Artemis to Actaeon and Other Verse

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  • Part I -- 

  • LIFE 7
  • Part II -- 

  • GRIEF 47
  • Part III -- 

  • ORPHEUS 59
  • ALL SOULS 72
  • A GRAVE 81
  • NON DOLET! 83
  • USES 88
  • A MEETING 89
  • Artemis to Actaeon, Part I

    Page 3



    THOU couldst not look on me and live: so runs
    The mortal legend -- thou that couldst not live
    Nor look on me (so the divine decree)!
    That saw'st me in the cloud, the wave, the bough,
    The clod commoved with April, and the shapes
    Lurking 'twixt lid and eye-ball in the dark.
    Mocked I thee not in every guise of life,
    Hid in girls' eyes, a naiad in her well,
    Wooed through their laughter, and like echo fled,
    Luring thee down the primal silences
    Where the heart hushes and the flesh is dumb?
    Nay, was not I the tide that drew thee out
    Relentlessly from the detaining shore,
    Forth from the home-lights and the hailing voices,
    Forth from the last faint headland's failing line,
    Till I enveloped thee from verge to verge
    And hid thee in the hollow of my being?
    And still, because between us hung the veil,
    The myriad-tinted veil of sense, thy feet
    Refused their rest, thy hands the gifts of life,
    Thy heart its losses, lest some lesser face
    Should blur mine image in thine upturned soul 

    Page 4

    Ere death had stamped it there. This was thy thought.
    And mine?
    The gods, they say, have all: not so!
    This have they -- flocks on every hill, the blue
    Spirals of incense and the amber drip
    Of lucid honey-comb on sylvan shrines,
    First-chosen weanlings, doves immaculate,
    Twin-cooing in the osier-plaited cage,
    And ivy-garlands glaucous with the dew:
    Man's wealth, man's servitude, but not himself!
    And so they pale, for lack of warmth they wane,
    Freeze to the marble of their images,
    And, pinnacled on man's subserviency,
    Through the thick sacrificial haze discern
    Unheeding lives and loves, as some cold peak
    Through icy mists may enviously descry
    Warm vales unzoned to the all-fruitful sun.
    So they along an immortality
    Of endless-envistaed homage strain their gaze,
    If haply some rash votary, empty-urned,
    But light of foot, with all-adventuring hand,
    Break rank, fling past the people and the priest,
    Up the last step, on to the inmost shrine,
    And there, the sacred curtain in his clutch,
    Drop dead of seeing -- while the others prayed!

    Page 5

    Yes, this we wait for, this renews us, this
    Incarnates us, pale people of your dreams,
    Who are but what you make us, wood or stone,
    Or cold chryselephantine hung with gems,
    Or else the beating purpose of your life,
    Your sword, your clay, the note your pipe pursues,
    The face that haunts your pillow, or the light
    Scarce visible over leagues of labouring sea!
    O thus through use to reign again, to drink
    The cup of peradventure to the lees,
    For one dear instant disimmortalised
    In giving immortality!
    So dream the gods upon their listless thrones.
    Yet sometimes, when the votary appears,
    With death-affronting forehead and glad eyes,
    Too young, they rather muse, too frail thou art,
    And shall we rob some girl of saffron veil
    And nuptial garland for so slight a thing?
    And so to their incurious loves return.

    Not so with thee; for some indeed there are
    Who would behold the truth and then return
    To pine among the semblances -- but I
    Divined in thee the questing foot that never
    Revisits the cold hearth of yesterday 

    Page 6

    Or calls achievement home. I from afar
    Beheld thee fashioned for one hour's high use,
    Nor meant to slake oblivion drop by drop.
    Long, long hadst thou inhabited my dreams,
    Surprising me as harts surprise a pool,
    Stealing to drink at midnight; I divined
    Thee rash to reach the heart of life, and lie
    Bosom to bosom in occasion's arms.
    And said: Because I love thee thou shalt die!

    For immortality is not to range
    Unlimited through vast Olympian days,
    Or sit in dull dominion over time;
    But this -- to drink fate's utmost at a draught,
    Nor feel the wine grow stale upon the lip,
    To scale the summit of some soaring moment,
    Nor know the dulness of the long descent,
    To snatch the crown of life and seal it up
    Secure forever in the vaults of death!

    And this was thine: to lose thyself in me,
    Relive in my renewal, and become
    The light of other lives, a quenchless torch
    Passed on from hand to hand, till men are dust
    And the last garland withers from my shrine.

    Page 7


    NAY, lift me to thy lips, Life, and once more
    Pour the wild music through me --

    I quivered in the reed-bed with my kind,
    Rooted in Lethe-bank, when at the dawn
    There came a groping shape of mystery
    Moving among us, that with random stroke
    Severed, and rapt me from my silent tribe,
    Pierced, fashioned, lipped me, sounding for a voice,
    Laughing on Lethe-bank -- and in my throat
    I felt the wing-beat of the fledgeling notes,
    The bubble of godlike laughter in my throat.

    Such little songs she sang,
    Pursing her lips to fit the tiny pipe,
    They trickled from me like a slender spring
    That strings frail wood-growths on its crystal thread,
    Nor dreams of glassing cities, bearing ships.
    She sang, and bore me through the April world
    Matching the birds, doubling the insect-hum
    In the meadows, under the low-moving airs,
    And breathings of the scarce-articulate air

    Page 8

    When it makes mouths of grasses -- but when the sky
    Burst into storm, and took great trees for pipes,
    She thrust me in her breast, and warm beneath
    Her cloudy vesture, on her terrible heart,
    I shook, and heard the battle.

    But more oft,
    Those early days, we moved in charmed woods,
    Where once, at dusk, she piped against a faun,
    And one warm dawn a tree became a nymph
    Listening; and trembled; and Life laughed and passed.
    And once we came to a great stream that bore
    The stars upon its bosom like a sea,
    And ships like stars; so to the sea we came.
    And there she raised me to her lips, and sent
    One swift pang through me; then refrained her hand,
    And whispered: "Hear -- " and into my frail flanks,
    Into my bursting veins, the whole sea poured
    Its spaces and its thunder; and I feared.

    We came to cities, and Life piped on me
    Low calls to dreaming girls,
    In counting-house windows, through the chink of gold,
    Flung cries that fired the captive brain of youth,
    And made the heavy merchant at his desk 

    Page 9

    Curse us for a cracked hurdy-gurdy; Life
    Mimicked the hurdy-gurdy, and we passed.

    We climbed the slopes of solitude, and there
    Life met a god, who challenged her and said:
    "Thy pipe against my lyre!" But "Wait!" she laughed,
    And in my live flank dug a finger-hole,
    And wrung new music from it. Ah, the pain!

    We climbed and climbed, and left the god behind.
    We saw the earth spread vaster than the sea,
    With infinite surge of mountains surfed with snow,
    And a silence that was louder than the deep;
    But on the utmost pinnacle Life again
    Hid me, and I heard the terror in her hair.

    Safe in new vales, I ached for the old pang,
    And clamoured "Play me against a god again!"
    "Poor Marsyas-mortal -- he shall bleed thee yet,"
    She breathed and kissed me, stilling the dim need.
    But evermore it woke, and stabbed my flank
    With yearnings for new music and new pain.
    "Another note against another god!"
    I clamoured; and she answered: "Bide my time.
    Of every heart-wound I will make a stop, 

    Page 10

    And drink thy life in music, pang by pang,
    But first thou must yield the notes I stored in thee
    At dawn beside the river. Take my lips."

    She kissed me like a lover, but I wept,
    Remembering that high song against the god,
    And the old songs slept in me, and I was dumb.

    We came to cavernous foul places, blind
    With harpy-wings, and sulphurous with the glare
    Of sinful furnaces -- where hunger toiled,
    And pleasure gathered in a starveling prey,
    And death fed delicately on young bones.

    "Now sing!" cried Life, and set her lips to me.
    "Here are gods also. Wilt thou pipe for Dis?"
    My cry was drowned beneath the furnace roar,
    Choked by the sulphur-fumes; and beast-lipped gods
    Laughed down on me, and mouthed the flutes of hell.

    "Now sing!" said Life, reissuing to the stars;
    And wrung a new note from my wounded side.
    So came we to clear spaces, and the sea.
    And now I felt its volume in my heart, 

    Page 11

    And my heart waxed with it, and Life played on me
    The song of the Infinite. "Now the stars," she said.

    Then from the utmost pinnacle again
    She poured me on the wild sidereal stream,
    And I grew with her great breathings, till we swept
    The interstellar spaces like new worlds
    Loosed from the fiery ruin of a star.

    Cold, cold we rested on black peaks again,
    Under black skies, under a groping wind;
    And Life, grown old, hugged me to a numb breast,
    Pressing numb lips against me. Suddenly
    A blade of silver severed the black peaks
    From the black sky, and earth was born again,
    Breathing and various, under a god's feet.
    A god! A god! I felt the heart of Life
    Leap under me, and my cold flanks shook again.
    He bore no lyre, he rang no challenge out,
    But Life warmed to him, warming me with her,
    And as he neared I felt beneath her hands
    The stab of a new wound that sucked my soul
    Forth in a new song from my throbbing throat.

    "His name -- his name?" I whispered, but she shed
    The music faster, and I grew with it, 

    Page 12

    Became a part of it, while Life and I
    Clung lip to lip, and I from her wrung song
    As she from me, one song, one ecstasy,
    In indistinguishable union blent,
    Till she became the flute and I the player.
    And lo! the song I played on her was more
    Than any she had drawn from me; it held
    The stars, the peaks, the cities, and the sea,
    The faun's catch, the nymph's tremor, and the heart
    Of dreaming girls, of toilers at the desk,
    Apollo's challenge on the sunrise slope,
    And the hiss of the night-gods mouthing flutes of hell --
    All, to the dawn-wind's whisper in the reeds,
    When Life first came, a shape of mystery,
    Moving among us, and with random stroke
    Severed, and rapt me from my silent tribe.
    All this I wrung from her in that deep hour,
    While Love stood murmuring: "Play the god, poor grass!"

    Now, by that hour, I am a mate to thee
    Forever, Life, however spent and clogged,
    And tossed back useless to my native mud!
    Yea, groping for new reeds to fashion thee
    New instruments of anguish and delight,
    Thy hand shall leap to me, thy broken reed, 

    Page 13

    Thine ear remember me, thy bosom thrill
    With the old subjection, then when Love and I
    Held thee, and fashioned thee, and made thee dance
    Like a slave-girl to her pipers -- yea, thou yet
    Shalt hear my call, and dropping all thy toys
    Thou'lt lift me to thy lips, Life, and once more
    Pour the wild music through me --

    Page 14


    SET wide the window. Let me drink the day.
    I loved light ever, light in eye and brain --
    No tapers mirrored in long palace floors,
    Nor dedicated depths of silent aisles,
    But just the common dusty wind-blown day
    That roofs earth's millions.
    O, too long I walked
    In that thrice-sifted air that princes breathe,
    Nor felt the heaven-wide jostling of the winds
    And all the ancient outlawry of earth!
    Now let me breathe and see.
    This pilgrimage
    They call a penance -- let them call it that!
    I set my face to the East to shrive my soul
    Of mortal sin? So be it. If my blade
    Once questioned living flesh, if once I tore
    The pages of the Book in opening it,
    See what the torn page yielded ere the light
    Had paled its buried characters -- and judge!
    (1) See note p. 90. 

    Page 15

    The girl they brought me, pinioned hand and foot
    In catalepsy -- say I should have known
    That trance had not yet darkened into death,
    And held my scalpel. Well, suppose I knew?
    Sum up the facts -- her life against her death.
    Her life? The scum upon the pools of pleasure
    Breeds such by thousands. And her death? Perchance
    The obolus to appease the ferrying Shade,
    And waft her into immortality.
    Think what she purchased with that one heart-flutter
    That whispered its deep secret to my blade!
    For, just because her bosom fluttered still,
    It told me more than many rifled graves;
    Because I spoke too soon, she answered me,
    Her vain life ripened to this bud of death
    As the whole plant is forced into one flower,
    All her blank past a scroll on which God wrote
    His word of healing -- so that the poor flesh,
    Which spread death living, died to purchase life!

    Ah, no! The sin I sinned was mine, not theirs.
    Not that they sent me forth to wash away --
    None of their tariffed frailties, but a deed
    So far beyond their grasp of good or ill
    That, set to weigh it in the Church's balance, 

    Page 16

    Scarce would they know which scale to cast it in.
    But I, I know. I sinned against my will,
    Myself, my soul -- the God within the breast:
    Can any penance wash such sacrilege?

    When I was young in Venice, years ago,
    I walked the hospice with a Spanish monk,
    A solitary cloistered in high thoughts,
    The great Loyola, whom I reckoned then
    A mere refurbisher of faded creeds,
    Expert to edge anew the arms of faith,
    As who should say, a Galenist, resolved
    To hold the walls of dogma against fact,
    Experience, insight, his own self, if need be!
    Ah, how I pitied him, mine own eyes set
    Straight in the level beams of Truth, who groped
    In error's old deserted catacombs
    And lit his tapers upon empty graves!
    Ay, but he held his own, the monk -- more man
    Than any laurelled cripple of the wars,
    Charles's spent shafts; for what he willed he willed,
    As those do that forerun the wheels of fate,
    Not take their dust -- that force the virgin hours,
    Hew life into the likeness of themselves
    And wrest the stars from their concurrences.

    Page 17

    So firm his mould; but mine the ductile soul
    That wears the livery of circumstance
    And hangs obsequious on its suzerain's eye.
    For who rules now? The twilight-flitting monk,
    Or I, that took the morning like an Alp?
    He held his own, I let mine slip from me,
    The birthright that no sovereign can restore;
    And so ironic Time beholds us now
    Master and slave -- he lord of half the earth,
    I ousted from my narrow heritage.

    For there's the sting! My kingdom knows me not.
    Reach me that folio -- my usurper's title!
    Fallopius reigning, vice -- nay, not so:
    Successor, not usurper. I am dead.
    My throne stood empty; he was heir to it.
    Ay, but who hewed his kingdom from the waste,
    Cleared, inch by inch, the acres for his sowing,
    Won back for man that ancient fief o' the Church,
    His body? Who flung Galen from his seat,
    And founded the great dynasty of truth
    In error's central kingdom?
    Ask men that,
    And see their answer: just a wondering stare
    To learn things were not always as they are -- 

    Page 18

    The very fight forgotten with the fighter;
    Already grows the moss upon my grave!
    Ay, and so meet -- hold fast to that, Vesalius.
    They only, who re-conquer day by day
    The inch of ground they camped on over-night,
    Have right of foothold on this crowded earth.
    I left mine own; he seized it; with it went
    My name, my fame, my very self, it seems,
    Till I am but the symbol of a man,
    The sign-board creaking o'er an empty inn.
    He names me -- true! Oh, give the door its due
    I entered by. Only, I pray you, note,
    Had door been none, a shoulder-thrust of mine
    Had breached the crazy wall" -- he seems to say.
    So meet -- and yet a word of thanks, of praise,
    Of recognition that the clue was found,
    Seized, followed, clung to, by some hand now dust --
    Had this obscured his quartering of my shield?

    How the one weakness stirs again! I thought
    I had done with that old thirst for gratitude
    That lured me to the desert years ago.
    I did my work -- and was not that enough?
    No; but because the idlers sneered and shrugged,
    The envious whispered, the traducers lied, 

    Page 19

    And friendship doubted where it should have cheered
    I flung aside the unfinished task, sought praise
    Outside my soul's esteem, and learned too late
    That victory, like God's kingdom, is within.
    (Nay, let the folio rest upon my knee.
    I do not feel its weight.) Ingratitude?
    The hurrying traveller does not ask the name
    Of him who points him on his way; and this
    Fallopius sits in the mid-heart of me,
    Because he keeps his eye upon the goal,
    Cuts a straight furrow to the end in view,
    Cares not who oped the fountain by the way,
    But drinks to draw fresh courage for his journey.
    That was the lesson that Ignatius taught --
    The one I might have learned from him, but would not --
    That we are but stray atoms on the wind,
    A dancing transiency of summer eves,
    Till we become one with our purpose, merged
    In that vast effort of the race which makes
    Mortality immortal.
    "He that loseth
    His life shall find it": so the Scripture runs.
    But I so hugged the fleeting self in me,
    So loved the lovely perishable hours,
    So kissed myself to death upon their lips, 

    Page 20

    That on one pyre we perished in the end --
    A grimmer bonfire than the Church e'er lit!
    Yet all was well -- or seemed so -- till I heard
    That younger voice, an echo of my own,
    And, like a wanderer turning to his home,
    Who finds another on the hearth, and learns,
    Half-dazed, that other is his actual self
    In name and claim, as the whole parish swears,
    So strangely, suddenly, stood dispossessed
    Of that same self I had sold all to keep,
    A baffled ghost that none would see or hear!
    "Vesalius? Who's Vesalius? This Fallopius
    It is who dragged the Galen-idol down,
    Who rent the veil of flesh and forced a way
    Into the secret fortalice of life" --
    Yet it was I that bore the brunt of it!

    Well, better so! Better awake and live
    My last brief moment as the man I was,
    Than lapse from life's long lethargy to death
    Without one conscious interval. At least
    I repossess my past, am once again
    No courtier med'cining the whims of kings
    In muffled palace-chambers, but the free
    Friendless Vesalius, with his back to the wall 

    Page 21

    And all the world against him. O, for that
    Best gift of all, Fallopius, take my thanks --
    That, and much more. At first, when Padua wrote:
    "Master, Fallopius dead, resume again
    The chair even he could not completely fill,
    And see what usury age shall take of youth
    In honours forfeited" -- why, just at first,
    I was quite simply credulously glad
    To think the old life stood ajar for me,
    Like a fond woman's unforgetting heart.
    But now that death waylays me -- now I know
    This isle is the circumference of my days,
    And I shall die here in a little while --
    So also best, Fallopius!
    For I see
    The gods may give anew, but not restore;
    And though I think that, in my chair again,
    I might have argued my supplanters wrong
    In this or that -- this Cesalpinus, say,
    With all his hot-foot blundering in the dark,
    Fabricius, with his over-cautious clutch
    On Galen (systole and diastole
    Of Truth's mysterious heart!) -- yet, other ways,
    It may be that this dying serves the cause.
    For Truth stays not to build her monument 

    Page 22

    For this or that co-operating hand,
    But props it with her servants' failures -- nay,
    Cements its courses with their blood and brains,
    A living substance that shall clinch her walls
    Against the assaults of time. Already, see,
    Her scaffold rises on my hidden toil,
    I but the accepted premiss whence must spring
    The airy structure of her argument;
    Nor could the bricks it rests on serve to build
    The crowning finials. I abide her law:
    A different substance for a different end --
    Content to know I hold the building up;
    Though men, agape at dome and pinnacles,
    Guess not, the whole must crumble like a dream
    But for that buried labour underneath.
    Yet, Padua, I had still my word to say!
    Let others say it! -- Ah, but will they guess
    Just the one word -- ? Nay, Truth is many-tongued.
    What one man failed to speak, another finds
    Another word for. May not all converge
    In some vast utterance, of which you and I,
    Fallopius, were but halting syllables?
    So knowledge come, no matter how it comes!
    No matter whence the light falls, so it fall!
    Truth's way, not mine -- that I, whose service failed 

    Page 23

    In action, yet may make amends in praise.
    Fabricius, Cesalpinus, say your word,
    Not yours, or mine, but Truth's, as you receive it!
    You miss a point I saw? See others, then!
    Misread my meaning? Yet expound your own!
    Obscure one space I cleared? The sky is wide,
    And you may yet uncover other stars.
    For thus I read the meaning of this end:
    There are two ways of spreading light: to be
    The candle or the mirror that reflects it.
    I let my wick burn out -- there yet remains
    To spread an answering surface to the flame
    That others kindle.

    Turn me in my bed.
    The window darkens as the hours swing round;
    But yonder, look, the other casement glows!
    Let me face westward as my sun goes down.

    Page 24


    FRA PAOLO, since they say the end is near,
    And you of all men have the gentlest eyes,
    Most like our father Francis; since you know
    How I have toiled and prayed and scourged and striven,
    Mothered the orphan, waked beside the sick,
    Gone empty that mine enemy might eat,
    Given bread for stones in famine years, and channelled
    With vigilant knees the pavement of this cell,
    Till I constrained the Christ upon the wall
    To bend His thorn-crowned Head in mute forgiveness . . .
    Three times He bowed it . . . (but the whole stands writ,
    Sealed with the Bishop's signet, as you know),
    Once for each person of the Blessed Three --
    A miracle that the whole town attests,
    The very babes thrust forward for my blessing,
    And either parish plotting for my bones --
    Since this you know: sit near and bear with me.

    I have lain here, these many empty days
    I thought to pack with Credos and Hail Marys
    So close that not a fear should force the door --
    But still, between the blessed syllables 

    Page 25

    That taper up like blazing angel heads,
    Praise over praise, to the Unutterable,
    Strange questions clutch me, thrusting fiery arms,
    As though, athwart the close-meshed litanies,
    My dead should pluck at me from hell, with eyes
    Alive in their obliterated faces! . . .
    I have tried the saints' names and our blessed Mother's
    Fra Paolo, I have tried them o'er and o'er,
    And like a blade bent backward at first thrust
    They yield and fail me -- and the questions stay.
    And so I thought, into some human heart,
    Pure, and yet foot-worn with the tread of sin,
    If only I might creep for sanctuary,
    It might be that those eyes would let me rest. . .

    Fra Paolo, listen. How should I forget
    The day I saw him first? (You know the one.)
    I had been laughing in the market-place
    With others like me, I the youngest there,
    Jostling about a pack of mountebanks
    Like flies on carrion (I the youngest there!),
    Till darkness fell; and while the other girls
    Turned this way, that way, as perdition beckoned,
    I, wondering what the night would bring, half hoping:
    If not, this once, a child's sleep in my garret,

    Page 26

    At least enough to buy that two-pronged coral
    The others covet 'gainst the evil eye,
    Since, after all, one sees that I'm the youngest --
    So, muttering my litany to hell
    (The only prayer I knew that was not Latin),
    Felt on my arm a touch as kind as yours,
    And heard a voice as kind as yours say "Come."
    I turned and went; and from that day I never
    Looked on the face of any other man.
    So much is known; so much effaced; the sin
    Cast like a plague-struck body to the sea,
    Deep, deep into the unfathomable pardon --
    (The Head bowed thrice, as the whole town attests).
    What more, then? To what purpose? Bear with me! --

    It seems that he, a stranger in the place,
    First noted me that afternoon and wondered:
    How grew so white a bud in such black slime,
    And why not mine the hand to pluck it out?
    Why, so Christ deals with souls, you cry -- what then?
    Not so! Not so! When Christ, the heavenly gardener,
    Plucks flowers for Paradise (do I not know?),
    He snaps the stem above the root, and presses
    The ransomed soul between two convent walls,
    A lifeless blossom in the Book of Life. 

    Page 27

    But when my lover gathered me, he lifted
    Stem, root and all -- ay, and the clinging mud --
    And set me on his sill to spread and bloom
    After the common way, take sun and rain,
    And make a patch of brightness for the street,
    Though raised above rough fingers -- so you make
    A weed a flower, and others, passing, think:
    "Next ditch I cross, I'll lift a root from it,
    And dress my window" . . . and the blessing spreads.
    Well, so I grew, with every root and tendril
    Grappling the secret anchorage of his love,
    And so we loved each other till he died. . . .

    Ah, that black night he left me, that dead dawn
    I found him lying in the woods, alive
    To gasp my name out and his life-blood with it,
    As though the murderer's knife had probed for me
    In his hacked breast and found me in each wound. . .
    Well, it was there Christ came to me, you know,
    And led me home -- just as that other led me.
    (Just as that other? Father, bear with me!)
    My lover's death, they tell me, saved my soul,
    And I have lived to be a light to men.
    And gather sinners to the knees of grace.

    Page 28

    All this, you say, the Bishop's signet covers.
    But stay! Suppose my lover had not died?
    (At last my question! Father, help me face it.)
    I say: Suppose my lover had not died --
    Think you I ever would have left him living,
    Even to be Christ's blessed Margaret?
    -- We lived in sin? Why, to the sin I died to
    That other was as Paradise, when God
    Walks there at eventide, the air pure gold,
    And angels treading all the grass to flowers!
    He was my Christ -- he led me out of hell --
    He died to save me (so your casuists say!) --
    Could Christ do more? Your Christ out-pity mine?
    Why, yours but let the sinner bathe His feet;
    Mine raised her to the level of his heart. . .
    And then Christ's way is saving, as man's way
    Is squandering -- and the devil take the shards!
    But this man kept for sacramental use
    The cup that once had slaked a passing thirst;
    This man declared: "The same clay serves to model
    A devil or a saint; the scribe may stain
    The same fair parchment with obscenities,
    Or gild with benedictions; nay," he cried,
    "Because a satyr feasted in this wood,
    And fouled the grasses with carousing foot, 

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    Shall not a hermit build his chapel here
    And cleanse the echoes with his litanies?
    The sodden grasses spring again -- why not
    The trampled soul? Is man less merciful
    Than nature, good more fugitive than grass?"
    And so -- if, after all, he had not died,
    And suddenly that door should know his hand,
    And with that voice as kind as yours he said:
    "Come, Margaret, forth into the sun again,
    Back to the life we fashioned with our hands
    Out of old sins and follies, fragments scorned
    Of more ambitious builders, yet by Love,
    The patient architect, so shaped and fitted
    That not a crevice let the winter in -- "
    Think you my bones would not arise and walk,
    This bruised body (as once the bruised soul)
    Turn from the wonders of the seventh heaven
    As from the antics of the market-place?
    If this could be (as I so oft have dreamed),
    I, who have known both loves, divine and human,
    Think you I would not leave this Christ for that?

    -- I rave, you say? You start from me, Fra Paolo?
    Go, then; your going leaves me not alone.
    I marvel, rather, that I feared the question, 

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    Since, now I name it, it draws near to me
    With such dear reassurance in its eyes,
    And takes your place beside me. . .
    Nay, I tell you,
    Fra Paolo, I have cried on all the saints --
    If this be devil's prompting, let them drown it
    In Alleluias! Yet not one replies.
    And, for the Christ there -- is He silent too?
    Your Christ? Poor father; you that have but one,
    And that one silent -- how I pity you!
    He will not answer? Will not help you cast
    The devil out? But hangs there on the wall,
    Blind wood and bone -- ?
    How if I call on Him --
    I, whom He talks with, as the town attests?
    If ever prayer hath ravished me so high
    That its wings failed and dropped me in Thy breast,
    Christ, I adjure Thee! By that naked hour
    Of innermost commixture, when my soul
    Contained Thee as the paten holds the host,
    Judge Thou alone between this priest and me;
    Nay, rather, Lord, between my past and present,
    Thy Margaret and that other's -- whose she is
    By right of salvage -- and whose call should follow!
    Thine? Silent still. -- Or his, who stooped to her, 

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    And drew her to Thee by the bands of love?
    Not Thine? Then his?
    Ah, Christ -- the thorn-crowned Head
    Bends . . . bends again . . . down on your knees,
    Fra Paolo!
    If his, then Thine!
    Kneel, priest, for this is heaven. . .

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    GREAT cities rise and have their fall; the brass
    That held their glories moulders in its turn.
    Hard granite rots like an uprooted weed,
    And ever on the palimpsest of earth
    Impatient Time rubs out the word he writ.
    But one thing makes the years its pedestal,
    Springs from the ashes of its pyre, and claps
    A skyward wing above its epitaph --
    The will of man willing immortal things.

    The ages are but baubles hung upon
    The thread of some strong lives -- and one slight wrist
    May lift a century above the dust;
    For Time,
    The Sisyphean load of little lives,
    Becomes the globe and sceptre of the great.
    But who are these that, linking hand in hand,
    Transmit across the twilight waste of years
    The flying brightness of a kindled hour?
    Not always, nor alone, the lives that search
    How they may snatch a glory out of heaven
    Or add a height to Babel; oftener they 

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    That in the still fulfilment of each day's
    Pacific order hold great deeds in leash,
    That in the sober sheath of tranquil tasks
    Hide the attempered blade of high emprise,
    And leap like lightning to the clap of fate.

    So greatly gave he, nurturing 'gainst the call
    Of one rare moment all the daily store
    Of joy distilled from the acquitted task,
    And that deliberate rashness which bespeaks
    The pondered action passed into the blood;
    So swift to harden purpose into deed
    That, with the wind of ruin in his hair,
    Soul sprang full-statured from the broken flesh,
    And at one stroke he lived the whole of life,
    Poured all in one libation to the truth,
    A brimming flood whose drops shall overflow
    On deserts of the soul long beaten down
    By the brute hoof of habit, till they spring
    In manifold upheaval to the sun.

    Call here no high artificer to raise
    His wordy monument -- such lives as these
    Make death a dull misnomer and its pomp
    An empty vesture. Let resounding lives 

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    Re-echo splendidly through high-piled vaults
    And make the grave their spokesman -- such as he
    Are as the hidden streams that, underground,
    Sweeten the pastures for the grazing kine,
    Or as spring airs that bring through prison bars
    The scent of freedom; or a light that burns
    Immutably across the shaken seas,
    Forevermore by nameless hands renewed,
    Where else were darkness and a glutted shore.