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    James Elroy Flecker

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    The Old Ships

      I have seen old ships sail like swans asleep
      Beyond the village which men still call Tyre,
      With leaden age o'ercargoed, dipping deep
      For Famagusta and the hidden sun
      That rings black Cyprus with a lake of fire;
      And all those ships were certainly so old --
      Who knows how oft with squat and noisy gun,
      Questing brown slaves or Syrian oranges,
      The pirate Genoese
      Hell-raked them till they rolled
      Blood, water, fruit and corpses up the hold.
      But now through friendly seas they softly run,
      Painted the mid-sea blue or shore-sea green,
      Still patterned with the vine and grapes in gold.

      But I have seen,
      Pointing her shapely shadows from the dawn
      And image tumbled on a rose-swept bay,
      A drowsy ship of some yet older day;
      And, wonder's breath indrawn,
      Thought I -- who knows -- who knows -- but in that same
      (Fished up beyond Aeaea, patched up new
      -- Stern painted brighter blue --)
      That talkative, bald-headed seaman came
      (Twelve patient comrades sweating at the oar)
      From Troy's doom-crimson shore,
      And with great lies about his wooden horse
      Set the crew laughing, and forgot his course.

      It was so old a ship -- who knows, who knows?
      -- And yet so beautiful, I watched in vain
      To see the mast burst open with a rose,
      And the whole deck put on its leaves again.

    A Fragmant

      O puring westering streams
      Shouting that I have leapt the mountain bar,
      Down curve on curve my journey's white way gleams --
      My road along the river of return.

      I know the countries where the white moons burn,
      And heavy star on star
      Dips on the pale and crystal desert hills.
      I know the river of the sun that fills
      With founts of gold the lakes of Orient sky.

        .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

      And I have heard a voice of broken seas
      And from the cliffs a cry.
      Ah still they learn, those cave-eared Cyclades,
      The Triton's friendly or his fearful horn,
      And why the deep sea-bells but seldom chime,
      And how those waves with what spell-swept rhyme
      In years of morning, on a summer's morn
      Whispering round his castle on the coast,
      Lured young Achilles from his haunted sleep
      And drave him out to dive beyond those deep
      Dim purple windows of the empty swell,
      His ivory body flitting like a ghost
      Over the holes where flat blind fishes dwell,
      All to embrace his mother thronèd in her shell.


    (A Legend of the Aegean)

      ' Who are you, Sea Lady,
      And where in the seas are we?
      I have too long been steering
      By the flashes in your eyes.
      Why drops the moonlight through my heart,
      And why so quietly
      Go the great engines of my boat
      As if their souls were free? '
      ' Oh ask me not, bold sailor;
      Is not your ship a magic ship
      That sails without a sail:
      Are not these isles the Isles of Greece
      And dust upon the sea?
      But answer me three questions
      And give me answers three.
      What is your ship?' ' A British. '
      ' And where may Britain be? '
      ' Oh it lies north, dear lady;
      It is a small country. '
      ' Yet you will know my lover,
      Though you live far away:
      And you will whisper where he has gone,
      That lily boy to look upon
      And whiter than the spray. '
      ' How should I know your lover,
      Lady of the sea? '
      ' Alexander, Alexander,
      The King of the World was he. '
      ' Weep not for him, dear lady,
      But come aboard my ship.
      So many years ago he died,
      He's as dead as dead can be. '
      ' O base and brutal sailor
      To lie this lie to me.
      His mother was the foam-foot
      Star-sparkling Aphrodite;
      His father was Adonis
      Who lives away in Lebanon,
      In stony Lebanon, where blooms
      His red anemone.
      But where is Alexander,
      The soldier Alexander,
      My golden love of olden days
      The King of the world and me ? '

      She sank into the moonlight
      And the sea was only sea.


    A Ghazel

      How splendid in the morning grows the lily: with what grace he throws
      His supplication to the rose: do roses nod the head, Yasmin?

      But when the silver dove descends I find the little flower of friends
      Whose very name that sweetly ends I say when I have said, Yasmin.

      The morning light is clear and cold: I dare not in that light behold
      A whiter light, a deeper gold, a glory too far shed, Yasmin.

      But when the deep red light of day is level with the lone highway,
      And some to Meccah turn to pray, and I toward thy bed, Yasmin;

      Or when the wind beneath the moon in drifting like a soul aswoon,
      And harping planets talk love's tune with milky wings outspread, Yasmin,

      Shower down thy love, O burning bright! For one night or the other night,
      Will come the Gardener in white, and gathered flowers are dead, Yasmin.

    The Gates of Damascus

        Four great gates has the city of Damascus
           And four Great Wardens, on their spears reclining,
        All day long stand like tall stone men
           And sleep on the towers when the moon is shining.

      This is the song of the East Gate Warden
      When he locks the great gate and smokes in his garden.

      Postern of Fate, the Desert Gate, Disaster's Cavern, Fort of Fear,
      The Portal of Bagdad am I, and Doorway of Diarbekir.

      The Persian Dawn with new desires may net the flushing mountain spires:
      But my gaunt buttress still rejects the suppliance of those mellow fires.

      Pass not beneath, O Caravan, or pass not singing. Have you heard
      That silence where the birds are dead yet something pipeth like a bird?

      Pass not beneath! Men say there blows in stony deserts still a rose
      But with no scarlet to her leaf--and from whose heart no perfume flows.

      Wilt thou bloom red where she buds pale, thy sister rose? Wilt thou not fail
      When noonday flashes like a flail? Leave nightingale the caravan!

      Pass then, pass all! "Bagdad!" ye cry, and down the billows of blue sky
      Ye beat the bell that beats to hell, and who shall thrust you back? Not I.

      The Sun who flashes through the head and paints the shadows green and red,--
      The Sun shall eat thy fleshless dead, O Caravan, O Caravan!

      And one who licks his lips for thirst with fevered eyes shall face in fear
      The palms that wave, the streams that burst, his last mirage, O Caravan!

      And one--the bird-voiced Singing-man--shall fall behind thee, Caravan!
      And God shall meet him in the night, and he shall sing as best he can.

      And one the Bedouin shall slay, and one, sand-stricken on the way
      Go dark and blind; and one shall say--"How lonely is the Caravan!"

      Pass out beneath, O Caravan, Doom's Caravan, Death's Caravan!
      I had not told ye, fools, so much, save that I heard your Singing-man.

      This was sung by the West Gate's keeper
      When heaven's hollow dome grew deeper.

      I am the gate toward the sea: O sailor men, pass out from me!
      I hear you high in Lebanon, singing the marvels of the sea.

      The dragon-green, the luminous, the dark, the serpent-haunted sea,
      The snow-besprinkled wine of earth, the white-and-blue-flower foaming sea.

      Beyond the sea are towns with towers, carved with lions and lily flowers,
      And not a soul in all those lonely streets to while away the hours.

      Beyond the towns, an isle where, bound, a naked giant bites the ground:
      The shadow of a monstrous wing looms on his back: and still no sound.

      Beyond the isle a rock that screams like madmen shouting in their dreams,
      From whose dark issues night and day blood crashes in a thousand streams.

      Beyond the rock is Restful Bay, where no wind breathes or ripple stirs,
      And there on Roman ships, they say, stand rows of metal mariners.

      Beyond the bay in utmost West old Solomon the Jewish King
      Sits with his beard upon his breast, and grips and guards his magic ring:

      And when that ring is stolen, he will rise in outraged majesty,
      And take the World upon his back, and fling the World beyond the sea.

      This is the song of the North Gate's master,
      Who singeth fast, but drinketh faster.

      I am the gay Aleppo Gate: a dawn, a dawn and thou art there:
      Eat not thy heart with fear and care, O brother of the beast we hate!

      Thou hast not many miles to tread, nor other foes than fleas to dread;
      Homs shall behold thy morning meal and Hama see thee safe in bed.

      Take to Aleppo filigrane, and take them paste of apricots,
      And coffee tables botched with pearl, and little beaten brassware pots:

      And thou shalt sell thy wares for thrice the Damascene retailers' price,
      And buy a fat Armenian slave who smelleth odorous and nice.

      Some men of noble stock were made: some glory in the murder-blade;
      Some praise a Science or an Art, but I like honorable Trade!

      Sell them the rotten, buy the ripe! Their heads are weak; their pockets burn.
      Aleppo men are mighty fools. Salaam Aleikum! Safe return!

      This is the song of the South Gate Holder,
      A silver man, but his song is older.

      I am the Gate that fears no fall: the Mihrab of Damascus wall,
      The bridge of booming Sinai: the Arch of Allah all in all.

      O spiritual pilgrim rise: the night has grown her single horn:
      The voices of the souls unborn are half adream with Paradise.

      To Meccah thou hast turned in prayer with aching heart and eyes that burn:
      Ah Hajji, wither wilt thou turn when thou art there, when thou art there?

      God be thy guide from camp to camp: God be thy shade from well to well;
      God grant beneath the desert stars thou hear the Prophet's camel bell.

      And God shall make thy body pure, and give thee knowlede to endure
      This ghost-life's piercing phantom-pain, and bring thee out to Life again.

      And God shall make thy soul a Glass where eighteen thousand Æons pass.
      And thou shalt see the gleaming Worlds as men see dew upon the grass.

      And sons of Islam, it may be that thou shalt learn at journey's end
      Who walks thy garden eve on eve, and bows his head, and calls thee Friend.

    The Dying Patriot

      Day breaks on England down the Kentish hills,
      Singing in the silence of the meadow-footing rills,
      Day of my dreams, O day!
      I saw them march from Dover, long ago,
      With a silver cross before them, singing low,
      Monks of Rome from their home where the blue seas break in foam,
      Augustine with his feet of snow.

      Noon strikes on England, noon on Oxford town,
      --Beauty she was statue cold--there's blood upon her gown:
      Noon of my dreams, O noon!
      Proud and godly kings had built her, long ago,
      With her towers and tombs and statues all arow,
      With her fair and floral air and the love that lingers there,
      And the streets where the great men go.

      Evening on the olden, the golden sea of Wales,
      When the first star shivers and the last wave pales:
      O evening dreams!
      There's a house that Britons walked in, long ago,
      Where now the springs of ocean fall and flow,
      And the dead robed in red and sea-lilies overhead
      Sway when the long winds blow.

      Sleep not, my country: though night is here, afar
      Your children of the morning are clamorous for war:
      Fire in the night, O dreams!
      Though she send you as she sent you, long ago,
      South to the desert, east to ocean, north to snow,
      West of these out to seas colder than the Hebrides I must go
      Where the fleet of stars is anchored, and the young star-captains glow.

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