A Letter, Late at Night

Old Goldenheart, the dearest of old dears ...
(Oldening thee by affection, not by years)
A word with thee,
A word that would like to be
As spacious and as free
As this December night of naked sky
Where one man lays his hand on other, to cry
" I love thee, love thee, O thou blest old fool! "
Well-mingled spirit, rich with the savoury earth
Of humour; poet, jester of fecund mirth
So masterfully simple that it shows
No minim speck of sham, pretence, or pose —
So lit and winged with antic mimicry
That conies of the upper cults, or casuals of the press
Are scarcely competent to guess
Behind that gusty offhand ribaldry
The full control and pressure of great art —
Satire so waggishly disguised
Its victims would have been surprised
To know themselves were being satirized —
Satire that loved them even while it skinned them,
And chloroformed them first, before it pinned them. ...

Old Goldenheart! A reverent doubtful spirit
And opal-minded, where an inward red
Burns in the milk and moonlight of the gem —
Humble and defiant, as all men are,
(Falling, as we do, from star to star),
Droll tragedian, lip pouted to consider
Life's technicals, so crooked and so slidder,
With such strange prizes for the highest bidder —
Old curly cherub, with the poker face, not always shaven,
But with such prankish pensiveness engraven,
You, in an age when almost everyone is clever
Never declined — No, never —
Into the easy triumphs of the smart,
Old Goldenheart.

So now, my dear, your hand. ...
This is queer comfort; but you'll understand.
Now, in her weaving as it moves and shifts
Life slogs you the most terrible of her gifts;
And Chance, the wanton slattern,
In her bright deadly pattern, strange design,
(Spinning a greater artist, it may be)
Slashes her cruellest vivid twine,
The changeful silk of needless tragedy.
And we can guess
How one who laboured patiently and sore
Building up his honourable store
Of happiness and refuge, secret peace,
Then sees it crash about him — how once more
The old intolerable loneliness
Darkens round him again; and he is tired, tired,
And everything is barren that he desired.
For, when the great clutch of Life takes us by the nape
Forcing us to our knees
There is no ease and no escape
Save in that terrible noble loneliness
Where man may fully, unshamefully confess
His miserable stress.
So, some day, with us all:
Then, even in the numbness, dizziness,
Going about our estranged pitiful busyness
The disciplined grin, the tittles of the day
Are suddenly poised on blackness, unbelief,
And we turn eyes away from small familiar things,
Their thousand little stings.
Yet this you shall recall —
We others, too,
Require your comfort, strength more than our own
That comes to us from you: since he alone
Can comfort, who himself has known
Horror and sickening ironies and pain.
Your honour, annealed in fire,
We also may require.

And all, all poets who have gone before
Are surely your brothers now.
Why I can see Chaucer coming in at the door,
I can see just how
He'd greet you, and the darling twinkled way
He'd say some trivial casual tendermost thing
As he, he only, could
(Something not all would relish; but you would)
And others who understood —
Sam Clemens, Goldsmith, Lamb ... or even Swift.
My dear old fellow, will
You remember than Dan Chaucer loves you still?
Life, Goldenheart, my old,
Is a tale that is told,
But only told in part. A dream once came to me
Of a grassy headland by the sea
And a lonely shuttered house, shaken with wind:
A house most strangely wistful, locked, deserted,
Yet, I firmly knew, could I win inside
There would be consolations long denied;
But every time I tried
To approach those blistered windows, fierce concerted
Apparitions, faces not quite human, grinned
And mocked and peeped round corners. Blusters of wind
Banged and clapped. There were fearful cries
Disgusting to the soul, and shrieks of glee.
I cursed and went.
Yet ... there's a sour pride
In knowing Life must play such idiot pranks
Hoping to terrorize.

Ah, Goldenheart, I think that those inherit
The bitter coronal, who can most finely wear it:
Shuddering and abased,
But not disgraced;
Proud, proud to have outfaced
The champion stroke, the merciless dirty wit
Of the Player Opposite.
And honour, wine and sunlight yet remain,
Clean wind and washing rain,
And that gigantic mirth that men so need,
And loneliness indeed,
Loneliness, which I rate high,
And the love of friends,
And by and by
Silence, the end of ends.
Rate this poem: 


No reviews yet.