Now , even now , while conscious of some betrayal
You pause , the malicious word half-spoken ,
He where he lies in torment takes new breath ;
You shrug and gossip on , a weak vow broken ;
Fresh pain assails him ; now he moans , half-conscious ,
Cockcrow comes hard upon the third denial :
In the grey light , as the sullen tide sets seaward ,
His little strength ebbs slowly to his death .
You in the sunlight , you in the happy garden ,
You strong and young , with young friends at your will
Remember him you have blinded and made dumb ;
His cup of life was yours to save or spill ;
You have tossed his blood on the grass as you sat in sunlight .
Leave all and fly to him , take back your burden ,
Rescue him now , even now , as the tide sets seaward ,
He is your soul , he is your life to come .
21 June 1954
Now spare her sweet body , ye minions of darkness ,
Ye hell-hounds that batter the gate of her ear ;
Her soul stands impregnable , ram ye till doomsday ,
Withdraw from the ramparts , make war on me here .
Come , march in your millions , beleaguer my body ,
With pikes and with pitchforks beriddle my brain ;
My sleep be your plunder , that she lie not sleepless —
I sleepless already now welcome your pain .
In vain , for she suffers , I powerless to aid her ;
Hell mocks at my fury , my impotent grief :
The Lord by whose licence the tempter makes trial ,
Now limit his triumph , and grant her relief .
Finished 2 April 1954
Now midnight is striking ,
Now mid-earth is sleeping ‘
My loving and liking
Towards you are creeping —
My thoughts to you thronging
’Twixt sleeping and waking
With liking and longing ,
Too strong for mistaking :
Their prison unlocking ,
My wishes go speeding
Where you to their knocking
Lie deaf and unheeding ,
Where you softly sleeping
While darkness is reigning
Secure in God’s keeping
Lie sealed from their plaining :
Be deaf , be unseeing !
No gift of your giving
But merely your being :
Rejoices my living :
Unworthy your friending
This heart ever aching ,
These thoughts to you tending
’Twixt sleeping and waking :
God grant me deserving
If loving and liking
Towards me are swerving
Now midnight is striking .
15 November 1953 .
Not when the sun-lit blue of summer seas
Laps softly white against the golden sand ,
When fluffy clouds drift gently in the breeze
And the fierce sun glares in the blueness over the land ,
When tanned young swimmers laze by the lazy deep ,
With soft warm sand for a pillow as they sleep —
But when the white unbridled horses shake
Their manes of foam , and leap in the grey-green sea
When grating rollers wild on the pebbles break
And the black sky thunders warning of storms to be ,
When men in oilskins struggle with wind and wave ,
In peril launching , loved souls in peril to save ,
Praise we most fully Him who all things made
Whose voice these men , as once the storm , obeyed .
14th September 1952
[On the same sheet as The Truant A sweet sin was it long ago I sinned ]
Now in this twilight of the drifting snow
Draw close the curtain , kneel beside the fire :
Here is the end of dreaming and desire ,
Here , where the hours come softly , softly go
With formal courtesy , austere and slow ;
Heavy , relentless , murderously fine
The snow pursues an exquisite design
To break the bough and crush the cradle low .
Softly the snow falls , softly pass the hours ,
Softly the shroud enfolds a frozen guest ;
With gentle hands time waits to overthrow
Dominions , principalities and powers ;
Death seeks our kingdom : there is endless rest
Here in the twilight of the drifting snow .
Undated, but the writing and pen suggest not late in 1951
My dearest heart ,
Before fate intervene
Rise and depart .
Better that love should fade
When fortunes fall :
What you cannot evade
At least forestall .
Love meet you on your way
Grief to remove :
I would not have you stay
Faithless to prove .
Yet if you choose to dare
What must ensue ,
My heart is in your care ,
Dear love , be true .
17th Oct. 1951 .
(there are 4 poems on this folded sheet)
Never more by kiss nor sigh
Wind may rouse the drooping rose;
Cares consume all things that lovely seem
When first they rise;
Fade the flowers in valley dry
Where no more the fountain flows;
Sweet my love, forget the dream
As it flies.
Never more on river slow
As it shone the moon may shine;
Softly slip the hours of dreamless sleep,
No care now shown;
Frozen now each mortal woe,
Silent every grief malign
Sweet my love, no longer weep,
Never more the sun may see
How in grace the laurel grows,
Tree that satisfied immortal sight
Long since in Greece;
Swift with dawn the joy must flee,
Vain the force that would oppose;
Sweet my love, forgive its flight,
Sleep in peace.
Undated. This was folded in with the ‘Two for Diana’, and also with Icarus, all packed quite flat. The writing and ink match, but they are left as juvenilia. The second verse here is the first piece I read using variations on a few consonantal sounds. I don’t think she claimed anything from my good opinion of these juvenilia, unless that she had a few years’ experience; but I remember she had some respect for Icarus as a sustained narrative presenting the myth accurately. Neither my knowledge nor my taste gave me any grounds to criticize.
first of four pages
and saw below
The city like a patchwork counterpane
Patterned with with squares of faded green and grey
With silver ribbons twining to and fro,
And fine black lines drawn criss cross every way,
Flashed with the rich brocade of autumn leaf,
A dash of gold, a glowing crimson stain,
Copper and burnished bronze in bright array.
Icarus walked alone where laurels grow:
Alone he whispered to the wind his grief
Where in walled garden at the close of day
He traced the formal paths with footstep slow.
“Here in this quiet garden, where the sun
Seeks laurelled sanctuary, time is a dream —
A drowsy shadow on the antique dial
A chime of bells upon the wind at dusk,
The horses of Apollo pace the sky
Unguided, while their master lingers here,
Resting his golden lyre on russet leaves ,
Dreaming of spring when Hyacinth shall rise
In joy, forgetful of the fatal disc ,
With sunlight to caress his curling hair.
What joy in spring, when Daphne is not mine !
Glorious Apollo , shine upon our love.
No other man would do what I have done :
Pygmalion by longing breathed the life
Into that perfect body he had made ;
But I have shamed the moon and mocked the sun ,
The winds are hushed , and all the stars afraid :
I have commanded beauty to my side
To frame the perfect spirit of my wife ,
And now would see that soul in flesh arrayed,
All earth’s perfection met at last in one —
Daphne , whose mortal body never died ,
Daphne , whose timeless beauty cannot fade
Though all the world to swift destruction run .
second of four pages
Come then , my love , more lovely than the dawn
More bright than summer noon , more chaste than eve ,
Come where I wait in reverence and fear :
Spirit of beauty from all beauty drawn
Now in the likeness of one nymph appear :
Sweet Daphne , by Apollo loved and sung ,
For this fair grove his silent temple leave
This garden to the woodland gods is dear ;
The shaggy satyr and the laughing fawn
Danced here by moonlight when the world was young .
Here grows my tree , the sycamore , and here
Immortal laurels shade the leafy lawn .
Softly she came as stars shine out in heaven :
The leaves forgot to rustle at her feet ,
And lightly round her swept her drifting robe :
Her face was lovely beyond mortal ken ,
But pale as moonlight on a waste of snow :
The wisdom of the wind was on her lips ,
And in her eyes the sorrow of the sea :
Her hair was braided smooth as polished stone ,
Crowned with a laurel wreath , and fair as corn :
Her voice was gentle as the wave that laps
Forever lonely on a barren coast ,
And tranquil as the thought of one long dead .
‘Proud Icarus , the gods have heard your cry :
Behold all beauty of the world in me ;
Yet now , too late , your ardent will restrain .
In love and music you have soared too high
Eager for more than mortals may attain ,
Presumptuous rival of my lord the sun .
Look round you now , and with fresh longing see
This world of beauty you have loved in vain —
Kneel and adore the mistress of the sky :
Your prayer is granted , and your life is done .
For you the moon shall never rise again ,
Before tomorrow noon prepare to die .’
third of four pages
As one who lingers through the summer night
Alone while mortals sleep , to mourn awake ,
Rise at the dawn and fly without a sound :
Evade the the gentle vigilance of time ,
Resolve perplexity, illumine doubt :
The body in this world too long a guest
Comes home to sleep at last in quiet grave
Never to wander more from that dear house :
From chilly drapery and marble tomb
Gay and ungoverned glides the living ghost :
My love clings round you like a sodden shroud
Cast it away, my darling , and arise . . . .
… By lamplight he surveyed the tiny room ,
His papers tossed haphazard , and his books
Crowding the walls and stacked along the floor ;
His corner cupboard glinting through the gloom
With tins and bottles of his household store ;
His battered kettle waiting on the hob ;
His cups neat ranged on their familiar hooks ;
His blazer and long gown behind the door .
So reassured , he half forgot his doom ,
His heart and pulse resumed their steady throb :
Much he had dreamed , perhaps imagined more —
He laughed , and sketched inscriptions for his tomb .
‘Hic jacet Icarus — here lies a fool
Who roused the sleeping gods , or dreamed he did ,
And stole his mistress from the tyrant sun :
Proud wayfarer , behold his lonely tomb .
Those the gods love die young , as he was young
And whom the gods would kill , they first make mad .’
Or better — ‘All my strength is come to this :
Stranger, remember that I died for love .’
This idle project pleased him for a time :
Till chimes recalled him to a graver mood .
last of four pages
Where softly on the garden shone the moon . . .
. . . I have not been content with chiselled verse ,
Smooth and unlovely as a whittled branch ,
Brittle and slender as a whitened bone :
I have not been content with splendid words ,
Blazing like jewels on a threadbare coat
Gleaming like goldfish through a muddy pool :
But I have made a garden walled with glass
Where all may see how rich my roses grow :
My friends , my captives and my lovely wards —
Grand names , strange echoes , and abstractions pale —
There in bright mansions find a gracious home
Attended as their quality deserves . . .
How many trifles could have won me fame !
I might have used a silken brush to tint
Delicate miniatures on ivory ;
Or daubed a slapdash scene in posterpaint :
Turned it askew and termed it ‘Liberty’:
I might have pencilled flowers on album leaves ,
Cartooned my enemies in pen and ink ,
Constructed figures by geometry
To pass in measured lines from point to point :
I chose to mirror beauty as it lives ,
The brave quintessence of reality
Distilled by lovers from all time and space .
I chose to live a subtle alchemist ,
Patiently seeking what the gods withold ,
My heart the limbeck , my desire the flame :
From my strong will I sought the alcahest
My laurel from cold ashes to reclaim :
The metal of base passions I refined —
I found the elixir, I drank the gold :
Eternal youth was mine , and lasting fame ,
My talisman was still the amethyst —
That hard crystàlline radiance of the mind —
In secret symbols I engraved my name ,
The true philosopher and moralist . . .
I will bring you gold:
(Regina, peccavi: me miserum.)
Autumn leaves in the sunlight,
A rustling golden carpet for your feet.
I will bring you frankincense:
(Sacerdos, peccavi: me miserum)
The blue-gray scent of lavender
Clinging in careless fragrance to your hair.
I will bring you myrrh:
(Victima, peccavi: me miserum)
A sorrow bitter and unforgiving,
A sword of sharp desire to pierce your heart.