Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, TANNHAUSER TO VENUS, by GEORGE CABOT LODGE



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TANNHAUSER TO VENUS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: I have learned the inevitable destinies
Last Line: The clasp of friends and the low lights of home!


I have learned the inevitable destinies
By sheer endurance of thy careless love!
Yet with a human and so needful hope,
A desperate guess, I dare confront thy will
And task with doubt thy flushed divinity:
Hear me! O Goddess, hear my last surmise!

I have watched thy face and seen the seasons pass,
And now I know that memory cannot be
Where death is not nor any mortal change.
Thou art immortal, therefore all thy life
Is now, -- the hours go by and leave no trace!
O monstrous thought! Would I could ask thee where
And how they fare, the insatiable men,
Lovers of thine whose blood besmeared thy feet,
Whose wild hearts perished as in fire, whose bones
Gleam white as starlight in the paths of time!
O where's it passed, the strong processional,
The young men and young women pale as fire,
Life's desperate mariners who glimpsed thee forth --
Pharos that lamped the starless night of time --
And sought thee even on death's engulfing seas? --
Tell me of them! Thy brows are pure of thought!
Yet had thine epic lovers of yesterday
Lips and strong hands more fierce than even are mine;
Their violent will and weak humanity
Suffered as mine to feel thy deathless youth!
Then tell me -- for, by heaven, my extreme plight
Lies bare before thee -- if such men who strode
Young in the young world are lapsed away
Body and soul leaving no trace at all,
Then where for me, for me who once forswore
My sweet Lord Christ, the strong and stainless God,
Is triumph or hope or any tenderness?
Am I more mighty than so much of time,
So mighty and so willful of my cause
That, by extreme desire, I may contrive
To give thee mortal memory and pain and tears,
Feel thy heart falter and reduce to death
The fashion of thy memorable flesh?
Is this my only hope? Certain it is
My whole life, harnessed to thine endless task,
Toils without recompense, a merest tool
Serving the vast monotony of fate;
Certain it is that through eternal time
No death can make the sight of my dazed eyes
Grow bland or cool my fingers of thy feel!
And therefore, drifted in the dreadful past,
I shall be left a derelict on the shores
Of thine oblivion that bear, I know,
Wreckage of all the years and of all men!
Certain it is -- unless -- O give me power
And light! For in the midnight of despair
I seem to glimpse the dawn of a huge hope
That fires a pathway to my utmost goal!
Not thine the power! I go from thee to me!
Mine is the task -- to teach my human soul
The vastness of the immortal mood and thus
Lift my fierce life to immortality!
O hope great beyond all hope yet not vain!
Haply I fail -- yet I have known thy love
And served with life the soul's divinest end
Since the extreme of all things leads to truth.
Therefore I am content. Lift up thy hands
And pour thy golden cataract of hair
Over my face, then kiss me through the coils! --
The frailty of my heart that does thee wrong,
Memory, and grief for human joy and pain
Shall cease. Behold me fit to bear thy love!
I will no more desire the sea-wind, cool
At sunrise, nor the lesser joys than Thou;
The clasp of friends and the low lights of home!





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