And sing to sleep the smouldering space
Of sunset and sink whispering on her trace.

Height over height the skies caught fire: --
She watched the red contagion flow,
The wide, wild wings of flame aspire
Till heaven uplifted seemed to grow
A huge, domed sapphire paved with crimson snow.

Her lips were still and marvellous,
But, like a lute whose silence sings,
Her hand fell warm in mine and thus
Told me imperishable things:
She held my senses as a perfume clings.

My mind was like an ancient town
Of shadows carved in moonlight, there,
Like dreams thro' latticed casements blown,
The twilight of her endless hair
Brought stately visions, sweet and sad and fair.

Along the towers and walls of thought
They hung bright banners flown with song,
The crooked, unlitten byways caught
Their fires, and, as they passed along,
My dull, wild heart woke strangely and was strong.

So fire fell back from sky to sky,
Night deepened down the purple sea:
She turned her solemn eyes and I,
In wonder and in certainty,
Still touched her hand and still it sung to me.


VI.

Thy breast is stainless as a star, thy hand
Is calm and white and slow and thou dost come
Sweet as a long-remembered song of home
Heard thro' the twilight of an alien land.
Thine eyes are pure and still, they understand
More than our thoughts surmise, and stately dreams
Hover about thee and thy presence seems
Calm with a ceaseless custom of command.
With memories of thy face the ways of time
Are splendid, and my hours divinely stirred
With tremor and silence as of unshed tears.
Thou dost resume, as tho' the sea's sublime
Music were uttered in a single word,
The warm magnificence of earlier years.

VII.

O murmur and passionate silence of to-night!
Earth of sublime arrival! -- Let there creep,
Like music thro' the muffled gloom of sleep,
Tremours of Life's imperishable might,
Whether from airs that range the steep starred height
Of heaven, or where the delicate dew is deep
On grass and flowers, or where the bird-cries leap
Loud down the pathways mute and bare with light.
Fabric of night, O easeful rest, O airs
Kissing Her cheek, O flowers that feel Her feet,
O, Life, O earth's impetuous utterance! --
We stand to-night the fit and faithful heirs
To Life's inheritance, -- the power, the sweet
Strong motive, and the Soul's ecstatic trance!

VIII.

Star of the sumptuous dusk and silent air,
Thou loveliest child and latest-born of night,
Jewel that binds the solemn brows of light
Swept by its lustre of luxurious hair;
O star of sundawn like a thread of prayer
Weaved thro' the fabric of a song of bright
Echoes and passionate notes of life's delight: --
O throbbing heart of heaven, unstained and bare! --
Thou, in thy twilight, art as tho' her hand
Dawned thro' the glamour of a gorgeous dream;
And as to me her loveliness is shed
Thro' depths of ancient time, I see thee stand
Exalted and thro' endless space thy beam
Fall pure and steadfast on the world I tread.

IX.



I.

She moves beside the leaping sea,
Along the beaches fledged with foam;
The winds go seaward wearily,
The waves seem children straying home.

The golden breath of day retires
Between the crimson lips of cloud,
She seems, amid the smouldering fires,
Like starlight thro' a burning shroud.

I say "The toiling sea is old,
"The function lasts, the form is change;
"Yon wave that falls in splintered gold
"In every drop is fresh and strange.

"Thine eyes are deep as fluent pools
"Of starlight -- Yet despite of thee
"The world despairs of death -- O fools,
"Behold the fresh and stainless sea!

"The sea that felt the loveliest far
"And eldest God of earth transpire,
"Her flesh more radiant than a star, --
"The sea is young and cannot tire!

"The myriad waters run in ways
"Where moved a million tides before,
"So you aspire thro' all my days
"The same yet strange for evermore!"



II.

The sunset spins its splendid skein,
The sea-birds pass with fearless eye,
The daylight falls in golden rain
To gardens of a vaster sky.

I say: "Like some sonorous bell,
"Flame-forged to call for war or prayer,
"Debased to chime a vulgar spell
"And phrase the pain of vulgar care, --

"So they, for whom their lies suffice,
"Who fear the splendid task of love,
"Who choose the world and pay the price,
"Are dead, -- their lives are proof thereof!

"But now they seem as something gone
"A long, long while, and I may stand
"And hear the calm sea-monotone,
"And watch thy face and touch thy hand."



III.

The stars come few and full as tears,
The dark absorbs her fold on fold;
She seems a song of earlier years,
A myth the lips of heroes told.

She turns, the twilight clothes her shape,
The sands she treads seem moist with blood;
Measured and low from cape to cape
Sea-music thrills the evening's mood.

I say "The wondering-up of love,
"The float of incense and the gloom
"That warmed of old thine altars, move
"About thee like a dull perfume.

"And like a ship of glimmering pearl,
"My heart adventures far to sea:
"The urge of wind, the breakers curl
"Seem promptings of infinity.


"Day dies and night along my trace,
"Thy hair, the gloom and glow thereof,
"Surrounds me, and thy solemn face
"Is dawn across the seas of love!

"Behold thou art like sleepy wine
"In all my sense, and now at last
"Thy human hours of life are mine
"And all thy strong, sonorous past!"


X.

Ours is the day of soul-despair,
The glimmering faith, the scanted sight;
But thine the dim, deserted night,
And, dark as moonlight thro' thy hair,
The stately, solitary air.

Ours are the years of foolish strife,
Of small desires and smaller gain;
But thine, beyond the toil and pain,
Inert, unstirred by death or life,
The changeless Truth that proves us vain.
1.
Ours are the trivial joys, the tears,
The toil whereat our lives are priced;
But thine, with nothing sacrificed,
The harvest of unnumbered years,
The silence where the soul appears.

Ours is a short, sad sentience, ours
Brief time and then forgetful sleep;
But round thy face thy memories keep
Strange vigil, and the lotos-flowers
Of Egypt scent thy living hours.

Ours are the life and death that seem,
Ours is the race, but thine the goal,
And thine the calm, unhindered soul
That holds the dreamer and the dream
As notes in one harmonious theme.

We damn and praise, we crown the few
With power and fame -- a fading wreath;
In thine alembic Life and Death
Unite: beyond our partial view
Thy calm eyes know that all is true!

Thy vision sphered to vaster skies,
Thy breast that keeps, serene and strong,
The pulse of earth's eternal song,
Thy hands that stir not and are wise,
Thy face of epic centuries,

Thy soul that sees beyond the tomb,
Thy faith of wise and perfect love,
Thy heart that time is lyric of --
They know thro' life and death we come
Thee-ward like children straying home.

XI.

Thine is the silence of a night of mist,
Thine is the wonder of a night of stars,
Thine is the body, a solemn eucharist,
And thine the face, the eyes no shadow mars
Save of thy hair the twilight pale as amethyst.

Thine is the voice, phrased echo of the sea,
And thine the mood of statues black with moon,
Staring, inert, with eyes too tense to see,
Eastward thro' deserts desperate with noon;
Thine is the day-spring of the world's eternity.

Thy breast is perfumed of forgotten flowers,
Thy dreams and destinies are old as youth
That thrills, in chorus of memorial hours,
The longing and the laughter of thy mouth;
Thy soul is proud and calm with long-immortal powers.

Thine is the portent of a deathless thing,
Thine is the passion of a mortal change,
Thine is the love -- Ah God! -- to cleave and cling,
And thine the lover, violent and strange,
To tune the lyre for thee, despair and break the string,
Lest song turn discord tried beyond its range!


XII.

Thine is the joy of life's transcendent hours,
Thine is the grief of childish memories,
Thy footsteps seem to fall on fragrant flowers,
Strewn for the feet of grave Divinities;
Thine eyes recall forgotten pieties.

Deep in thy breast the sacred perfume lingers,
Breathed from the lotos that were wont to hang
Rose o'er the sistrum in thy rhythmic fingers,
When thro' the shrine's mysterious twilight rang
Thy voice and all the unseen respondents sang.

Thine are the powers of Gods that now are nameless,
Still on thy face there seems to fall the glow
Of fires that flared on shrines for ages flameless,
Still where the diadem pressed thy faultless brow
Heavy with gems, the dimples linger now.

Age after age the myriads live and perish,
Their's the harsh conflict and the sordid gain;
Thine is the wisdom souls alone may cherish,
Thine is the truth that heals the essential pain
Of time and change and makes death's conquest vain.

Life is a spark the night of death encloses,
Somewhere is sunrise if the soul is sooth;
And thou in life's brief hour of thorns and roses
Show us the fashion of a deathless youth,
The solemn portent of a final truth.






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