English Poet known for his idealistic war sonnets written during the First World War
English Poet known for his idealistic war sonnets written during the First World War
Well this side of Paradise!... There's little comfort in the wise.
When I see you, who were so wise and cool, gazing with silly sickness on that fool you've given your love to, your adoring hands touch his so intimately that each understands, I know, most hidden things; and when I know your holiest dreams yield to the stupid bow of his red lips, and that the empty grace of those strong legs and arms, that rosy face, has beaten your heart to such a flame of love, that you have given him every touch and move, wrinkle and secret of you, all your life, ? Oh! then I know I'm waiting, lover-wife, for the great time when love is at a close, and all its fruit's to watch the thickening nose and sweaty neck and dulling face and eye, hat are yours, and you, most surely, till you die! Day after day you'll sit with him and note the greasier tie, the dingy wrinkling coat; as prettiness turns to pomp, and strength to fat, and love, love, love to habit! And after that, when all that's fine in man is at an end, and you, that loved young life and clean, must tend a foul sick fumbling dribbling body and old, when his rare lips hang flabby and can't hold slobber, and you're enduring that worst thing, senility's queasy furtive love-making, and searching those dear eyes for human meaning, propping the bald and helpless head, and cleaning a scrap that life's flung by, and love's forgotten, ? Then you'll be tired; and passion dead and rotten; and he'll be dirty, dirty! O lithe and free and lightfoot, that the poor heart cries to see, that's how I'll see your man and you! ?But you ? Oh, when THAT time comes, you'll be dirty too!
When love has changed to kindliness ? Oh, love, our hungry lips, that press so tight that Time's an old god's dream nodding in heaven, and whisper stuff seven million years were not enough to think on after, make it seem less than the breath of children playing, a blasphemy scarce worth the saying, a sorry jest, "When love has grown to kindliness ? to kindliness!" . . . And yet ? the best that either's known will change, and wither, and be less, at last, than comfort, or its own remembrance. And when some caress tendered in habit (once a flame all heaven sang out to) wakes the shame unworded, in the steady eyes we'll have, ? THAT day, what shall we do? Being so noble, kill the two who've reached their second-best? Being wise, break cleanly off, and get away. Follow down other windier skies new lures, alone? Or shall we stay, since this is all we've known, content in the lean twilight of such day, and not remember, not lament? That time when all is over, and hand never flinches, brushing hand; and blood lies quiet, for all you're near; and its but spoken words we hear, where trumpets sang; when the mere skies are stranger and nobler than your eyes; and flesh is flesh, was flame before; and infinite hungers leap no more in the chance swaying of your dress; and love has changed to kindliness.
When she sleeps, her soul, I know, goes a wanderer on the air, wings where I may never go, leaves her lying, still and fair, waiting, empty, laid aside, like a dress upon a chair. . . This I know, and yet I know doubts that will not be denied. For if the soul be not in place, what has laid trouble in her face? And, sits there nothing ware and wise behind the curtains of her eyes, what is it, in the self's eclipse, shadows, soft and passingly, about the corners of her lips, the smile that is essential she? And if the spirit be not there, why is fragrance in the hair?
When the white flame in us is gone, and we that lost the world's delight stiffen in darkness, left alone to crumble in our separate night; when your swift hair is quiet in death, and through the lips corruption thrust has stilled the labor of my breath ? when we are dust, when we are dust! ? Not dead, not undesirous yet, still sentient, still unsatisfied, we'll ride the air, and shine, and flit, around the places where we died, and dance as dust before the sun, and light of foot, and unconfined, hurry from road to road, and run about the errands of the wind. And every mote, on earth or air, will speed and gleam, down later days, and like a secret pilgrim fare by eager and invisible ways, nor ever rest, nor ever lie, till, beyond thinking, out of view, one mote of all the dust that's I shall meet one atom that was you. Then in some garden hushed from wind, warm in a sunset's afterglow, the lovers in the flowers will find a sweet and strange unquiet grow upon the peace; and, past desiring, so high a beauty in the air, and such a light, and such a quiring, and such a radiant ecstasy there, they'll know not if it's fire, or dew, or out of earth, or in the height, singing, or flame, or scent, or hue, or two that pass, in light, to light, out of the garden, higher, higher. . . But in that instant they shall learn the shattering ecstasy of our fire, and the weak passionless hearts will burn and faint in that amazing glow, until the darkness close above; and they will know ? poor fools, they'll know! ? One moment, what it is to love.
Things are beasts, alas! and Alack! If life is a succession of choreic anap‘sts, when, ah! When shall we arrive at the Par?miac?
Two men left this bread and cake for whomsoever finds to take. He and they will soon be dead. Pray for them that left this bread.
Voice more sweet than the far plaint of viols is, or the soft moan of any grey-eyed lute player.
War knows no power. Safe shall be my going, Secretly armed against all death's endeavor; Safe though all safety's lost; safe where men fall; And if these poor limbs die, safest of all.
We are earth's best,
We shall go down with unreluctant tread, rose-crowned into the darkness! . . . Proud we were, and laughed, that had such brave true things to say. ? And then you suddenly cried and turned away.
They say there's a high windless world and strange, out of the wash of days and temporal tide, where Faith and Good, Wisdom and Truth abide, 'Aeterna corpora', subject to no change. There the sure suns of these pale shadows move; there stand the immortal ensigns of our war; our melting flesh fixed Beauty there, a star, and perishing hearts, imperishable Love. . . Dear, we know only that we sigh, kiss, smile; each kiss lasts but the kissing; and grief goes over; love has no habitation but the heart. Poor straws! on the dark flood we catch awhile, cling, and are borne into the night apart. The laugh dies with the lips, 'Love' with the lover.
There is a grave in Scyros, amid the white and pinkish marble of the isle, the wild thyme and the poppies, near the green and blue waters. There Rupert Brooke was buried. Thither have gone the thoughts of his countrymen, and the hearts of the young especially. It will long be so. For a new star shines in the English heavens.
The world that seems to lie before us like a land of dreams, so various, so beautiful, so new, hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light, nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain.
The Soldier - If I should die, think only this of me: that there's some corner of a foreign field that is forever England. There shall be in that rich earth a richer dust concealed; a dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam, a body of England's, breathing English air, washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home. And think, this heart, all evil shed away, a pulse in the eternal mind, no less gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given; her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day; and laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness, in hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
Stands the clock at ten to three? And is there honey still for tea?
Still may Time hold some golden space where I'll unpack that scented store of song and flower and sky and face, and count, and touch, and turn them o'er, musing upon them.
The cool kindliness of sheets, that soon smooth away trouble; and the rough male kiss of blankets.
The day that youth had died, there came to his grave-side, in decent mourning, from the country's ends, those scatter'd friends who had lived the boon companions of his prime, and laughed with him and sung with him and wasted, in feast and wine and many-crown'd carouse, the days and nights and dawnings of the time when youth kept open house, nor left untasted aught of his high emprise and ventures dear, no quest of his unshar'd ? all these, with loitering feet and sad head bar'd, followed their old friend's bier. Folly went first, with muffled bells and coxcomb still revers'd; and after trod the bearers, hat in hand ? laughter, most hoarse, and captain pride with tanned and martial face all grim, and fussy joy, who had to catch a train, and lust, poor, snivelling boy; these bore the dear departed. Behind them, broken-hearted, came grief, so noisy a widow, that all said, "had he but wed her elder sister sorrow, in her stead!" and by her, trying to soothe her all the time, the fatherless children, color, tune, and rhyme (the sweet lad rhyme), ran all-uncomprehending. Then, at the way's sad ending, round the raw grave they stay'd. Old wisdom read, in mumbling tone, the service for the dead. There stood romance, the furrowing tears had mark'd her rouged cheek; poor old conceit, his wonder unassuaged; dead innocency's daughter, ignorance; and shabby, ill-dress'd generosity; and argument, too full of woe to speak; passion, grown portly, something middle-aged; and friendship ? not a minute older, she; impatience, ever taking out his watch; faith, who was deaf, and had to lean, to catch old wisdom's endless drone. Beauty was there, pale in her black; dry-eyed; she stood alone. Poor maz'd imagination; fancy wild; ardor, the sunlight on his greying hair; contentment, who had known youth as a child and never seen him since. And spring came too, dancing over the tombs, and brought him flowers ? she did not stay for long. And truth, and grace, and all the merry crew, the laughing winds and rivers, and lithe hours; and hope, the dewy-eyed; and sorrowing song; ? yes, with much woe and mourning general, at dead youth's funeral, even these were met once more together, all, who erst the fair and living youth did know; all, except only love. Love had died long ago.
The Hill - Breathless, we flung us on the windy hill, laughed in the sun, and kissed the lovely grass. You said, through glory and ecstasy we pass; wind, sun, and earth remain, the birds sing still, when we are old, are old. . . . And when we die all's over that is ours; and life burns on through other lovers, other lips, said I, ---Heart of my heart, our heaven is now, is won! We are Earth's best that learnt her lesson here. Life is our cry. We have kept the faith! we said; We shall go down with unreluctant tread rose-crowned into the darkness! . . . Proud we were, and laughed, that had such brave true things to say. ---And then you suddenly cried, and turned away.
One may not doubt that, somehow Good Shall come of Water and of Mud; And sure, the reverent eye must see a purpose in Liquidity.
Out of the nothingness of sleep, the slow dreams of Eternity, there was a thunder on the deep: I came, because you called to me. I broke the Night's primeval bars, I dared the old abysmal curse, and flashed through ranks of frightened stars suddenly on the universe! The eternal silences were broken; Hell became Heaven as I passed. ? What shall I give you as a token, a sign that we have met, at last? I'll break and forge the stars anew, shatter the heavens with a song; immortal in my love for you, because I love you, very strong. Your mouth shall mock the old and wise, your laugh shall fill the world with flame, I'll write upon the shrinking skies the scarlet splendor of your name, till Heaven cracks, and Hell thereunder dies in her ultimate mad fire, and darkness falls, with scornful thunder, on dreams of men and men's desire. Then only in the empty spaces, death, walking very silently, shall fear the glory of our faces through all the dark infinity. So, clothed about with perfect love, the eternal end shall find us one, alone above the Night, above the dust of the dead gods, alone.
Spend the glittering moonlight there pursuing down the soundless deep limbs that gleam and shadowy hair, or floating lazy, half-asleep. Dive and double and follow after, snare in flowers, and kiss, and call, with lips that fade, and human laughter and faces individual, well this side of Paradise! . . . There's little comfort in the wise.
Stands the Church clock at ten to three? And is there honey still for tea?
Of course they're really sincere, energetic, useful people, and they do a lot of good work. But, as I've said, they're rather hard. Must every cause lose part of its ideal, as it becomes successful? And also they are rather intolerant, especially towards the old order. They sometimes seem to take it for granted that all rich men, and all Conservatives (and most ordinary Liberals) are heartless villains. I have already, thanks, in part, to some words of yours, got some faith in the real, sometimes overgrown, goodness of all men; and that is why I have found your book so good, as a confirmation rather than a revelation. And this faith I have tried to hammer into those Socialists of my generation whom I have come across. But it's sometimes hard. The prejudices of the clever are harder to kill than those of the dull. Also I sometimes wonder whether this Commercialism, or Competition, or whatever the filthy infection is, hasn't spread almost too far, and whether the best hope isn't in some kind of upheaval