Famous Epic Poems
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The best famous Epic poems by international web poets. These are the best examples of epic poems.

123

HUMANITAD

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 It is full winter now: the trees are bare,
Save where the cattle huddle from the cold
Beneath the pine, for it doth never wear
The autumn's gaudy livery whose gold
Her jealous brother pilfers, but is true
To the green doublet; bitter is the wind, as though it blew

From Saturn's cave; a few thin wisps of hay
Lie on the sharp black hedges, where the wain
Dragged the sweet pillage of a summer's day
From the low meadows up the narrow lane;
Upon the half-thawed snow the bleating sheep
Press close against the hurdles, and the shivering house-dogs creep

From the shut stable to the frozen stream
And back again disconsolate, and miss
The bawling shepherds and the noisy team;
And overhead in circling listlessness
The cawing rooks whirl round the frosted stack,
Or crowd the dripping boughs; and in the fen the ice-pools crack

Where the gaunt bittern stalks among the reeds
And flaps his wings, and stretches back his neck,
And hoots to see the moon; across the meads
Limps the poor frightened hare, a little speck;
And a stray seamew with its fretful cry
Flits like a sudden drift of snow against the dull grey sky.
Full winter: and the lusty goodman brings His load of faggots from the chilly byre, And stamps his feet upon the hearth, and flings The sappy billets on the waning fire, And laughs to see the sudden lightening scare His children at their play, and yet, - the spring is in the air; Already the slim crocus stirs the snow, And soon yon blanched fields will bloom again With nodding cowslips for some lad to mow, For with the first warm kisses of the rain The winter's icy sorrow breaks to tears, And the brown thrushes mate, and with bright eyes the rabbit peers From the dark warren where the fir-cones lie, And treads one snowdrop under foot, and runs Over the mossy knoll, and blackbirds fly Across our path at evening, and the suns Stay longer with us; ah! how good to see Grass-girdled spring in all her joy of laughing greenery Dance through the hedges till the early rose, (That sweet repentance of the thorny briar!) Burst from its sheathed emerald and disclose The little quivering disk of golden fire Which the bees know so well, for with it come Pale boy's-love, sops-in-wine, and daffadillies all in bloom.
Then up and down the field the sower goes, While close behind the laughing younker scares With shrilly whoop the black and thievish crows, And then the chestnut-tree its glory wears, And on the grass the creamy blossom falls In odorous excess, and faint half-whispered madrigals Steal from the bluebells' nodding carillons Each breezy morn, and then white jessamine, That star of its own heaven, snap-dragons With lolling crimson tongues, and eglantine In dusty velvets clad usurp the bed And woodland empery, and when the lingering rose hath shed Red leaf by leaf its folded panoply, And pansies closed their purple-lidded eyes, Chrysanthemums from gilded argosy Unload their gaudy scentless merchandise, And violets getting overbold withdraw From their shy nooks, and scarlet berries dot the leafless haw.
O happy field! and O thrice happy tree! Soon will your queen in daisy-flowered smock And crown of flower-de-luce trip down the lea, Soon will the lazy shepherds drive their flock Back to the pasture by the pool, and soon Through the green leaves will float the hum of murmuring bees at noon.
Soon will the glade be bright with bellamour, The flower which wantons love, and those sweet nuns Vale-lilies in their snowy vestiture Will tell their beaded pearls, and carnations With mitred dusky leaves will scent the wind, And straggling traveller's-joy each hedge with yellow stars will bind.
Dear bride of Nature and most bounteous spring, That canst give increase to the sweet-breath'd kine, And to the kid its little horns, and bring The soft and silky blossoms to the vine, Where is that old nepenthe which of yore Man got from poppy root and glossy-berried mandragore! There was a time when any common bird Could make me sing in unison, a time When all the strings of boyish life were stirred To quick response or more melodious rhyme By every forest idyll; - do I change? Or rather doth some evil thing through thy fair pleasaunce range? Nay, nay, thou art the same: 'tis I who seek To vex with sighs thy simple solitude, And because fruitless tears bedew my cheek Would have thee weep with me in brotherhood; Fool! shall each wronged and restless spirit dare To taint such wine with the salt poison of own despair! Thou art the same: 'tis I whose wretched soul Takes discontent to be its paramour, And gives its kingdom to the rude control Of what should be its servitor, - for sure Wisdom is somewhere, though the stormy sea Contain it not, and the huge deep answer ''Tis not in me.
' To burn with one clear flame, to stand erect In natural honour, not to bend the knee In profitless prostrations whose effect Is by itself condemned, what alchemy Can teach me this? what herb Medea brewed Will bring the unexultant peace of essence not subdued? The minor chord which ends the harmony, And for its answering brother waits in vain Sobbing for incompleted melody, Dies a swan's death; but I the heir of pain, A silent Memnon with blank lidless eyes, Wait for the light and music of those suns which never rise.
The quenched-out torch, the lonely cypress-gloom, The little dust stored in the narrow urn, The gentle XAIPE of the Attic tomb, - Were not these better far than to return To my old fitful restless malady, Or spend my days within the voiceless cave of misery? Nay! for perchance that poppy-crowned god Is like the watcher by a sick man's bed Who talks of sleep but gives it not; his rod Hath lost its virtue, and, when all is said, Death is too rude, too obvious a key To solve one single secret in a life's philosophy.
And Love! that noble madness, whose august And inextinguishable might can slay The soul with honeyed drugs, - alas! I must From such sweet ruin play the runaway, Although too constant memory never can Forget the arched splendour of those brows Olympian Which for a little season made my youth So soft a swoon of exquisite indolence That all the chiding of more prudent Truth Seemed the thin voice of jealousy, - O hence Thou huntress deadlier than Artemis! Go seek some other quarry! for of thy too perilous bliss.
My lips have drunk enough, - no more, no more, - Though Love himself should turn his gilded prow Back to the troubled waters of this shore Where I am wrecked and stranded, even now The chariot wheels of passion sweep too near, Hence! Hence! I pass unto a life more barren, more austere.
More barren - ay, those arms will never lean Down through the trellised vines and draw my soul In sweet reluctance through the tangled green; Some other head must wear that aureole, For I am hers who loves not any man Whose white and stainless bosom bears the sign Gorgonian.
Let Venus go and chuck her dainty page, And kiss his mouth, and toss his curly hair, With net and spear and hunting equipage Let young Adonis to his tryst repair, But me her fond and subtle-fashioned spell Delights no more, though I could win her dearest citadel.
Ay, though I were that laughing shepherd boy Who from Mount Ida saw the little cloud Pass over Tenedos and lofty Troy And knew the coming of the Queen, and bowed In wonder at her feet, not for the sake Of a new Helen would I bid her hand the apple take.
Then rise supreme Athena argent-limbed! And, if my lips be musicless, inspire At least my life: was not thy glory hymned By One who gave to thee his sword and lyre Like AEschylos at well-fought Marathon, And died to show that Milton's England still could bear a son! And yet I cannot tread the Portico And live without desire, fear and pain, Or nurture that wise calm which long ago The grave Athenian master taught to men, Self-poised, self-centred, and self-comforted, To watch the world's vain phantasies go by with unbowed head.
Alas! that serene brow, those eloquent lips, Those eyes that mirrored all eternity, Rest in their own Colonos, an eclipse Hath come on Wisdom, and Mnemosyne Is childless; in the night which she had made For lofty secure flight Athena's owl itself hath strayed.
Nor much with Science do I care to climb, Although by strange and subtle witchery She drew the moon from heaven: the Muse Time Unrolls her gorgeous-coloured tapestry To no less eager eyes; often indeed In the great epic of Polymnia's scroll I love to read How Asia sent her myriad hosts to war Against a little town, and panoplied In gilded mail with jewelled scimitar, White-shielded, purple-crested, rode the Mede Between the waving poplars and the sea Which men call Artemisium, till he saw Thermopylae Its steep ravine spanned by a narrow wall, And on the nearer side a little brood Of careless lions holding festival! And stood amazed at such hardihood, And pitched his tent upon the reedy shore, And stayed two days to wonder, and then crept at midnight o'er Some unfrequented height, and coming down The autumn forests treacherously slew What Sparta held most dear and was the crown Of far Eurotas, and passed on, nor knew How God had staked an evil net for him In the small bay at Salamis, - and yet, the page grows dim, Its cadenced Greek delights me not, I feel With such a goodly time too out of tune To love it much: for like the Dial's wheel That from its blinded darkness strikes the noon Yet never sees the sun, so do my eyes Restlessly follow that which from my cheated vision flies.
O for one grand unselfish simple life To teach us what is Wisdom! speak ye hills Of lone Helvellyn, for this note of strife Shunned your untroubled crags and crystal rills, Where is that Spirit which living blamelessly Yet dared to kiss the smitten mouth of his own century! Speak ye Rydalian laurels! where is he Whose gentle head ye sheltered, that pure soul Whose gracious days of uncrowned majesty Through lowliest conduct touched the lofty goal Where love and duty mingle! Him at least The most high Laws were glad of, he had sat at Wisdom's feast; But we are Learning's changelings, know by rote The clarion watchword of each Grecian school And follow none, the flawless sword which smote The pagan Hydra is an effete tool Which we ourselves have blunted, what man now Shall scale the august ancient heights and to old Reverence bow? One such indeed I saw, but, Ichabod! Gone is that last dear son of Italy, Who being man died for the sake of God, And whose unrisen bones sleep peacefully, O guard him, guard him well, my Giotto's tower, Thou marble lily of the lily town! let not the lour Of the rude tempest vex his slumber, or The Arno with its tawny troubled gold O'er-leap its marge, no mightier conqueror Clomb the high Capitol in the days of old When Rome was indeed Rome, for Liberty Walked like a bride beside him, at which sight pale Mystery Fled shrieking to her farthest sombrest cell With an old man who grabbled rusty keys, Fled shuddering, for that immemorial knell With which oblivion buries dynasties Swept like a wounded eagle on the blast, As to the holy heart of Rome the great triumvir passed.
He knew the holiest heart and heights of Rome, He drave the base wolf from the lion's lair, And now lies dead by that empyreal dome Which overtops Valdarno hung in air By Brunelleschi - O Melpomene Breathe through thy melancholy pipe thy sweetest threnody! Breathe through the tragic stops such melodies That Joy's self may grow jealous, and the Nine Forget awhile their discreet emperies, Mourning for him who on Rome's lordliest shrine Lit for men's lives the light of Marathon, And bare to sun-forgotten fields the fire of the sun! O guard him, guard him well, my Giotto's tower! Let some young Florentine each eventide Bring coronals of that enchanted flower Which the dim woods of Vallombrosa hide, And deck the marble tomb wherein he lies Whose soul is as some mighty orb unseen of mortal eyes; Some mighty orb whose cycled wanderings, Being tempest-driven to the farthest rim Where Chaos meets Creation and the wings Of the eternal chanting Cherubim Are pavilioned on Nothing, passed away Into a moonless void, - and yet, though he is dust and clay, He is not dead, the immemorial Fates Forbid it, and the closing shears refrain.
Lift up your heads ye everlasting gates! Ye argent clarions, sound a loftier strain For the vile thing he hated lurks within Its sombre house, alone with God and memories of sin.
Still what avails it that she sought her cave That murderous mother of red harlotries? At Munich on the marble architrave The Grecian boys die smiling, but the seas Which wash AEgina fret in loneliness Not mirroring their beauty; so our lives grow colourless For lack of our ideals, if one star Flame torch-like in the heavens the unjust Swift daylight kills it, and no trump of war Can wake to passionate voice the silent dust Which was Mazzini once! rich Niobe For all her stony sorrows hath her sons; but Italy, What Easter Day shall make her children rise, Who were not Gods yet suffered? what sure feet Shall find their grave-clothes folded? what clear eyes Shall see them bodily? O it were meet To roll the stone from off the sepulchre And kiss the bleeding roses of their wounds, in love of her, Our Italy! our mother visible! Most blessed among nations and most sad, For whose dear sake the young Calabrian fell That day at Aspromonte and was glad That in an age when God was bought and sold One man could die for Liberty! but we, burnt out and cold, See Honour smitten on the cheek and gyves Bind the sweet feet of Mercy: Poverty Creeps through our sunless lanes and with sharp knives Cuts the warm throats of children stealthily, And no word said:- O we are wretched men Unworthy of our great inheritance! where is the pen Of austere Milton? where the mighty sword Which slew its master righteously? the years Have lost their ancient leader, and no word Breaks from the voiceless tripod on our ears: While as a ruined mother in some spasm Bears a base child and loathes it, so our best enthusiasm Genders unlawful children, Anarchy Freedom's own Judas, the vile prodigal Licence who steals the gold of Liberty And yet has nothing, Ignorance the real One Fraticide since Cain, Envy the asp That stings itself to anguish, Avarice whose palsied grasp Is in its extent stiffened, moneyed Greed For whose dull appetite men waste away Amid the whirr of wheels and are the seed Of things which slay their sower, these each day Sees rife in England, and the gentle feet Of Beauty tread no more the stones of each unlovely street.
What even Cromwell spared is desecrated By weed and worm, left to the stormy play Of wind and beating snow, or renovated By more destructful hands: Time's worst decay Will wreathe its ruins with some loveliness, But these new Vandals can but make a rain-proof barrenness.
Where is that Art which bade the Angels sing Through Lincoln's lofty choir, till the air Seems from such marble harmonies to ring With sweeter song than common lips can dare To draw from actual reed? ah! where is now The cunning hand which made the flowering hawthorn branches bow For Southwell's arch, and carved the House of One Who loved the lilies of the field with all Our dearest English flowers? the same sun Rises for us: the seasons natural Weave the same tapestry of green and grey: The unchanged hills are with us: but that Spirit hath passed away.
And yet perchance it may be better so, For Tyranny is an incestuous Queen, Murder her brother is her bedfellow, And the Plague chambers with her: in obscene And bloody paths her treacherous feet are set; Better the empty desert and a soul inviolate! For gentle brotherhood, the harmony Of living in the healthful air, the swift Clean beauty of strong limbs when men are free And women chaste, these are the things which lift Our souls up more than even Agnolo's Gaunt blinded Sibyl poring o'er the scroll of human woes, Or Titian's little maiden on the stair White as her own sweet lily and as tall, Or Mona Lisa smiling through her hair, - Ah! somehow life is bigger after all Than any painted angel, could we see The God that is within us! The old Greek serenity Which curbs the passion of that level line Of marble youths, who with untroubled eyes And chastened limbs ride round Athena's shrine And mirror her divine economies, And balanced symmetry of what in man Would else wage ceaseless warfare, - this at least within the span Between our mother's kisses and the grave Might so inform our lives, that we could win Such mighty empires that from her cave Temptation would grow hoarse, and pallid Sin Would walk ashamed of his adulteries, And Passion creep from out the House of Lust with startled eyes.
To make the body and the spirit one With all right things, till no thing live in vain From morn to noon, but in sweet unison With every pulse of flesh and throb of brain The soul in flawless essence high enthroned, Against all outer vain attack invincibly bastioned, Mark with serene impartiality The strife of things, and yet be comforted, Knowing that by the chain causality All separate existences are wed Into one supreme whole, whose utterance Is joy, or holier praise! ah! surely this were governance Of Life in most august omnipresence, Through which the rational intellect would find In passion its expression, and mere sense, Ignoble else, lend fire to the mind, And being joined with it in harmony More mystical than that which binds the stars planetary, Strike from their several tones one octave chord Whose cadence being measureless would fly Through all the circling spheres, then to its Lord Return refreshed with its new empery And more exultant power, - this indeed Could we but reach it were to find the last, the perfect creed.
Ah! it was easy when the world was young To keep one's life free and inviolate, From our sad lips another song is rung, By our own hands our heads are desecrate, Wanderers in drear exile, and dispossessed Of what should be our own, we can but feed on wild unrest.
Somehow the grace, the bloom of things has flown, And of all men we are most wretched who Must live each other's lives and not our own For very pity's sake and then undo All that we lived for - it was otherwise When soul and body seemed to blend in mystic symphonies.
But we have left those gentle haunts to pass With weary feet to the new Calvary, Where we behold, as one who in a glass Sees his own face, self-slain Humanity, And in the dumb reproach of that sad gaze Learn what an awful phantom the red hand of man can raise.
O smitten mouth! O forehead crowned with thorn! O chalice of all common miseries! Thou for our sakes that loved thee not hast borne An agony of endless centuries, And we were vain and ignorant nor knew That when we stabbed thy heart it was our own real hearts we slew.
Being ourselves the sowers and the seeds, The night that covers and the lights that fade, The spear that pierces and the side that bleeds, The lips betraying and the life betrayed; The deep hath calm: the moon hath rest: but we Lords of the natural world are yet our own dread enemy.
Is this the end of all that primal force Which, in its changes being still the same, From eyeless Chaos cleft its upward course, Through ravenous seas and whirling rocks and flame, Till the suns met in heaven and began Their cycles, and the morning stars sang, and the Word was Man! Nay, nay, we are but crucified, and though The bloody sweat falls from our brows like rain Loosen the nails - we shall come down I know, Staunch the red wounds - we shall be whole again, No need have we of hyssop-laden rod, That which is purely human, that is godlike, that is God.


Homers Seeing-Eye Dog

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 Most of the time he worked, a sort of sleep
with a purpose, so far as I could tell.
How he got from the dark of sleep to the dark of waking up I'll never know; the lax sprawl sleep allowed him began to set from the edges in, like a custard, and then he was awake, me too, of course, wriggling my ears while he unlocked his bladder and stream of dopey wake-up jokes.
The one about the wine-dark pee I hated instantly.
I stood at the ready, like a god in an epic, but there was never much to do.
Oh now and then I'd make a sure intervention, save a life, whatever.
But my exploits don't interest you and of his life all I can say is that when he'd poured out his work the best of it was gone and then he died.
He was a great man and I loved him.
Not a whimper about his sex life -- how I detest your prurience -- but here's a farewell literary tip: I myself am the model for Penelope.
Don't snicker, you hairless moron, I know so well what faithful means there's not even a word for it in Dog, I just embody it.
I think you bipeds have a catchphrase for it: "To thine own self be true, .
.
.
" though like a blind man's shadow, the second half is only there for those who know it's missing.
Merely a dog, I'll tell you what it is: " .
.
.
as if you had a choice.
"


To My Children

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 Jaya Surya

GOLDEN sun of victory, born 
In my life's unclouded morn, 
In my lambent sky of love, 
May your growing glory prove 
Sacred to your consecration, 
To my heart and to my nation.
Sun of victory, may you be Sun of song and liberty.
Padmaja Lotus-maiden, you who claim All the sweetness of your name, Lakshmi, fortune's queen, defend you, Lotus-born like you, and send you Balmy moons of love to bless you, Gentle joy-winds to caress you.
Lotus-maiden, may you be Fragrant of all ecstasy.
Ranadheera Little lord of battle, hail In your newly-tempered mail! Learn to conquer, learn to fight In the foremost flanks of right, Like Valmiki's heroes bold, Rubies girt in epic gold.
Lord of battle, may you be, Lord of love and chivalry.
Lilamani Limpid jewel of delight Severed from the tender night Of your sheltering mother-mine, Leap and sparkle, dance and shine, Blithely and securely set In love's magic coronet.
Living jewel, may you be Laughter-bound and sorrow-free.


TO CANARIS, THE GREEK PATRIOT

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 ("Canaris! nous t'avons oublié.") 
 
 {VIII., October, 1832.} 


 O Canaris! O Canaris! the poet's song 
 Has blameful left untold thy deeds too long! 
 But when the tragic actor's part is done, 
 When clamor ceases, and the fights are won, 
 When heroes realize what Fate decreed, 
 When chieftains mark no more which thousands bleed; 
 When they have shone, as clouded or as bright, 
 As fitful meteor in the heaven at night, 
 And when the sycophant no more proclaims 
 To gaping crowds the glory of their names,— 
 'Tis then the mem'ries of warriors die, 
 And fall—alas!—into obscurity, 
 Until the poet, in whose verse alone 
 Exists a world—can make their actions known, 
 And in eternal epic measures, show 
 They are not yet forgotten here below. 
 And yet by us neglected! glory gloomed, 
 Thy name seems sealed apart, entombed, 
 Although our shouts to pigmies rise—no cries 
 To mark thy presence echo to the skies; 
 Farewell to Grecian heroes—silent is the lute, 
 And sets your sun without one Memnon bruit? 
 
 There was a time men gave no peace 
 To cheers for Athens, Bozzaris, Leonidas, and Greece! 
 And Canaris' more-worshipped name was found 
 On ev'ry lip, in ev'ry heart around. 
 But now is changed the scene! On hist'ry's page 
 Are writ o'er thine deeds of another age, 
 And thine are not remembered.—Greece, farewell! 
 The world no more thine heroes' deeds will tell. 
 
 Not that this matters to a man like thee! 
 To whom is left the dark blue open sea, 
 Thy gallant bark, that o'er the water flies, 
 And the bright planet guiding in clear skies; 
 All these remain, with accident and strife, 
 Hope, and the pleasures of a roving life, 
 Boon Nature's fairest prospects—land and main— 
 The noisy starting, glad return again; 
 The pride of freeman on a bounding deck 
 Which mocks at dangers and despises wreck, 
 And e'en if lightning-pinions cleave the sea, 
 'Tis all replete with joyousness to thee! 
 
 Yes, these remain! blue sky and ocean blue, 
 Thine eagles with one sweep beyond the view— 
 The sun in golden beauty ever pure, 
 The distance where rich warmth doth aye endure— 
 Thy language so mellifluously bland, 
 Mixed with sweet idioms from Italia's strand, 
 As Baya's streams to Samos' waters glide 
 And with them mingle in one placid tide. 
 
 Yes, these remain, and, Canaris! thy arms— 
 The sculptured sabre, faithful in alarms— 
 The broidered garb, the yataghan, the vest 
 Expressive of thy rank, to thee still rest! 
 And when thy vessel o'er the foaming sound 
 Is proud past storied coasts to blithely bound, 
 At once the point of beauty may restore 
 Smiles to thy lip, and smoothe thy brow once more. 
 
 G.W.M. REYNOLDS. 


 





Plutonian Ode

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 I

What new element before us unborn in nature? Is there
 a new thing under the Sun?
At last inquisitive Whitman a modern epic, detonative,
 Scientific theme
First penned unmindful by Doctor Seaborg with poison-
 ous hand, named for Death's planet through the 
 sea beyond Uranus
whose chthonic ore fathers this magma-teared Lord of 
 Hades, Sire of avenging Furies, billionaire Hell-
 King worshipped once
with black sheep throats cut, priests's face averted from
 underground mysteries in single temple at Eleusis,
Spring-green Persephone nuptialed to his inevitable
 Shade, Demeter mother of asphodel weeping dew,
her daughter stored in salty caverns under white snow, 
 black hail, grey winter rain or Polar ice, immemor-
 able seasons before
Fish flew in Heaven, before a Ram died by the starry
 bush, before the Bull stamped sky and earth
or Twins inscribed their memories in clay or Crab'd
 flood
washed memory from the skull, or Lion sniffed the
 lilac breeze in Eden--
Before the Great Year began turning its twelve signs,
 ere constellations wheeled for twenty-four thousand
 sunny years
slowly round their axis in Sagittarius, one hundred 
 sixty-seven thousand times returning to this night

Radioactive Nemesis were you there at the beginning 
 black dumb tongueless unsmelling blast of Disil-
 lusion?
I manifest your Baptismal Word after four billion years
I guess your birthday in Earthling Night, I salute your
 dreadful presence last majestic as the Gods,
Sabaot, Jehova, Astapheus, Adonaeus, Elohim, Iao, 
 Ialdabaoth, Aeon from Aeon born ignorant in an
 Abyss of Light,
Sophia's reflections glittering thoughtful galaxies, whirl-
 pools of starspume silver-thin as hairs of Einstein!
Father Whitman I celebrate a matter that renders Self
 oblivion!
Grand Subject that annihilates inky hands & pages'
 prayers, old orators' inspired Immortalities,
I begin your chant, openmouthed exhaling into spacious
 sky over silent mills at Hanford, Savannah River,
 Rocky Flats, Pantex, Burlington, Albuquerque
I yell thru Washington, South Carolina, Colorado, 
 Texas, Iowa, New Mexico,
Where nuclear reactors creat a new Thing under the 
 Sun, where Rockwell war-plants fabricate this death
 stuff trigger in nitrogen baths,
Hanger-Silas Mason assembles the terrified weapon
 secret by ten thousands, & where Manzano Moun-
 tain boasts to store
its dreadful decay through two hundred forty millenia
 while our Galaxy spirals around its nebulous core.
I enter your secret places with my mind, I speak with your presence, I roar your Lion Roar with mortal mouth.
One microgram inspired to one lung, ten pounds of heavy metal dust adrift slow motion over grey Alps the breadth of the planet, how long before your radiance speeds blight and death to sentient beings? Enter my body or not I carol my spirit inside you, Unnaproachable Weight, O heavy heavy Element awakened I vocalize your con- sciousness to six worlds I chant your absolute Vanity.
Yeah monster of Anger birthed in fear O most Ignorant matter ever created unnatural to Earth! Delusion of metal empires! Destroyer of lying Scientists! Devourer of covetous Generals, Incinerator of Armies & Melter of Wars! Judgement of judgements, Divine Wind over vengeful nations, Molester of Presidents, Death-Scandal of Capital politics! Ah civilizations stupidly indus- trious! Canker-Hex on multitudes learned or illiterate! Manu- factured Spectre of human reason! O solidified imago of practicioner in Black Arts I dare your reality, I challenge your very being! I publish your cause and effect! I turn the wheel of Mind on your three hundred tons! Your name enters mankind's ear! I embody your ultimate powers! My oratory advances on your vaunted Mystery! This breath dispels your braggart fears! I sing your form at last behind your concrete & iron walls inside your fortress of rubber & translucent silicon shields in filtered cabinets and baths of lathe oil, My voice resounds through robot glove boxes & ignot cans and echoes in electric vaults inert of atmo- sphere, I enter with spirit out loud into your fuel rod drums underground on soundless thrones and beds of lead O density! This weightless anthem trumpets transcendent through hidden chambers and breaks through iron doors into the Infernal Room! Over your dreadful vibration this measured harmony floats audible, these jubilant tones are honey and milk and wine-sweet water Poured on the stone black floor, these syllables are barley groats I scatter on the Reactor's core, I call your name with hollow vowels, I psalm your Fate close by, my breath near deathless ever at your side to Spell your destiny, I set this verse prophetic on your mausoleum walls to seal you up Eternally with Diamond Truth! O doomed Plutonium.
II The Bar surveys Plutonian history from midnight lit with Mercury Vapor streetlamps till in dawn's early light he contemplates a tranquil politic spaced out between Nations' thought-forms proliferating bureaucratic & horrific arm'd, Satanic industries projected sudden with Five Hundred Billion Dollar Strength around the world same time this text is set in Boulder, Colorado before front range of Rocky Mountains twelve miles north of Rocky Flats Nuclear Facility in United States of North America, Western Hemi- sphere of planet Earth six months and fourteen days around our Solar System in a Spiral Galaxy the local year after Dominion of the last God nineteen hundred seventy eight Completed as yellow hazed dawn clouds brighten East, Denver city white below Blue sky transparent rising empty deep & spacious to a morning star high over the balcony above some autos sat with wheels to curb downhill from Flatiron's jagged pine ridge, sunlit mountain meadows sloped to rust-red sandstone cliffs above brick townhouse roofs as sparrows waked whistling through Marine Street's summer green leafed trees.
III This ode to you O Poets and Orators to come, you father Whitman as I join your side, you Congress and American people, you present meditators, spiritual friends & teachers, you O Master of the Diamond Arts, Take this wheel of syllables in hand, these vowels and consonants to breath's end take this inhalation of black poison to your heart, breath out this blessing from your breast on our creation forests cities oceans deserts rocky flats and mountains in the Ten Directions pacify with exhalation, enrich this Plutonian Ode to explode its empty thunder through earthen thought-worlds Magnetize this howl with heartless compassion, destroy this mountain of Plutonium with ordinary mind and body speech, thus empower this Mind-guard spirit gone out, gone out, gone beyond, gone beyond me, Wake space, so Ah! July 14, 1978


Genoa and the Mediterranean

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 O epic-famed, god-haunted Central Sea, 
Heave careless of the deep wrong done to thee 
When from Torino's track I saw thy face first flash on me.
And multimarbled Genova the Proud, Gleam all unconscious how, wide-lipped, up-browed, I first beheld thee clad--not as the Beauty but the Dowd.
Out from a deep-delved way my vision lit On housebacks pink, green, ochreous--where a slit Shoreward 'twixt row and row revealed the classic blue through it.
And thereacross waved fishwives' high-hung smocks, Chrome kerchiefs, scarlet hose, darned underfrocks; Since when too oft my dreams of thee, O Queen, that frippery mocks: Whereat I grieve, Superba! .
.
.
Afterhours Within Palazzo Doria's orange bowers Went far to mend these marrings of thy soul-subliming powers.
But, Queen, such squalid undress none should see, Those dream-endangering eyewounds no more be Where lovers first behold thy form in pilgrimage to thee.


Nearly A Valediction

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 You happened to me.
I was happened to like an abandoned building by a bull- dozer, like the van that missed my skull happened a two-inch gash across my chin.
You were as deep down as I've ever been.
You were inside me like my pulse.
A new- born flailing toward maternal heartbeat through the shock of cold and glare: when you were gone, swaddled in strange air I was that alone again, inventing life left after you.
I don't want to remember you as that four o'clock in the morning eight months long after you happened to me like a wrong number at midnight that blew up the phone bill to an astronomical unknown quantity in a foreign currency.
The U.
S.
dollar dived since you happened to me.
You've grown into your skin since then; you've grown into the space you measure with someone you can love back without a caveat.
While I love somebody I learn to live with through the downpulled winter days' routine wakings and sleepings, half-and-half caffeine- assisted mornings, laundry, stock-pots, dust- balls in the hallway, lists instead of longing, trust that what comes next comes after what came first.
She'll never be a story I make up.
You were the one I didn't know where to stop.
If I had blamed you, now I could forgive you, but what made my cold hand, back in prox- imity to your hair, your mouth, your mind, want where it no way ought to be, defined by where it was, and was and was until the whole globed swelling liquefied and spilled through one cheek's nap, a syllable, a tear, was never blame, whatever I wished it were.
You were the weather in my neighborhood.
You were the epic in the episode.
You were the year poised on the equinox.


The Princess (part 2)

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 At break of day the College Portress came: 
She brought us Academic silks, in hue 
The lilac, with a silken hood to each, 
And zoned with gold; and now when these were on, 
And we as rich as moths from dusk cocoons, 
She, curtseying her obeisance, let us know 
The Princess Ida waited: out we paced, 
I first, and following through the porch that sang 
All round with laurel, issued in a court 
Compact of lucid marbles, bossed with lengths 
Of classic frieze, with ample awnings gay 
Betwixt the pillars, and with great urns of flowers.
The Muses and the Graces, grouped in threes, Enringed a billowing fountain in the midst; And here and there on lattice edges lay Or book or lute; but hastily we past, And up a flight of stairs into the hall.
There at a board by tome and paper sat, With two tame leopards couched beside her throne, All beauty compassed in a female form, The Princess; liker to the inhabitant Of some clear planet close upon the Sun, Than our man's earth; such eyes were in her head, And so much grace and power, breathing down From over her arched brows, with every turn Lived through her to the tips of her long hands, And to her feet.
She rose her height, and said: 'We give you welcome: not without redound Of use and glory to yourselves ye come, The first-fruits of the stranger: aftertime, And that full voice which circles round the grave, Will rank you nobly, mingled up with me.
What! are the ladies of your land so tall?' 'We of the court' said Cyril.
'From the court' She answered, 'then ye know the Prince?' and he: 'The climax of his age! as though there were One rose in all the world, your Highness that, He worships your ideal:' she replied: 'We scarcely thought in our own hall to hear This barren verbiage, current among men, Light coin, the tinsel clink of compliment.
Your flight from out your bookless wilds would seem As arguing love of knowledge and of power; Your language proves you still the child.
Indeed, We dream not of him: when we set our hand To this great work, we purposed with ourself Never to wed.
You likewise will do well, Ladies, in entering here, to cast and fling The tricks, which make us toys of men, that so, Some future time, if so indeed you will, You may with those self-styled our lords ally Your fortunes, justlier balanced, scale with scale.
' At those high words, we conscious of ourselves, Perused the matting: then an officer Rose up, and read the statutes, such as these: Not for three years to correspond with home; Not for three years to cross the liberties; Not for three years to speak with any men; And many more, which hastily subscribed, We entered on the boards: and 'Now,' she cried, 'Ye are green wood, see ye warp not.
Look, our hall! Our statues!--not of those that men desire, Sleek Odalisques, or oracles of mode, Nor stunted squaws of West or East; but she That taught the Sabine how to rule, and she The foundress of the Babylonian wall, The Carian Artemisia strong in war, The Rhodope, that built the pyramid, Clelia, Cornelia, with the Palmyrene That fought Aurelian, and the Roman brows Of Agrippina.
Dwell with these, and lose Convention, since to look on noble forms Makes noble through the sensuous organism That which is higher.
O lift your natures up: Embrace our aims: work out your freedom.
Girls, Knowledge is now no more a fountain sealed: Drink deep, until the habits of the slave, The sins of emptiness, gossip and spite And slander, die.
Better not be at all Than not be noble.
Leave us: you may go: Today the Lady Psyche will harangue The fresh arrivals of the week before; For they press in from all the provinces, And fill the hive.
' She spoke, and bowing waved Dismissal: back again we crost the court To Lady Psyche's: as we entered in, There sat along the forms, like morning doves That sun their milky bosoms on the thatch, A patient range of pupils; she herself Erect behind a desk of satin-wood, A quick brunette, well-moulded, falcon-eyed, And on the hither side, or so she looked, Of twenty summers.
At her left, a child, In shining draperies, headed like a star, Her maiden babe, a double April old, Aglaïa slept.
We sat: the Lady glanced: Then Florian, but not livelier than the dame That whispered 'Asses' ears', among the sedge, 'My sister.
' 'Comely, too, by all that's fair,' Said Cyril.
'Oh hush, hush!' and she began.
'This world was once a fluid haze of light, Till toward the centre set the starry tides, And eddied into suns, that wheeling cast The planets: then the monster, then the man; Tattooed or woaded, winter-clad in skins, Raw from the prime, and crushing down his mate; As yet we find in barbarous isles, and here Among the lowest.
' Thereupon she took A bird's-eye-view of all the ungracious past; Glanced at the legendary Amazon As emblematic of a nobler age; Appraised the Lycian custom, spoke of those That lay at wine with Lar and Lucumo; Ran down the Persian, Grecian, Roman lines Of empire, and the woman's state in each, How far from just; till warming with her theme She fulmined out her scorn of laws Salique And little-footed China, touched on Mahomet With much contempt, and came to chivalry: When some respect, however slight, was paid To woman, superstition all awry: However then commenced the dawn: a beam Had slanted forward, falling in a land Of promise; fruit would follow.
Deep, indeed, Their debt of thanks to her who first had dared To leap the rotten pales of prejudice, Disyoke their necks from custom, and assert None lordlier than themselves but that which made Woman and man.
She had founded; they must build.
Here might they learn whatever men were taught: Let them not fear: some said their heads were less: Some men's were small; not they the least of men; For often fineness compensated size: Besides the brain was like the hand, and grew With using; thence the man's, if more was more; He took advantage of his strength to be First in the field: some ages had been lost; But woman ripened earlier, and her life Was longer; and albeit their glorious names Were fewer, scattered stars, yet since in truth The highest is the measure of the man, And not the Kaffir, Hottentot, Malay, Nor those horn-handed breakers of the glebe, But Homer, Plato, Verulam; even so With woman: and in arts of government Elizabeth and others; arts of war The peasant Joan and others; arts of grace Sappho and others vied with any man: And, last not least, she who had left her place, And bowed her state to them, that they might grow To use and power on this Oasis, lapt In the arms of leisure, sacred from the blight Of ancient influence and scorn.
At last She rose upon a wind of prophecy Dilating on the future; 'everywhere Who heads in council, two beside the hearth, Two in the tangled business of the world, Two in the liberal offices of life, Two plummets dropt for one to sound the abyss Of science, and the secrets of the mind: Musician, painter, sculptor, critic, more: And everywhere the broad and bounteous Earth Should bear a double growth of those rare souls, Poets, whose thoughts enrich the blood of the world.
' She ended here, and beckoned us: the rest Parted; and, glowing full-faced welcome, she Began to address us, and was moving on In gratulation, till as when a boat Tacks, and the slackened sail flaps, all her voice Faltering and fluttering in her throat, she cried 'My brother!' 'Well, my sister.
' 'O,' she said, 'What do you here? and in this dress? and these? Why who are these? a wolf within the fold! A pack of wolves! the Lord be gracious to me! A plot, a plot, a plot to ruin all!' 'No plot, no plot,' he answered.
'Wretched boy, How saw you not the inscription on the gate, LET NO MAN ENTER IN ON PAIN OF DEATH?' 'And if I had,' he answered, 'who could think The softer Adams of your Academe, O sister, Sirens though they be, were such As chanted on the blanching bones of men?' 'But you will find it otherwise' she said.
'You jest: ill jesting with edge-tools! my vow Binds me to speak, and O that iron will, That axelike edge unturnable, our Head, The Princess.
' 'Well then, Psyche, take my life, And nail me like a weasel on a grange For warning: bury me beside the gate, And cut this epitaph above my bones; ~Here lies a brother by a sister slain, All for the common good of womankind.
~' 'Let me die too,' said Cyril, 'having seen And heard the Lady Psyche.
' I struck in: 'Albeit so masked, Madam, I love the truth; Receive it; and in me behold the Prince Your countryman, affianced years ago To the Lady Ida: here, for here she was, And thus (what other way was left) I came.
' 'O Sir, O Prince, I have no country; none; If any, this; but none.
Whate'er I was Disrooted, what I am is grafted here.
Affianced, Sir? love-whispers may not breathe Within this vestal limit, and how should I, Who am not mine, say, live: the thunderbolt Hangs silent; but prepare: I speak; it falls.
' 'Yet pause,' I said: 'for that inscription there, I think no more of deadly lurks therein, Than in a clapper clapping in a garth, To scare the fowl from fruit: if more there be, If more and acted on, what follows? war; Your own work marred: for this your Academe, Whichever side be Victor, in the halloo Will topple to the trumpet down, and pass With all fair theories only made to gild A stormless summer.
' 'Let the Princess judge Of that' she said: 'farewell, Sir--and to you.
I shudder at the sequel, but I go.
' 'Are you that Lady Psyche,' I rejoined, 'The fifth in line from that old Florian, Yet hangs his portrait in my father's hall (The gaunt old Baron with his beetle brow Sun-shaded in the heat of dusty fights) As he bestrode my Grandsire, when he fell, And all else fled? we point to it, and we say, The loyal warmth of Florian is not cold, But branches current yet in kindred veins.
' 'Are you that Psyche,' Florian added; 'she With whom I sang about the morning hills, Flung ball, flew kite, and raced the purple fly, And snared the squirrel of the glen? are you That Psyche, wont to bind my throbbing brow, To smoothe my pillow, mix the foaming draught Of fever, tell me pleasant tales, and read My sickness down to happy dreams? are you That brother-sister Psyche, both in one? You were that Psyche, but what are you now?' 'You are that Psyche,' said Cyril, 'for whom I would be that for ever which I seem, Woman, if I might sit beside your feet, And glean your scattered sapience.
' Then once more, 'Are you that Lady Psyche,' I began, 'That on her bridal morn before she past From all her old companions, when the kind Kissed her pale cheek, declared that ancient ties Would still be dear beyond the southern hills; That were there any of our people there In want or peril, there was one to hear And help them? look! for such are these and I.
' 'Are you that Psyche,' Florian asked, 'to whom, In gentler days, your arrow-wounded fawn Came flying while you sat beside the well? The creature laid his muzzle on your lap, And sobbed, and you sobbed with it, and the blood Was sprinkled on your kirtle, and you wept.
That was fawn's blood, not brother's, yet you wept.
O by the bright head of my little niece, You were that Psyche, and what are you now?' 'You are that Psyche,' Cyril said again, 'The mother of the sweetest little maid, That ever crowed for kisses.
' 'Out upon it!' She answered, 'peace! and why should I not play The Spartan Mother with emotion, be The Lucius Junius Brutus of my kind? Him you call great: he for the common weal, The fading politics of mortal Rome, As I might slay this child, if good need were, Slew both his sons: and I, shall I, on whom The secular emancipation turns Of half this world, be swerved from right to save A prince, a brother? a little will I yield.
Best so, perchance, for us, and well for you.
O hard, when love and duty clash! I fear My conscience will not count me fleckless; yet-- Hear my conditions: promise (otherwise You perish) as you came, to slip away Today, tomorrow, soon: it shall be said, These women were too barbarous, would not learn; They fled, who might have shamed us: promise, all.
' What could we else, we promised each; and she, Like some wild creature newly-caged, commenced A to-and-fro, so pacing till she paused By Florian; holding out her lily arms Took both his hands, and smiling faintly said: 'I knew you at the first: though you have grown You scarce have altered: I am sad and glad To see you, Florian.
~I~ give thee to death My brother! it was duty spoke, not I.
My needful seeming harshness, pardon it.
Our mother, is she well?' With that she kissed His forehead, then, a moment after, clung About him, and betwixt them blossomed up From out a common vein of memory Sweet household talk, and phrases of the hearth, And far allusion, till the gracious dews Began to glisten and to fall: and while They stood, so rapt, we gazing, came a voice, 'I brought a message here from Lady Blanche.
' Back started she, and turning round we saw The Lady Blanche's daughter where she stood, Melissa, with her hand upon the lock, A rosy blonde, and in a college gown, That clad her like an April daffodilly (Her mother's colour) with her lips apart, And all her thoughts as fair within her eyes, As bottom agates seen to wave and float In crystal currents of clear morning seas.
So stood that same fair creature at the door.
Then Lady Psyche, 'Ah--Melissa--you! You heard us?' and Melissa, 'O pardon me I heard, I could not help it, did not wish: But, dearest Lady, pray you fear me not, Nor think I bear that heart within my breast, To give three gallant gentlemen to death.
' 'I trust you,' said the other, 'for we two Were always friends, none closer, elm and vine: But yet your mother's jealous temperament-- Let not your prudence, dearest, drowse, or prove The Danaïd of a leaky vase, for fear This whole foundation ruin, and I lose My honour, these their lives.
' 'Ah, fear me not' Replied Melissa; 'no--I would not tell, No, not for all Aspasia's cleverness, No, not to answer, Madam, all those hard things That Sheba came to ask of Solomon.
' 'Be it so' the other, 'that we still may lead The new light up, and culminate in peace, For Solomon may come to Sheba yet.
' Said Cyril, 'Madam, he the wisest man Feasted the woman wisest then, in halls Of Lebanonian cedar: nor should you (Though, Madam, ~you~ should answer, ~we~ would ask) Less welcome find among us, if you came Among us, debtors for our lives to you, Myself for something more.
' He said not what, But 'Thanks,' she answered 'Go: we have been too long Together: keep your hoods about the face; They do so that affect abstraction here.
Speak little; mix not with the rest; and hold Your promise: all, I trust, may yet be well.
' We turned to go, but Cyril took the child, And held her round the knees against his waist, And blew the swollen cheek of a trumpeter, While Psyche watched them, smiling, and the child Pushed her flat hand against his face and laughed; And thus our conference closed.
And then we strolled For half the day through stately theatres Benched crescent-wise.
In each we sat, we heard The grave Professor.
On the lecture slate The circle rounded under female hands With flawless demonstration: followed then A classic lecture, rich in sentiment, With scraps of thunderous Epic lilted out By violet-hooded Doctors, elegies And quoted odes, and jewels five-words-long That on the stretched forefinger of all Time Sparkle for ever: then we dipt in all That treats of whatsoever is, the state, The total chronicles of man, the mind, The morals, something of the frame, the rock, The star, the bird, the fish, the shell, the flower, Electric, chemic laws, and all the rest, And whatsoever can be taught and known; Till like three horses that have broken fence, And glutted all night long breast-deep in corn, We issued gorged with knowledge, and I spoke: 'Why, Sirs, they do all this as well as we.
' 'They hunt old trails' said Cyril 'very well; But when did woman ever yet invent?' 'Ungracious!' answered Florian; 'have you learnt No more from Psyche's lecture, you that talked The trash that made me sick, and almost sad?' 'O trash' he said, 'but with a kernel in it.
Should I not call her wise, who made me wise? And learnt? I learnt more from her in a flash, Than in my brainpan were an empty hull, And every Muse tumbled a science in.
A thousand hearts lie fallow in these halls, And round these halls a thousand baby loves Fly twanging headless arrows at the hearts, Whence follows many a vacant pang; but O With me, Sir, entered in the bigger boy, The Head of all the golden-shafted firm, The long-limbed lad that had a Psyche too; He cleft me through the stomacher; and now What think you of it, Florian? do I chase The substance or the shadow? will it hold? I have no sorcerer's malison on me, No ghostly hauntings like his Highness.
I Flatter myself that always everywhere I know the substance when I see it.
Well, Are castles shadows? Three of them? Is she The sweet proprietress a shadow? If not, Shall those three castles patch my tattered coat? For dear are those three castles to my wants, And dear is sister Psyche to my heart, And two dear things are one of double worth, And much I might have said, but that my zone Unmanned me: then the Doctors! O to hear The Doctors! O to watch the thirsty plants Imbibing! once or twice I thought to roar, To break my chain, to shake my mane: but thou, Modulate me, Soul of mincing mimicry! Make liquid treble of that bassoon, my throat; Abase those eyes that ever loved to meet Star-sisters answering under crescent brows; Abate the stride, which speaks of man, and loose A flying charm of blushes o'er this cheek, Where they like swallows coming out of time Will wonder why they came: but hark the bell For dinner, let us go!' And in we streamed Among the columns, pacing staid and still By twos and threes, till all from end to end With beauties every shade of brown and fair In colours gayer than the morning mist, The long hall glittered like a bed of flowers.
How might a man not wander from his wits Pierced through with eyes, but that I kept mine own Intent on her, who rapt in glorious dreams, The second-sight of some Astræan age, Sat compassed with professors: they, the while, Discussed a doubt and tost it to and fro: A clamour thickened, mixt with inmost terms Of art and science: Lady Blanche alone Of faded form and haughtiest lineaments, With all her autumn tresses falsely brown, Shot sidelong daggers at us, a tiger-cat In act to spring.
At last a solemn grace Concluded, and we sought the gardens: there One walked reciting by herself, and one In this hand held a volume as to read, And smoothed a petted peacock down with that: Some to a low song oared a shallop by, Or under arches of the marble bridge Hung, shadowed from the heat: some hid and sought In the orange thickets: others tost a ball Above the fountain-jets, and back again With laughter: others lay about the lawns, Of the older sort, and murmured that their May Was passing: what was learning unto them? They wished to marry; they could rule a house; Men hated learned women: but we three Sat muffled like the Fates; and often came Melissa hitting all we saw with shafts Of gentle satire, kin to charity, That harmed not: then day droopt; the chapel bells Called us: we left the walks; we mixt with those Six hundred maidens clad in purest white, Before two streams of light from wall to wall, While the great organ almost burst his pipes, Groaning for power, and rolling through the court A long melodious thunder to the sound Of solemn psalms, and silver litanies, The work of Ida, to call down from Heaven A blessing on her labours for the world.
Sweet and low, sweet and low, Wind of the western sea, Low, low, breathe and blow, Wind of the western sea! Over the rolling waters go, Come from the dying moon, and blow, Blow him again to me; While my little one, while my pretty one, sleeps.
Sleep and rest, sleep and rest, Father will come to thee soon; Rest, rest, on mother's breast, Father will come to thee soon; Father will come to his babe in the nest, Silver sails all out of the west Under the silver moon: Sleep, my little one, sleep, my pretty one, sleep.


The Princess (prologue)

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 Sir Walter Vivian all a summer's day 
Gave his broad lawns until the set of sun 
Up to the people: thither flocked at noon 
His tenants, wife and child, and thither half 
The neighbouring borough with their Institute 
Of which he was the patron.
I was there From college, visiting the son,--the son A Walter too,--with others of our set, Five others: we were seven at Vivian-place.
And me that morning Walter showed the house, Greek, set with busts: from vases in the hall Flowers of all heavens, and lovelier than their names, Grew side by side; and on the pavement lay Carved stones of the Abbey-ruin in the park, Huge Ammonites, and the first bones of Time; And on the tables every clime and age Jumbled together; celts and calumets, Claymore and snowshoe, toys in lava, fans Of sandal, amber, ancient rosaries, Laborious orient ivory sphere in sphere, The cursed Malayan crease, and battle-clubs From the isles of palm: and higher on the walls, Betwixt the monstrous horns of elk and deer, His own forefathers' arms and armour hung.
And 'this' he said 'was Hugh's at Agincourt; And that was old Sir Ralph's at Ascalon: A good knight he! we keep a chronicle With all about him'--which he brought, and I Dived in a hoard of tales that dealt with knights, Half-legend, half-historic, counts and kings Who laid about them at their wills and died; And mixt with these, a lady, one that armed Her own fair head, and sallying through the gate, Had beat her foes with slaughter from her walls.
'O miracle of women,' said the book, 'O noble heart who, being strait-besieged By this wild king to force her to his wish, Nor bent, nor broke, nor shunned a soldier's death, But now when all was lost or seemed as lost-- Her stature more than mortal in the burst Of sunrise, her arm lifted, eyes on fire-- Brake with a blast of trumpets from the gate, And, falling on them like a thunderbolt, She trampled some beneath her horses' heels, And some were whelmed with missiles of the wall, And some were pushed with lances from the rock, And part were drowned within the whirling brook: O miracle of noble womanhood!' So sang the gallant glorious chronicle; And, I all rapt in this, 'Come out,' he said, 'To the Abbey: there is Aunt Elizabeth And sister Lilia with the rest.
' We went (I kept the book and had my finger in it) Down through the park: strange was the sight to me; For all the sloping pasture murmured, sown With happy faces and with holiday.
There moved the multitude, a thousand heads: The patient leaders of their Institute Taught them with facts.
One reared a font of stone And drew, from butts of water on the slope, The fountain of the moment, playing, now A twisted snake, and now a rain of pearls, Or steep-up spout whereon the gilded ball Danced like a wisp: and somewhat lower down A man with knobs and wires and vials fired A cannon: Echo answered in her sleep From hollow fields: and here were telescopes For azure views; and there a group of girls In circle waited, whom the electric shock Dislinked with shrieks and laughter: round the lake A little clock-work steamer paddling plied And shook the lilies: perched about the knolls A dozen angry models jetted steam: A petty railway ran: a fire-balloon Rose gem-like up before the dusky groves And dropt a fairy parachute and past: And there through twenty posts of telegraph They flashed a saucy message to and fro Between the mimic stations; so that sport Went hand in hand with Science; otherwhere Pure sport; a herd of boys with clamour bowled And stumped the wicket; babies rolled about Like tumbled fruit in grass; and men and maids Arranged a country dance, and flew through light And shadow, while the twangling violin Struck up with Soldier-laddie, and overhead The broad ambrosial aisles of lofty lime Made noise with bees and breeze from end to end.
Strange was the sight and smacking of the time; And long we gazed, but satiated at length Came to the ruins.
High-arched and ivy-claspt, Of finest Gothic lighter than a fire, Through one wide chasm of time and frost they gave The park, the crowd, the house; but all within The sward was trim as any garden lawn: And here we lit on Aunt Elizabeth, And Lilia with the rest, and lady friends From neighbour seats: and there was Ralph himself, A broken statue propt against the wall, As gay as any.
Lilia, wild with sport, Half child half woman as she was, had wound A scarf of orange round the stony helm, And robed the shoulders in a rosy silk, That made the old warrior from his ivied nook Glow like a sunbeam: near his tomb a feast Shone, silver-set; about it lay the guests, And there we joined them: then the maiden Aunt Took this fair day for text, and from it preached An universal culture for the crowd, And all things great; but we, unworthier, told Of college: he had climbed across the spikes, And he had squeezed himself betwixt the bars, And he had breathed the Proctor's dogs; and one Discussed his tutor, rough to common men, But honeying at the whisper of a lord; And one the Master, as a rogue in grain Veneered with sanctimonious theory.
But while they talked, above their heads I saw The feudal warrior lady-clad; which brought My book to mind: and opening this I read Of old Sir Ralph a page or two that rang With tilt and tourney; then the tale of her That drove her foes with slaughter from her walls, And much I praised her nobleness, and 'Where,' Asked Walter, patting Lilia's head (she lay Beside him) 'lives there such a woman now?' Quick answered Lilia 'There are thousands now Such women, but convention beats them down: It is but bringing up; no more than that: You men have done it: how I hate you all! Ah, were I something great! I wish I were Some might poetess, I would shame you then, That love to keep us children! O I wish That I were some great princess, I would build Far off from men a college like a man's, And I would teach them all that men are taught; We are twice as quick!' And here she shook aside The hand that played the patron with her curls.
And one said smiling 'Pretty were the sight If our old halls could change their sex, and flaunt With prudes for proctors, dowagers for deans, And sweet girl-graduates in their golden hair.
I think they should not wear our rusty gowns, But move as rich as Emperor-moths, or Ralph Who shines so in the corner; yet I fear, If there were many Lilias in the brood, However deep you might embower the nest, Some boy would spy it.
' At this upon the sward She tapt her tiny silken-sandaled foot: 'That's your light way; but I would make it death For any male thing but to peep at us.
' Petulant she spoke, and at herself she laughed; A rosebud set with little wilful thorns, And sweet as English air could make her, she: But Walter hailed a score of names upon her, And 'petty Ogress', and 'ungrateful Puss', And swore he longed at college, only longed, All else was well, for she-society.
They boated and they cricketed; they talked At wine, in clubs, of art, of politics; They lost their weeks; they vext the souls of deans; They rode; they betted; made a hundred friends, And caught the blossom of the flying terms, But missed the mignonette of Vivian-place, The little hearth-flower Lilia.
Thus he spoke, Part banter, part affection.
'True,' she said, 'We doubt not that.
O yes, you missed us much.
I'll stake my ruby ring upon it you did.
' She held it out; and as a parrot turns Up through gilt wires a crafty loving eye, And takes a lady's finger with all care, And bites it for true heart and not for harm, So he with Lilia's.
Daintily she shrieked And wrung it.
'Doubt my word again!' he said.
'Come, listen! here is proof that you were missed: We seven stayed at Christmas up to read; And there we took one tutor as to read: The hard-grained Muses of the cube and square Were out of season: never man, I think, So mouldered in a sinecure as he: For while our cloisters echoed frosty feet, And our long walks were stript as bare as brooms, We did but talk you over, pledge you all In wassail; often, like as many girls-- Sick for the hollies and the yews of home-- As many little trifling Lilias--played Charades and riddles as at Christmas here, And ~what's my thought~ and ~when~ and ~where~ and ~how~, As here at Christmas.
' She remembered that: A pleasant game, she thought: she liked it more Than magic music, forfeits, all the rest.
But these--what kind of tales did men tell men, She wondered, by themselves? A half-disdain Perched on the pouted blossom of her lips: And Walter nodded at me; '~He~ began, The rest would follow, each in turn; and so We forged a sevenfold story.
Kind? what kind? Chimeras, crotchets, Christmas solecisms, Seven-headed monsters only made to kill Time by the fire in winter.
' 'Kill him now, The tyrant! kill him in the summer too,' Said Lilia; 'Why not now?' the maiden Aunt.
'Why not a summer's as a winter's tale? A tale for summer as befits the time, And something it should be to suit the place, Heroic, for a hero lies beneath, Grave, solemn!' Walter warped his mouth at this To something so mock-solemn, that I laughed And Lilia woke with sudden-thrilling mirth An echo like a ghostly woodpecker, Hid in the ruins; till the maiden Aunt (A little sense of wrong had touched her face With colour) turned to me with 'As you will; Heroic if you will, or what you will, Or be yourself you hero if you will.
' 'Take Lilia, then, for heroine' clamoured he, 'And make her some great Princess, six feet high, Grand, epic, homicidal; and be you The Prince to win her!' 'Then follow me, the Prince,' I answered, 'each be hero in his turn! Seven and yet one, like shadows in a dream.
-- Heroic seems our Princess as required-- But something made to suit with Time and place, A Gothic ruin and a Grecian house, A talk of college and of ladies' rights, A feudal knight in silken masquerade, And, yonder, shrieks and strange experiments For which the good Sir Ralph had burnt them all-- This ~were~ a medley! we should have him back Who told the "Winter's tale" to do it for us.
No matter: we will say whatever comes.
And let the ladies sing us, if they will, From time to time, some ballad or a song To give us breathing-space.
' So I began, And the rest followed: and the women sang Between the rougher voices of the men, Like linnets in the pauses of the wind: And here I give the story and the songs.


A Song of the Pen

Email Poem - A Song of the PenEmail Poem |

 Not for the love of women toil we, we of the craft, 
Not for the people's praise; 
Only because our goddess made us her own and laughed, 
Claiming us all our days, 
Claiming our best endeavour -- body and heart and brain 
Given with no reserve -- 
Niggard is she towards us, granting us little gain: 
Still, we are proud to serve.
Not unto us is given choice of the tasks we try, Gathering grain or chaff; One of her favoured servants toils at an epic high, One, that a child may laugh.
Yet if we serve her truly in our appointed place, Freely she doth accord Unto her faithful servants always this saving grace, Work is its own reward!


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