The Saltyre

The Saltyre

Stay , though to bid you stay I have no claim
Here , now , we meet ;
The upward climb
Will bring us out of sight
But more with time .
Sweet soul , once seen , now ever my lost mate ,
Our sudden joy deserved a world of light ,
No tomb .

Here at the intersection of our ways
In silence pause :
Master most wise
That I may rightly see
Grant me pure eyes :
Grant me this passing hour to hold in poise
What might have been , was not , and will not be ;
What is .

9 December 1952

The Revenant

The Revenant

The scarlet roses quiver in the wind :
See how they wanton it! They nod , they sway —
Rose of the world , would that my soul had sinned
In thinking you as fair and false as they .

So silken-soft , so delicate , so sweet ,
Rose of the world , my rose without a thorn!
Your soul black-spotted , cankered with deceit
Unfittingly to that fair shape was born .

Spread no silk petals to bewitch my gaze ,
Think not to drowse my soul in scented bliss :
Rose of the world , I come not now to praise ,
Not now to scorn all heaven for a kiss —

In mercy with this message am I sent :
‘Rose of the world , the winter comes : repent .’

22 September 1952

[On the reverse of The Widower’s Friend You mourn her now ? My fate is no less hard]

The Widower’s Friend

The Widower’s Friend

You mourn her now ? My fate is no less hard :
I learned to love in silence . I stood by
For you — and from her love , as may I die ,
By loyalty to you alone was barred .
The Queen of Hearts next to a common card
By chance might in a game of patience lie —
What , do I startle you ? I loved her , I ,
With all the longing of my heart ill-starred .

I strained my wit and strength that she should care
For you , for you : to seventy times seven
Forgave your selfish passion ; but her rare
Half-pitying friendliness was all my heaven —
And hell , too , for my loyalty confessed
I played the traitor when I loved her best .

The Truant

The Truant

A sweet sin was it long ago I sinned —
My heart roved truant from my native shire :
I heard the poplars rustle in the wind
And dreamed of waves that beat upon a shore .

Now in the weeds I sway for ever more ;
My bones in that green shroud are closely wound :
I hear the unquiet sea upon the shore ,
And dream of trees that rustle in the wind .

14th September 1952

[On the same sheet as Not when the sunlit blue of summer seas ]

The Dark Tower

The Dark Tower

My lady , Roland will not come today :
Turn from your turret window — gaze no more
Down through the twilight to that path unknown
Winding from nameless woods of doubt and dread :
Thin on the wind your prayer for him is blown
To those dim regions where his soul is fled :
Believe his body stretched where the salt spray
Showers mournfully along some rocky shore ;
His hair is matted now , his lips are grey —
Fling yourself headlong on the ice-cold floor ,
Sweep with your silken hair the dusty stone .
Press close to chill the fever of your head :
You are alone . I say , you are alone ;
The twisted staircase echoes not his tread .
Only the wind that bears your prayer away
Rattles the latchet of your chamber door .

My lady , hoofbeats thunder on the road —
Roland is dead — now nearer, and now here :
Mailed feet ring on the cobbles — he is dead ,
Roland is dead — they clatter on the stair ,
The latchet moves — and Roland’s ams are spread
To gather up a fainting , precious load :
“I have braved fire and flood for you , most dear ,
For you fought griffin , whale and unicorn —
Nay , cheerly , sweeting , weep not — I have bled
To reach a dark tower and to find you there :
Dear love , I see no cause for tears , ” he said .

11th September 1952

The Interlune

The Interlune

Rising from sable clouds the moon
More sweetly can beguile ;
By night your beauty cast aside her veil ,
Most sweetly mine :
For I by loving sought your love to gain ,
Importunate as any nightingale ,
Nor loved in vain .

By you I steered my midnight heart ,
Nor feared my course to lose ,
Nor like a lake-borne truant , to capsize
At an owl’s hoot :
No idle terror could obscure your light ;
Which soon the grim fog that still brooding lies
Blotted from sight .

I wear away the interlune ,
Secure , as one who goes
Surefooted on his dark accustomed ways ,
Bravely alone :
Ever in hope to see you rise again
Yet lovelier , yet brighter to my gaze ,
No more to wane .

3rd September 1952

There was a man who feared his death

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There was a man who feared his death
Who nursed each moment as his last ,
Who breathed but to begrudge each breath ,
And passed life mourning that life passed .

Love stormed his heart and cast out fear :
Wild with the ecstasy of life
He snatched at joy : within a year
Death chose to rob him of his wife .

Clutching what fragile hope remained ,
He made their newborn son his joy :
Before the seventh summer waned ,
Death chose to rob him of the boy .

He cursed the powers of heaven and earth ,
Beyond , men feared , his own forgiving :
Then , moved by a satanic mirth ,
He set himself to save the living .

His thought was not to purchase fame ;
Yet some their benefactor guessed :
In ward and theatre his name
Whispered by all , by all was blest .

He felt his bitter humour fade ,
As long years came and long years passed :
His loveless gifts , in anger made ,
Achieved true charity at last .

The more he learned to value man
Death still the less would he forgive ,
And steadily the hourglass ran
Till he had but one hour to live .
second page
Friends begged him to repent his pride ,
Take God’s love and be reconciled :
“God is not loving , ” he replied
What love was shown my wife and child ? ”

Repulsed , they knelt , and mercy prayed
That God his sinful soul might show :
While he , resentful of their aid ,
Prepared to face his mortal foe .

But as he tossed upon the bed ,
A boy came softly to his side :
“Sir , you have far to go , ” he said ,
“And I am sent to be your guide . ”

All wrongs forgotten , he again
Saw what he most desired to see :
He followed , and the path lay plain
To lead him where he longed to be .

The watchers saw no envoy come ,
But sighed to see their friend depart :
Some said , “He had no faith ,” and some
“Yet he was great of heart .”

27th May 1952

The Vow

The Vow

Daybreak , and all the world to claim ,
Young body confident of fame ,
A merry heart , a fair game ,
And a vow made , beloved .

Noon , and the world to keep at bay ,
Strong mind inured to strength’s decay ,
A stubborn heart , a losing day ,
And a vow strained , beloved .

Night , and the world’s attack complete ,
Exhausted soul in planned retreat ,
A wise heart , a proud defeat ,
And a vow kept , beloved .

7th January 1952

The Wreath

The Wreath

Summer , be silent for one hour
That I may mourn :
Where in your joyous stir
May I find words to weave a wreath for her
Who comes no more ?

There is a numbness of the heart
Beyond such words :
Though all your joys concert
They are not skilled to salve or tent the hurt
As once they were .

Words of regret , like a sweet air
In dreaming heard ,
That half-remembered here
Falsifies echo , mocks the waking ear ,
I weave for her .

No joy may lure the heart from care ,
No beauty storm:
Silence alone and sure
May quicken grief , release sweet words for cure ,
The dream restore .

[Undated; but by writing and pen it may belong in 1951]

The Rivals

The Rivals

Now there is silence and the moon hangs low ,
Walk with me down the hill :
The words you carved nine years and more ago
Deface that elmtree still .

I love my love till death ; but you did not ,
You left her in your spite :
The love you drove to madness and forgot
Died seven years tonight .

The moon hung very low the night she died ,
It glinted on my knife :
I swore then , if I took you by my side
To have your life .

Lie there , till morning draw the moon away
And neighbours catch their breath :
My hanging body shall attest by day
I loved my love till death .

Received 24 September 1951