From the Masque


Your anger charms me,
and yet all the time
I think of chaste, slight hands,
veined snow;
snow craters filled
with first wild-flowerlets;
glow of ice-gentian,
whitest violet;
snow craters
and the ice ridge
spilling light;
dawn and the lover
chaste dawn leaves bereft —
I think of these
and snow-cooled Phrygian wine.

Your anger charms me subtly
and I know
that you would take
the still hands
where I'd rest;
you would despoil
for very joy of theft;
list, lady,
I would give you one last hint:
quench your red mouth
in some cold forest lake,
cover your russet locks
with arum leaf,
quench out the colour,
still the fevered glance,
cover your want,
your fire insatiate,
I can not match your fervour,
nay, nor still my ache
with any
but white hands inviolate


Take the red spoil
of grape and pomegranate,
the red camellia,
the most, most red rose;
take all the garden spills,
prodigal spender
just as summer goes,
the red scales of the deep in-folded spice,
the Indian, Persian and the Syrian pink,
their scent undaunted
even in that faint,
unmistakable fragrance
of the late tuberose,
(heavy its petals,
eye-lids of dark eyes
that open languorous
and more languorous close — the east,
further than scent
of our wind-smitten isle,)
take these:
O lady, take them,
I cull and offer this and this and these
last definite whorls
of clustered peonies,
the last, the first
that stained our stainless ledge
of blue and white
and the white foam of sea,
and that strait ledge
whiter than the rock
the Parians break
from their enchanted hill;
take, lady,
but leave me with my weed and shell
and those slight, hovering gull-wings that recall
silver of far Hymettus' asphodel


Take all
for you have taken everything,
but do not let me see you taking this;
Adonis lying spent with Venus' care,
Adonis dying were a lesser ache
than this,
to have even your slightest breath
breathe in the crystal air
where he takes breath.

Take all
for you have taken everything,
save the broad ledge of sea
which no man takes,
take all
for you have taken mirth and ease
and all the small delights
of simple poets,
the lilt of rhyme,
the sway and lift and fall,
the first spring gold
your fire has scorched to ash,
the fresh winds
that go halt
where you have passed,
the Tyrian iris
I so greatly loved,
its dark head speared
through its wet spray of leaves.

Take all,
but ah, lady, a fool, a poet
may even know when you have taken all:
up on the mountain slope
one last flower cleaves
to the wet marge of ice,
the blue of snow,
keep all your riot
in the swales below
of grape and autumn,
take all taking these,
for you and autumn yet
can not prevail
against that flame, that flower,
(ice, spark or jewel,)
the cyclamen,
parting its white cyclamen leaves


O, I am ill with dust
as you with stain,
O, I am worthless,
weary, world-bedraggled,
nevertheless to mountains
still the rain
falls on the tangle
of dead under-brush,
freshens the loam,
the earth and broken leaves
for that hoar-frost
of later star or flower,
the fragile host
of Greek anemones.

Say I am little meet
to call the youth,
say I have little magic
to enchant,
but is that reason
why your flaring will
should sweep and scorch,
should lap and seethe and fill
with last red flame
the tender ditch and runnel
which the spring freshet
soon must fill again?

White violets
have no place
on your hot brow;
how can I bring you
what the spring must bring?
what can I offer?
lush and heady mallow?
the fire-grass
or the serpent-spotted
O take them,
for I stand a ruinous cloud
between you
and the chaste uplifted hill

O take them swiftly
and more swiftly go,
for spring is distant yet,
for spring is far;
you have your tense, short space
of blazing sun,
your melons, vines,
your terraces of fruit;
now all you have,
all, all I gladly give
who long but for the ridge,
the crest and hollow,
the lift and fall,
the reach and distant ledge
of the sun-smitten,
wind-indented snow
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