I HAVE heard that hysterical women say
They are sick of the palette and fiddle-bow.
Of poets that are always gay,
For everybody knows or else should know
That if nothing drastic is done
Aeroplane and Zeppelin will come out.
Pitch like King Billy bomb-balls in
Until the town lie beaten flat.
All perform their tragic play,
There struts Hamlet, there is Lear,
That’s Ophelia, that Cordelia;
Yet they, should the last scene be there,
The great stage curtain about to drop,
If worthy their prominent part in the play,
Do not break up their lines to weep.
They know that Hamlet and Lear are gay;
Gaiety transfiguring all that dread.
All men have aimed at, found and lost;
Black out; Heaven blazing into the head:
Tragedy wrought to its uttermost.
Though Hamlet rambles and Lear rages,
And all the drop-scenes drop at once
Upon a hundred thousand stages,
It cannot grow by an inch or an ounce.
On their own feet they came, or On shipboard,’
Camel-back; horse-back, ass-back, mule-back,
Old civilisations put to the sword.
Then they and their wisdom went to rack:
No handiwork of Callimachus,
Who handled marble as if it were bronze,
Made draperies that seemed to rise
When sea-wind swept the corner, stands;
His long lamp-chimney shaped like the stem
Of a slender palm, stood but a day;
All things fall and are built again,
And those that build them again are gay.
Two Chinamen, behind them a third,
Are carved in Lapis Lazuli,
Over them flies a long-legged bird,
A symbol of longevity;
The third, doubtless a serving-man,
Carries a musical instrument.
Every discoloration of the stone,
Every accidental crack or dent,
Seems a water-course or an avalanche,
Or lofty slope where it still snows
Though doubtless plum or cherry-branch
Sweetens the little half-way house
Those Chinamen climb towards, and I
Delight to imagine them seated there;
There, on the mountain and thesky,
On all the tragic scene they stare.
One asks for mournful melodies;
Accomplished fingers begin to play.
Their eyes mid many wrinkles, their eyes,
Their ancient, glittering eyes, are gay.
The setting sun,
Elopes with the day,
Leaving only the Moon.
This repressed being,
This chained behemoth,
Teeming beneath my skin,
Wishing only to be heard.
Screaming, tongueless, silent.
Unless the se…
These words are unworkable.
And besides, I live here.
With my anxieties and my dread.
It is the selfsame night in which
All my life has been lived hitherto.
Probably the selfsame as it always shall.
Remember that object we saw, dear soul,
In the sweetness of a summer morn:
At a bend of the path a loathsome carrion
On a bed with pebbles strewn,
With legs raised like a lustful woman,
Burning and sweating poisons,
It spread open, nonchalant and scornful,
Its belly, ripe with exhalations.
The sun shone onto the rotting heap,
As if to bring it to the boil,
And tender a hundredfold to vast Nature
All that together she had joined;
And the sky watched that superb carcass
Like a flower blossom out.
The stench was so strong that on the grass
You thought you would pass out.
Flies hummed upon the putrid belly,
Whence larvae in black battalions spread
And like a heavy liquid flowed
Along the tatters deliquescing.
All together it unfurled, and rose like a wave
And bubbling it sprang forth;
One might have believed that, with a faint breath filled,
The body, multiplying, lived.
And this world gave out a strange music
Like of running water and of wind,
Or of grain in a winnow
Rhythmically shaken and tossed.
Form was erased and all but a vision,
A sketch slow to take shape
On a forgotten canvas, which the artist finishes
From memory alone.
Behind the rocks a fretting bitch
Looked at us with fierce mien
Anxious to retrieve from the corpse
A morsel that she had dropped.
Yet to this rot you shall be like,
To this horrid corruption,
Star of my eyes, sun of desire,
You, my angel and my passion!
Yes, such you shall be, you, queen of all graces,
After the last sacraments,
When you go beneath the grass and waxy flowers,
To mold among the skeletons.
Then, oh my beauty! You must tell the vermin,
As it eats you up with kisses,
That I have preserved the form and essence divine
Of my decayed loves.
She walks in Beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which Heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!
Time in time,
Wedded to infinity.
The pallor of her cheeks,
The cold, empty stare,
Remembrance is there.
And no matter how hard I may think,
My thoughts have no retrograde effect.
I only seek reconciliation,
But this shall not be afforded me.
Not in the present, not in some distant future,
Not in the past, not in some other plane of being.
Dreams will lend no momentarily relief,
Not to a fool like me.
I am walking, stepping, strolling, moving.
I am traversing the beaten path,
Passing by crowds of faces;
All of which are unfamiliar to me.
Full of hollow people.
People who would hope
If hope were left in them.
The bleeding hearts, the optimists,
The idealists, the revolutionaries,
They fall to the Real.
They are beaten, abused,
Crushed, and buried by life.
And rightly so…
So-called realists are no more
Than moody optimists.
But a true realism creates no façade.
A true realism precludes happiness,
For there is no happiness,
I walk in the rays of
And see the dregs, the bores.
And sense the pain, the desperation.
Know the regret, the uselessness,
The complacency, the hatred
And the inability to affect that
Which could be changed.
So have these faces.
That haunt the streets of my town.
That make up the practical,
Real, truly human experience.
I am they, and they are I.
And so we march in solidarity,
Solidarity amongst strange persons.
This solitary hill has always been dear to me
And this hedge, which prevents me from seeing most of
The endless horizon.
But when I sit and gaze, I imagine, in my thoughts
Endless spaces beyond the hedge,
An all encompassing silence and a deeply profound quiet,
To the point that my heart is almost overwhelmed.
And when I hear the wind rustling through the trees
I compare its voice to the infinite silence.
And eternity occurs to me, and all the ages past,
And the present time, and its sound.
Amidst this immensity my thought drowns:
And to founder in this sea is sweet to me.
I love the stillness of the wood:
I love the music of the rill:
I love to couch in pensive mood
Upon some silent hill.
Scarce heard, beneath yon arching trees,
The silver-crested ripples pass;
And, like a mimic brook, the breeze
Whispers among the grass.
Here from the world I win release,
Nor scorn of men, nor footstep rude,
Break in to mar the holy peace
Of this great solitude.
Here may the silent tears I weep
Lull the vexed spirit into rest,
As infants sob themselves to sleep
Upon a mother’s breast.
But when the bitter hour is gone,
And the keen throbbing pangs are still,
Oh, sweetest then to couch alone
Upon some silent hill!
To live in joys that once have been,
To put the cold world out of sight,
And deck life’s drear and barren scene
With hues of rainbow-light.
For what to man the gift of breath,
If sorrow be his lot below;
If all the day that ends in death
Be dark with clouds of woe?
Shall the poor transport of an hour
Repay long years of sore distress;
The fragrance of a lonely flower
Make glad the wilderness?
Ye golden hours of Life’s young spring,
Of innocence, of love and truth!
Bright, beyond all imagining,
Thou fairy-dream of youth!
I’d give all wealth that years have piled,
The slow result of Life’s decay,
To be once more a little child
For one bright summer-day.
~Samuel Taylor Coleridge