Sestina on autumn

two pages

Sestina on autumn
Now the leaves fade and fall , speak not of dying :
Only in spring that thought befits the soul ,
When life flowers , and sweet birds embowered in music
Teach us to value joys that must depart :
While beauty fades , think not of death but judgment :
Harvest is done ; now comes the waiting time .

Pray then , dear love , how best to use this time ,
Too brief to waste in idle thoughts of dying ,
To store the winnowed harvest of the soul
For one year more , and sing to the wind’s music ,
Hoping to see yet one more spring depart ,
Yet one more spring , before we come to judgment .

What have we stored against the day of judgment ?
Be sure , however much we made of time ,
Hours will rebuke us when we come to dying :
Black hours that crabbed or atrophied the soul ,
Hours without rhythm , deaf to any music ,
Black hours , though pardoned , that may not depart .

With life alone these stiff rebukes depart :
Pardon , redemption , cannot temper judgment .
Yet though our sins stood judged before all time ,
Though hell were only our desert in dying ,
Rest we secure of mercy to the soul ,
That noble mercy of enduring music .

Faintly and far away we hear that music ,
By snatches and with echoes that depart
Before the ear can bring their tone to judgment :
Earth moves to music while the seas keep time ,
Stars in their courses mock your thought of dying ,
Who know the destined music of each soul .

When each of us has well attuned his soul , 

Learnt faultlessly his burden in the music ,
And stands perfected , ready to depart ,
His garners filled with harvest ripe for judgment ,
There will be time enough , there will be time
To mourn the yellow leaves and speak of dying .

Pray then that dying penitent of soul
We to that music may in peace depart
Leaving our judgment in the hands of time .

27 September 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]

Sure of thy love, my heart is free

Sure of thy love, my heart is free
To roam in ways unknown to thee
Directing all his power to guess
Another’s grief or happiness ,
Striving through other eyes to see
This dream we call reality :
Thy heart at home keeps house for me —
I could not venture , were I less
Sure of thy love .

When , wearied by variety ,
My heart fares home in peace to be ,
My sweetest task is to express
The beauty of thy mortal dress :
I brave change and eternity ,
Sure of thy love .

20th September 1952

Green willow , drooping to caress the stream

Green willow , drooping to caress the stream ,
Shade me within the curtain of your hair ,
Let me for one sweet hour ,
Secure , unhurried as a dream ,
Moor here .

Green willow , when I last sought refuge here ,
Not then alone , I knew the joy of love :
Forbidden long to live ,
My joy , with her I held most dear ,
Took leave .

Green willow, soon I too must take my leave ,
Never too soon that day , come when it will :
To you , and lovers all
Who seek your shade to laugh or grieve ,
Farewell .

15th September 1952

[ On same sheet as Lindabrides , lady of all delight ]

Lindabrides , lady of all delight

Lindabrides , lady of all delight ,
On tower and silken bower the shadows fall ;
I rein my steed beneath the castle wall —
Steal through the unlatched postern to your knight :
Fear not my foe your brother , lady bright ;
He drinks amid his henchmen in your hall —
My sword is no less keen , my men as tall :
Your love for him alone averts their might .

Though he has sworn to mate you with a knave ,
Denied your wishes , banished me your sight ,
You grace him with your love : why , lady dear ,
At your sweet hands what mercy may I crave ?
I have outsworn Sir Knave the Bridegroom’s right ,
Condoned your every wish : and I am here .

15th September 1952

[On the same sheet as Green willow , drooping to caress the stream ]

I dreamt you lay in a green lime-tree’s shade


I dreamt you lay in a green lime-tree’s shade
And heard an old tune playing : gentle , wise ,
You listened with a smile — when memory dies
This dream with love and life itself shall fade :
Would it were dream that you are softly laid
Beneath that lime-tree now , and may not rise
To welcome me with laughter in your eyes
As once you did .
The unseen minstrels played
( Mocking my faint heart even in the dream )
My Lady Greensleeves : doubting love , I sought
To seal my heart from echoes of the song ,
( Which now too late has mastered me ) ; to seem
Aloof and fancy-free : for so , I thought ,
I could forget to love you . I was wrong .

14th September 1952

[On the same sheet as When grief is weary and white flowers droop on your grave ]

When grief is weary and white flowers droop on your grave

When grief is weary and white flowers droop on your grave ,
When the moon has waned and wan is the world of men ,
Though I give to despair what strength to delight I gave
Desire of my life , dear love , how shall I mourn you then ?
White is the moon , merry this world of men .
With joy unwearied I braid white flowers for your brow ;
Live , for delight must wane and we know not when —
Desire of my life , dear love , how shall I mourn you now ?
High is the moon — ah , never teach me the how !
A swan sings one sweet day and dies in his song :
Whenever it be that I at your graveside bow ,
Desire of my life , dear love , I shall not mourn you long —
One song , and I follow your step across the bourn :
Desire of my life , dear love , believe me I shall not mourn .

14th September 1952

[ On the same sheet as Greensleeves ]

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 ]

Not when the sun-lit blue of summer seas

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 ]

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