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Pear Tree

    SILVER dust
    lifted from the earth,
    higher than my arms can reach,
    you have mounted.
    O silver,
    higher than my arms can reach
    you front us with great mass;
    no flower ever opened
    so staunch a white leaf,
    no flower ever parted silver
    from such rare silver;
    O white pear,
    your flower-tufts,
    thick on the branch,
    bring summer and ripe fruits
    in their purple hearts.



    O WIND, rend open the heat,
    cut apart the heat,
    rend it to tatters.

    Fruit cannot drop
    through this thick air-
    fruit cannot fall into heat
    that presses up and blunts
    the points of pears
    and rounds the grapes.

    Cut through the heat-
    plow through it
    turning it on either side
    of your path.




    EACH of us like you
    has died once,
    has passed through drift of wood-leaves,
    cracked and bent
    and tortured and unbent
    in the winter-frost,
    the burnt into gold points,
    lighted afresh,
    crisp amber, scales of gold-leaf,
    gold turned and re-welded
    in the sun;

    each of us like you
    has died once,
    each of us has crossed an old wood-path
    and found the winter-leaves
    so golden in the sun-fire
    that even the live wood-flowers
    were dark.


    Not the gold on the temple-front
    where you stand
    is as gold as this,
    not the gold that fastens your sandals,
    nor thee gold reft
    through your chiselled locks,
    is as gold as this last year's leaf,
    not all the gold hammered and wrought
    and beaten
    on your lover's face.
    brow and bare breast
    is as golden as this:

    each of us like you
    has died once,
    each of us like you
    stands apart, like you
    fit to be worshipped.



    WHIRL up, sea--
    whirl your pointed pines, splash your great pines
    on our rocks,
    hurl your green over us,
    cover us with your pools of fir.



    I SAW the first pear
    as it fell--
    the honey-seeking, golden-banded,
    the yellow swarm
    was not more fleet than I,
    (spare us from loveliness)
    and I fell prostrate

    you have flayed us
    with your blossoms,
    spare us the beauty
    of fruit-trees.

    The honey-seeking
    paused not,
    the air thundered their song,
    and I alone was prostrate.

    O rough-hewn
    god of the orchard,
    I bring you an offering--
    do you, alone unbeautiful,
    son of the god,
    spare us from loveliness:

    these fallen hazel-nuts,
    stripped late of their green sheaths,
    grapes, red-purple,
    their berries
    dripping with wine,
    pomegranates already broken,
    and shrunken figs
    and quinces untouched,
    I bring you as offering.


From citron-bower

    FROM citron-bower be her bed,
    cut from branch of tree a-flower,
    fashioned for her maidenhead.

    From Lydian apples, sweet of hue,
    cut the width of board and lathe,
    carve the feet from myrtle-wood.

    Let the palings of her bed
    be quince and box-wood overlaid
    with the scented bark of yew.

    That all the wood in blossoming,
    may calm her heart and cool her blood,
    for losing of her maidenhood.


Sea Poppies

    AMBER husk
    fluted with gold,
    fruited on the sand
    marked with a rich grain,

    spilled near the shrub-pines
    to bleach on the boulders:
    your stalk has caught root
    among wet pebbles
    and drift flung by the sea
    and grated shells
    and split conch-shells.

    Beautiful, wide-spread,
    fire upon leaf,
    what meadow yields
    so fragrant a leaf
    as your bright leaf?


Sea Rose

    ROSE, harsh rose,
    marred and with stint of petals,
    meagre flower, thin,
    sparse of leaf,

    more precious
    than a wet rose
    single on a stem--
    you are caught in the drift.

    Stunted, with small leaf,
    you are flung on the sand,
    you are lifted
    in the crisp sand
    that drives in the wind.

    Can the spice-rose
    drip such acrid fragrance
    hardened in a leaf?


The Helmsman

    O BE swift--
    we have always known you wanted us.

    We fled inland with our flocks.
    we pastured them in hollows,
    cut off from the wind
    and the salt track of the marsh.

    We worshipped inland--
    we stepped past wood-flowers,
    we forgot your tang,
    we brushed wood-grass.

    We wandered from pine-hills
    through oak and scrub-oak tangles,
    we broke hyssop and bramble.
    we caught flower and new bramble-fruit
    in our hair: we laughed
    as each branch whipped back,
    we tore our feet in half-buried rocks
    and knotted roots and acorn-cups.

    We forgot--we worshipped,
    we parted green from green.
    we sought further thickets,
    we dipped our ankles
    through leaf-mould and earth.
    and wood and wood-bank enchanted us--

    and the feel of the clefts in the bark,
    and the slope between tree and tree--
    and a slender path strung field to field
    and wood to wood
    and hill to hill
    and the forest after it.

    We forgot--for a moment
    tree-resin, tree-bark,
    sweat of a torn branch
    were sweet to taste.
    We were enchanted with the fields,
    the tufts of coarse grass
    in the shorter grass--
    we loved all this.

    But now, our boat climbs--hesitates--drops--
    climbs--hesitates--crawls back--
    O be swift--
    we have always known you wanted us.



    WHAT do I care
    that the stream is trampled,
    the sand on the stream-bank
    still holds the print of your foot:
    the heel is cut deep.
    I see another mark on the grass ridge of the bank--
    it points toward the wood-path
    I have lost the third in the packed earth.

    But here
    a wild-hyacinth stalk is snapped:
    the purple buds--half ripe--
    show deep purple
    where your heel pressed.

    A patch of flowering grass,
    low, trailing--
    you brushed this:
    the green stems show yellow-green
    where you lifted--turned the earth-side
    to the light:
    this and a dead leaf-spine
    split across,
    show where you passed.

    You were swift,swift!
    here the forest ledge slopes--
    rain has furrowed the roots.
    Your hand caught at this;
    the root snapped under your weight.

    I can almost follow the note
    where it touched this slender tree
    and the next answered--
    and the next.

    And you climbed yet further!
    you stopped by the dwarf-cornel--
    whirled on your heels,
    doubled on your track.

    This is clear--
    you fell on the downward slope,
    you dragged a bruised thigh--you limped--
    you clutched this larch.

    Did your head, bent back,
    Search further--
    clear through the green leaf-moss
    of the larch branches?

    Did you clutch,
    stammer with short breath and gasp:
    wood-daemons grant life--
    give life--I am almost lost.

    For some wood-daemon
    has lightened your steps.
    I can find no trace of you
    in the larch-cones and the underbrush.


Sea Lily

    slashed and torn
    but doubly rich--
    such great heads as yours
    drift upon temple-steps,
    but you are shattered
    in the wind.

    is flecked from you,
    scales are dashed
    from your stem,
    sand cuts your petal,
    furrows it with hard edge,
    like flint
    on a bright stone.

    Yet though the whole wind
    slash at your bark,
    you are lifted up,
    aye--though it hiss
    to cover you with froth.


The Gift

    INSTEAD of pearls--a wrought clasp--
    a bracelet--will you accept this?

    You know the script--
    you will start, wonder:
    what is left, what phrase
    after last night? This:

    The world is yet unspoiled for you,
    you wait, expectant--
    you are like the children
    who haunt your own steps
    for chance bits--a comb
    that may have slipped,
    a gold tassle, unravelled,
    plucked from your scarf,
    twirled by your slight fingers
    into the street--
    a flower dropped.

    Do not think me unaware,
    I who have snatched at you
    as the street-child clutched
    at the seed-pearls you spilt
    that hot day
    when your necklace snapped.

    Do not dream that I speak
    as one defrauded of delight,
    sick, shaken by each heart-beat
    or paralyzed, stretched at length,
    who gasps:
    these ripe pears
    are bitter to the taste,
    this spiced wine, poison, corrupt.
    I cannot walk--
    who would walk?
    Life is a scavanger's pit--I escape--
    I only, rejecting it,
    lying here on this couch.

    Your garden sloped to the beach,
    myrtle overran the paths,
    honey and amber flecked each leaf,
    the citron-lily head--
    one among many--
    weighed there, over-sweet.

    The myrrh-hyacinth
    spread across low slopes,
    violets streaked black ridges
    through the grass.

    The house, too, was like this,
    over painted, over lovely—
    the world is like this.

    Sleepless nights,
    I remember the initiates,
    their gesture, their calm glance.
    I have heard how in rapt thought,
    in vision, they speak
    with another race,
    more beautiful, more intense than this.
    I could laugh--
    more beautiful, more intense?

    Perhaps that other life
    is contrast always to this.
    I reason:
    I have lived as they
    in their inmost rites--
    they endure the tense nerves
    through the moment of ritual.
    I endure from moment to moment--
    days pass all alike,
    tortured, intense.

    This I forgot last night:
    you must not be blamed,
    it is not your fault;
    as a child, a flower--any flower
    tore my breast--
    meadow-chickory, a common grass-tip,
    a leaf shadow, a flower tint
    unexpected on a winter-branch.

    I reason:
    another life holds what this lacks,
    a sea, unmoving, quiet--
    not forcing our strength
    to rise to it, beat on beat—
    a stretch of sand,
    no garden beyond, strangling
    with its myrrh-lilies--
    a hill, not set with black violets
    but stones, stones, bare rocks,
    dwarf-trees, twisted, no beauty
    to distract-—to crowd
    madness upon madness.

    Only a still place
    and perhaps some outer horror
    some hideousness to stamp beauty,
    a mark—no changing it now—-
    on our hearts.

    I send no string of pearls,
    no bracelet-—accept this.



    COME, blunt your spear with us,
    our pace is hot
    and our bare heels
    in the heel-prints--
    we stand tense--do you see--
    are you already beaten
    by the chase?

    We lead the pace
    for the wind on the hills,
    the low hill is spattered
    with loose earth--
    our feet cut into the crust
    as with spears.

    We climbed the ploughed land,
    dragged the seed from the clefts,
    broke the clods with our heels,
    whirled with a parched cry
    into the woods:

    Can you come,
    can you come,
    can you follow the hound trail,
    can you trample the hot froth?
    Spring up--sway forward--
    follow the quickest one,
    aye, though you leave the trail
    and drop exhausted at our feet.


Sea Violet

    THE white violet
    is scented on its stalk,
    the sea-violet
    fragile as agate,
    lies fronting all the wind
    among the torn shells
    on the sand-bank.
    The greater blue violets
    flutter on the hill,
    but who would change for these
    who would change for these
    one root of the white sort?
    your grasp is frail
    on the edge of the sand-hill,
    but you catch the light--
    frost, a star edges with its fire.


The Night

    THE night has cut
    each from each
    and curled the petals
    back from the stalk
    and under it in crisp rows;

    under at an unfaltering pace,
    under till the rinds break,
    back till each bent leaf
    is parted from its stalk;

    under at a grave pace,
    under till the leaves
    are bent back
    till they drop upon earth,
    back till they are all broken.

    O night,
    you take the petals
    of the roses in your hand,
    but leave the stark core
    of the rose
    to perish on the branch.




    HALL I let myself be caught
    in my own light,
    shall I let myself be broken
    in my own heat,
    or shall I cleft the rock as of old
    and break my own fire
    with its surface ?

    Does this fire thwart me
    and my craft,
    or my work--
    does it cloud this light;
    which is the god,
    which the stone
    the god takes for his use ?


    Which am I,
    The stone or the power
    that lifts the rock from the earth ?
    Am I the master of this fire,
    is this fire my own strength ?

    Am I the master of this
    swirl upon swirl of light--
    have I made it as in old times
    I made the gods from the rock ?

    Have I made this fire from myself,
    or is this arrogance--
    is this fire a god
    that seeks me in the dark ?


    I made image upon image for my use,
    I made image upon image, for the grace
    of Pallas was my flint
    and my help was Hephsstos.

    I made god upon god
    step from the cold rock,
    I made the gods less than men
    for I was a man and they my work.

    And now what is it that has come to pass
    for fire has shaken my hand,
    my strivings are dust.


    Now what is it that has come to pass ?
    Over my head, fire stands,
    my marbles are alert.

    Each of the gods, perfect,
    cries out from a perfect throat:
    you are useless,
    no marble can bind me,
    no stone suggest.

    They have melted into the light
    and I am desolate,
    they have melted,
    each from his plinth,
    each one departs.

    They have gone,
    what agony can express my grief?

    Each from his marble base
    has stepped into the light
    and my work is for naught.


    Now am I the power
    that has made this fire
    as of old I made the gods
    start from the rocks--
    am I the god
    or does this fire carve me
    for its use ?


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