Isolation

Dark Magian, thou didst set me in this isle
Of my sole self, and with thine implacable wand
Draw round about the unnavigable deep
Of silence, where above no sea-birds sweep,
Nor any sail gleams, but for mile on mile
The fierce winds of desire
Hungrier than fire
Ravin, and sometimes far beyond
All reach of their violent pinions or my prayer
A god doth walk the waters as in sleep.
" Learn! " thou didst say, and left me, yet nowhere
Though eager to explore,
I have searched mine island o'er,
Climbed quickening to the heights, and in the caves
Shuddering have hid me, — nowhere have I found
The task writ forth — only the silent waves
With silence answer me,
Inexorably,
And voices without sound,
Shake out my folded dreams like banners borne to war.

Yet not entirely desolate do I dwell,
Ringed by the noiseless swell
Of that deep-bosomed vast that cradles Death;
The seasons meetly drest
Each in her wild-wood best
Do visit me
With punctual charity.
And all mine island glows,
With flowers or snows,
As to them seemeth well.
Spring with her blossomy breath,
Unseals mine eyelids from their iced tears.
" Wake! Come with me, " she saith;
" Thou art not yet the plaything of the years,
My playmate be
And I will comfort thee. "
Upon her bosom sweet with violets Love's head hath prest,
I stay me and so rest
A little while, then rise and follow — follow,
Swift as its shade the swallow,
Where'er she beckoneth.
Wise-foolish, fairy games we play together,
Striving to read the runes o' th' foam.
Or to track the lightning home
To this house of golden air.
Everywhere,
In every weather,
Spring and I go mad together!

Thus for a little while
With innocentest guile,
My sweeting lures me from my melancholy;
Child-angels may not play
In more devout a way
Nor with a holier folly.
Her to remain with me I supplicate
Alas, too late —
For at a wing-beat arrogant Summer swoops
And in her blazing tresses,
My Ariel May dissolves like a white moth
By Psyche cast upon Love's altar-flame.
June wearieth me;
Such primal, fierce maternity
Lurks in her sharp caresses;
So bright she stares almost as she were wroth,
Her gold look never droops —
Her breast smells warm of nectarines through her gown;
She hath no shame,
But suckles her bantling Autumn in the eye o' the Sun.
I will lay me softly down,
Upon her kirtle's hem, there to repose
Till Autumn be a goodly wight, well grown
And in his cap one dark, half-petalled rose,
Foretelling the wild blossoming of the snows.

Hark! I am roused by dithyrambic beat
Of scudding feet, —
Myriads that rush as one,
In sonorous monotone,
Down — down!
Bright from the vats they come,
Purpling the hills and waters where they pass;
No hamadryad lass
But dances home,
To tickling of her faun's ear on her cheek.
And me they mock at as they flitter by;
" Sullen, " they call me, " lovelorn " and " amort, "
Because I will not join their revelry.
One strikes me with a thyrsus on the lips
Crying " Evoi Dionyson! " and I cry
" Evoi Aidon! " and she runs from me.

How should I love the season of fair fruit
Whose boughs hang empty? Once in maiden sport
I took October by his auburn hair,
And kissed him lip to lip, saying " Now god! Speak! "
And I was full of glee
When all his prophecy
Was fame and fame and more fame unto me!
Alas! among my tree-of-life's dark leaves
One golden apple have I never found:
Such fruit as grew thereon
Dropped all too early bruised to the ground.
A windfall meet for Stepdame Circumstance.
The harvest-moon her golden goblet dips
Into the evening's wine — oh, not for me!
Who brings no sheaves
Only this broken lute.
Reaper and gleaner both have homeward gone;
I too must go, who have not any home,
Whose hands are empty and whose garners bare.

Come, holy Winter, and allay the smart
Of earth's perfervid heart;
Seal up her ardours in immaculate trance,
Give benison and rest
Unto that dark and ever troubled breast:
Redeemer sweet, who in one quiet night,
As any saved soul can make her white,
Come! and me too befriend.
My vesper orisons beneath the dome
Of thy Cathedral forest will I hold,
Where choiring winds their sad recessional
By Autumn's bier intone.
— With wild-weeds overblown,
His faded pall, how sorrowfully strown!
Yet Summer's cramoisie were all too bold
In exaltation of things temporal
For this lorn ritual.
Fairer the wan flowers in thy cloistered closes
Than any woodland glome
Flushed with the May.
So might heaven blossom when the children's angels
Bear them away
From tears, by Mary's side forevermore to stay.
And when for me tears also have an end,
May thy white petals only cover me,
Who was outworn with roses;
Thine icy posies
Death will adorn who'll then my lover be.

Lo, where thine Acolyte,
The young, pale night,
In chasuble of stars
Doth swing the frosted censer of the moon
Across the darkling bars
Of Day's confessional,
Shrive me, O High-priest, that hast care of men,
For if since sunrise I have little wrought,
I have wrought lovingly, and much destroyed
Unmeet for offering. Absolve me, then,
For I would listen to the pure evangels
Of Silence and of sleep with tranquil soul,
I must be wending soon.
Great-hearted Death will-bring my pain to nought.
I who with Life's too brackish sweet was cloyed,
Will from that beechen bowl
Drink and be whole.

I have woven my Winter house,
All of red-heart cedar boughs.
I have named it " Fortitude "
In a clear and solemn mood.
Out of Memory's drift-wood fragrant
Sweet as myrrh, I've built my fire.
All the wild winds of Desire
Fierce and vagrant,
May not pass the homely portal
Shelter of one sprite immortal.
Yet how with clangorous wings,
And wassailler's mutterings
The very lintel shakes: " O lonely fool,
Wilt be companioned by a broken lute
When Kings would house with thee?
Be learned — Confess our rule —
I am Lord Lust-of-Power who bid thee ope,
Art thou still mute?
My brother next to me
Is Lust-of-Gold. No mightier can there be
Save only our great sister Lust-of-Life
And her twin brother Strife.
Hast thou slain Hope,

And art about her burying within,
That thou don't fear to let us enter? Fool! "
I listen unperturbed. My little door
Whose latch I kissed when I did fasten it
Is mightier than all their mighty brood.
More strong than sin,
Being seasoned with fortitude.
Yet who is this that creeps along the floor,
Pale as a stricken child,
With great eyes wild,
And torn wings all unfit
For any flight?
" Thou piteous, poor wight,
Come warm thee by my fire and in my breast;
— Take food and rest.
For thou art here by holy mystery.
Tell me thy name. " Then did he answer me,
" I am Desire for dear Humanity. "
Whereafter being sweetly comforted,
And cherished on my all of wine and bread,
Upon my heart,
He leaned his wistful head,
And with my broken lute such music made
As only he hath art
To waken, who with Seraphim apart
Did kneel and sing when on the bitter Rood,
Man's mightiest Lover hung in lowlihood.

And I was half afraid,
So terrible the beauty of his eyes,
As they were lightenings from a heart on fire
So bright as blood his passionate melodies.
So pealed the whole world's anguish in his voice.
Yet to all airs these only words were set:
" I am Desire for dear Humanity. "

Dark Magian, who didst leave me in this isle
Of my sole self, nor gavest me any choice,
Nor clearly written scroll wherein to read,
Though sore my need, —
Spare me the terror of thy ruthless smile,
Be pitiful, lest somewise I forget
The only thing I have learned to offer thee,
Master of Mystery!
It is the triumphing music of desire
For dear Humanity.
Ah, if grown merciful thou wouldst unbind
And set me free,
If thy grim rod might blossom with the May
And through the deep of silence cleave a way,
And I go forth with singing to my kind!
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