Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, FAUSTUS AND HELEN, by ARTHUR WILLIAM SYMONS



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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

FAUSTUS AND HELEN, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Why am I fettered with eternal change
Last Line: Cruel old age, and kinder death, and sleep.


FAUSTUS.
Why am I fettered with eternal change?
I follow after changeless love, and find
Nothing but change; I seek, and seem to find;
I find a shaken star within a pool;
A little water troubles it; I lean
Closer, and my own shadow blots it out.
Yet I desire the star, not this bright ghost.
I take a woman's heart into my hand;
It sighs for love, and trembles among sighs,
And half awakens into a delicate sleep,
And calls to me in whispers out of dreams.
Then the dream passes, and I too know I have dreamed.
No woman has found me faithless; it is she
Who shows me my own image in her eyes,
And in my own eyes finds a shadowy friend
That is her own desire beholding her.
Now I have followed wisdom long enough;
Wisdom is changeless, but a barren thing;
I desire love, and peace with love, and love
Without this mortal penalty of change.
Why is it that the world was made so ill,
Or we that suffer it, or this soul its toy,
This body that is the image of the world,
Made ill, or made for a pastime? he that made it
Loved not the thing he made, or tired of it,
Or could not end it; for he gave us life,
And the body, and therewith he gave us dreams;
And having made one substance of the soul
And body, wrought division, and flung his war
Into the little passionate city of man.
Yet, if this little city full of foes
Could cast out dreams, these strong invading dreams,
Might we not take kind peace into our midst?
Peace without love there may not be; and yet
I have read in books that love may come with rest,
Love may desire and yet be satisfied,
Love may brim up the body's need of love
And leave the soul unhurt; it is this soul
That cries in us, and suffers, and kills content;
The soul, a foolish vagabond thing, that strays
Wanton about the world, sleeps ill of nights,
Treads down the fruitful edges of the fields
That ripen towards a harvest, and lives on alms.
Could I but hold this slothful and restless soul
The prisoner of to-day, build up to-day
Into a rampart, shut to-morrow out,
Then I might live, and not run after life,
Then I might love, and not see only the pale
Vanishing of love in an uncapturable mist.
When Helen lived, men loved, and Helen was:
Did Helen dream, or men, seeing Helen, dream
Of more than Helen? O perfect beauty, made
Of mortal flesh for some immortal end,
To be the bride of every man's desire
While beauty is remembered, I do think
That Helen grew up with the growth of flowers,
And shared the simple, happy life of beasts,
Loved to be loved, and saw men die for her,
Not sorry, not astonished at their death,
A grave and happy woman. Helen is dead
These many thousand years; but what are years?
Time is the slave of thought; a little thought
Sets back the clock of the ages; this hour that strikes
Is not so sure for me as Helen's hour.
I call on Helen: Helen is the thought
I summon with; I form out of my soul
A bodily Helen, whom these eyes behold.

HELEN.
Have I slept long? You waken me from sleep.
I have forgotten something: what is it?

FAUSTUS.
There is much wisdom in your beauty; eyes,
That have looked deep into the hearts of men,
When men, setting their lips on them, forgot
All but desire of some forgetfulness,
Remember many secrets; your eyes are grave
With knowledge of the hearts of many men.

HELEN.
I have forgotten all; if I have looked
Into the hearts of men, I have but seen
A little eager world, like to my own,
A world my own has copied; they desire
That which I have to give them, I in them
Their own desire.

FAUSTUS.
They see you not; they see
Another phantom Helen in the soul,
And they desire what you can never give.

HELEN.
What is the soul, and what is that desire
Of man which Helen cannot satisfy?

FAUSTUS.
O Helen, we are sick, sick of the soul.
It is an ancient malady, and clings
About our blood these many thousand years.
We are born old, and this decrepit soul
Is like a child's inheritance, that pays
The price of others' pleasure; we are born old,
Old in the heart, and mournful in the brain,
Hunters of shadows, feeders on food of sleep,
Hoarding a little memory till it rots.
We have forgotten day, the instant day,
And that to-morrow never shall be ours.

HELEN.
To-morrow never need be ours; to-day
Is greater than the heart of any man.

FAUSTUS.
Nay, not enough to dream a whole dream out.

HELEN.
Have not great cities fallen in a day,
And great kings fallen, and the face of the earth
Changed? Is not love, greater than any king,
Born, brought to ripeness, earthed about with dust,
In a day's course? Needs death more than a day?

FAUSTUS.
Not love, not death, not cities, not great kings,
Only the little wayward heart of man.

HELEN.
I fold my arms about you, and I lay
My hair over your eyes; I hush your lips
Against my heart: there are no sighs in it;
It has forgotten Paris and the man
Whom Paris wronged; how many thousand men
Have died for this poor face they never saw!
It has forgotten Troy. Shut your lids close
And feel my lips, they bend down over you:
Men have died hard in battle that these lips,
My husband had kissed often, might be kissed
By Paris: they are yours, they have not loved
The mouth of any lover in the world
More than they love your eyes; your eyes were sad,
Before you shut them; open your eyes now:
They have forgotten wisdom.

FAUSTUS.
Is it a dream?
I have not seen that face except in dreams.

HELEN.
A little moment has gone over us,
And it is still to-day.

FAUSTUS.
I have slept long.

HELEN.
Do not awaken; yet you have not slept;
Now you are falling back into your sleep;
Your eyes remember, they are sad again,
They have not wakened.

FAUSTUS.
An immortal sleep,
Gone in an instant! I have dreamed a dream
Longer than all your years, and it is still
The same long day, and there are hours enough
To feed another dream out of our hearts.

HELEN.
Why do you dream if dreaming makes you sad?
Why do you look at me as if you looked
Into a glass?

FAUSTUS.
I do not know my face;
I see a wintry bough toss in the wind
When I look close into your eyes. I am sad
Because your beauty is a consuming fire,
And it could set the world in flames, yet not
Burn out the dross of thought from this old heart.
A stranger sits and sees you with my eyes;
Your lips have kissed them, and they see you still.

HELEN.
It is enough to look upon my face,
If you will look upon my face indeed,
And not at dreams that wither and turn to mist.

FAUSTUS.
O Helen, it is you that are the dream.
Have I not made you with my urgency,
Made you to my desire out of a mist?
I made you, and you mock me with your life.
I called you as a ghost out of a grave,
I gave you back the likeness of your flesh
Out of my soul, but only not a soul,
I gave you back the salt of life, your soul;
And I entreated you across the dark
And obscure ages, and you came to me,
Awakened, unastonished, out of death.
Ghost of dead Helen, teach me to be no more
The ghost of living Faustus!

HELEN.
Must I die twice?
For I remember dying long ago,
And I abhor death only of earthly ills,
Although it end all earthly ills at once.
Must I die twice?

FAUSTUS.
You must fade out again
Into the mist, and be a memory.

HELEN.
My beauty has been dust so many years
I know not how the memory of it lasts
Among men's minds so long. A woman's praise
Is ended shortly with her youth, and dies
Long before death: do men remember yet?
O Faustus, let me live! The one good thing
Is life, for there is nothing in the grave:
I have been dead, and there is nothing there;
We sleep, and cannot even say, we sleep.
I have loved life, I would live all my days
Twice over; there is nothing I desire
Except to live; death is the end of all:
But now I live, and I would never die.
And yet if death must come, I will die twice,
So I may live my life over again.

FAUSTUS.
The colour of the world is washed away,
Helen, and there is nothing in the world
Worth looking on; your eyes have looked on Greece.
Desire not life, there is no room for life,
There is no place for beauty in the world.
I did not call you hither for your peace,
Not for your peace, although I sought for peace
In finding you; and now I cannot find
The peace I sought; this prison of the world,
These massy walls, barred windows, iron bolts,
Would close upon you and suck out your breath
Like a slow sickness; but now rejoice, return
To the universal nothingness of air:
Depart, it is your freedom.

HELEN.
I go out
Into a great white darkness, and am afraid.

FAUSTUS.
When Helen lived, men loved, and Helen was:
I have seen Helen, Helen was a dream,
I dreamed of something not in Helen's eyes.
What shall the end of all things be? I wait
Cruel old age, and kinder death, and sleep.




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