Lilies in the Fire


Ah, you stack of white lilies, all white and gold!
I am adrift as a moonbeam, and without form
Or substance, save I light on you to warm
Your pallor into radiance, flush your cold

White petals incandescent: so that you
Are not a stack of white lilies now, but a white
And clustered star called down to me to night,
Lighting these autumn leaves like a star dropped through

The slender bare arms of the branches, your tire-maidens
Who lift swart arms to fend me off; but I come
Upon you as an autumn wind on some
Stray whitebeam, and her white fire all unladens.

So now you're a glistening toadstool shining here
Among the crumpled beech-leaves, phosphorescent,
My stack of lilies once white incandescent,
My fallen star among the leaves, my dear!


Is it with pain, my dear, that you shudder so?
Is it because I hurt you with pain, my dear?

Did I shiver? Nay, truly I do not know.
Some dewdrop maybe splashed my face down here.

Why even now you speak through close-shut teeth.
Was this too much for you?

Nay, dear, be still!
The earth perhaps is chilly underneath
The leaves — and, dear, you have had your will.

You hold yourself all hard, as if my kisses
Hurt as I gave them; you put me away —

Nay, never, I put you away: yet each kiss hisses
Like soft hot ashes on my helpless clay.


I am ashamed, you wanted me not to-night
And it is always so, you sigh against me.
Your brightness dims when I draw too near, and my free
Fire enters you like frost, like a cruel blight.

And now I know, so I must be ashamed;
You love me while I hover tenderly
Like moonbeams kissing you; but the body of me
Closing upon you in the lightning-flamed

Moment, destroys you, you are just destroyed.
Humiliation deep to me, that all my best
Soul's naked lightning, which should sure attest
God stepping through our loins in one bright stride

Means but to you a burden of dead flesh
Heavy to bear, even heavy to uprear
Again from earth, like lilies flagged and sere
Upon the floor, that erst stood up so fresh.
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