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[Note: Poets' Corner gratefully acknowledges Dr. Edward Marx of Kyoto University. Dr Marx is the leading authority on Hope, and is the editor for these works, which are used here with his permission.]
from Stars of the Desert (1903):
To Arthur E.J. Legge, who suggested this idea
- Oh, Life, I have taken you for my Lover,
- I rent your veils and I found you fair;
- If a fault or failing my eyes discover,
- I will not see it; it is not there.
- I know, if I knew, I should hold you dearer,
- Should understand, if I understood,
- For I worship more, as you'd draw me nearer,
- Your reckless Evil, your perfect Good.
- In the Jungle gloom, we have watched and waited,
- For stealthy Panthers, that prowl by night,
- At the end of some weary march, belated,
- We heard strange tales by the camp-fire light.
- We have lain on the starlit sands, untented,
- While low-hung planets rose white and fair,
- And in moonlit gardens, silver and scented,
- Oh, Life, my lover, how sweet you were!
- Forbidden and barbarous rites were shown us,
- In rock-hewn Temples and jungle caves,
- And the smoke-wreathed home of the dead has known us,--
- The burning-ghat by the Ganges waves.
- Ah, the long, lone ride through the starlit hours,
- The long, lone watch on the starlit sea,
- And the flame and flush of the morning flowers
- When Life, my Lover, was kind to me
- Betimes we were out on the sea together;
- The vessel raced down the great green slope
- Of mountainous waves, in desperate weather:
- The hearts of men were adrift from hope,
- As over the deck, in exultant fashion
- The violent water crashed and fell,
- I knew, through the joy of your reckless passion,
- Agonized fear of the last farewell.
- But I follow you always, unresisting,
- To lowest depth; to uttermost brink,
- From a thirst like mine there is no desisting
- Though given poison for wine to drink.
- You may do your utmost, you will not shake me,
- Your faith may falter; my faith is true.
- Oh, Life, you may shatter and rend and break me,
- All Pain is Pleasure, that springs from you!
- In the height and heat of your wildest passion,
- You had your uttermost will of me,
- And when have I asked for the least compassion?
- A lover loved is a lover free!
- Though, with never a word of farewell spoken
- In lonely wilds of some Desert place,
- You have flung me from you, adrift and broken
- To wait the child of your last embrace.
- And never my faith nor my fervour faltered,
- Until you turned to my lips again,
- When, my eager longing for you unaltered
- Your first kiss cancelled my months of pain.
- Ah, Life, you may torture my soul, betray me,
- The right is yours, as Lover and Lord.
- And when in the climax of all, you slay me,
- My lips in dying will seek your sword.
- The room is bare, the paper windows shiver,
- Beneath the ill-hung door, the sleet blows free,
- Yet here, Delight flows forth, a gentle river,
- To saturate my soul with ecstasy!
- I lie upon the heated Kang, quiescent,
- Lulled by the warmth of lighted straw below,
- While Li, the golden-tinted adolescent,
- Blue-clad and silent, passes to and fro.
- Li, with his well-cut lips and supple fingers,
- His crudely lidded eyes, that seem to gaze
- Back through ten thousand years of thought, where lingers
- Some misty splendour of the old, old days.
- Free from the plait, his loosened sable tresses
- In silken waves, below the knee, descend.
- Bringing the opium pipe, he deftly presses
- The viscous drug upon the needle's end.
- Lights it, inserts it in the pipe beside me,
- Then through my lips the magic vapour streams,
- And Life and Love, that seldom satisfied me,
- Meet me with lovely faces in my dreams.
- Life at his brightest, flushed and crowned with flowers,
- Brings gifts no mortal, waking, e'er possessed,
- Exquisite Chances, and Enchanted Hours,
- While Love,--Love brings me to you, to share my rest!
- Farewell, O Sapphire Eyes, serene and clear,
- Tender and careless, not the stars above
- Could take less head of one who held them dear
- Than you, Beloved, who could not, would not, love.
- Ah, Sapphire Eyes, who could not, would not, care
- Or shed on me their soft indifferent beams,
- The long white day may keep you far as fair,
- Yet you come very near to me in dreams.
- Dreams: when I force you with soft violence
- To turn on me their tender azure shine,
- And tune your voice to this sweet eloquence
- "I am your lover, lend lips to mine."
- "Refuse me not." Ah, when, would I refuse?
- "Turn here your face." When would I turn away?
- I, whose one wish is that you should infuse
- Your life in mine in love's completest way.
- I, who had held that life had given me all
- Had it, oh, if it had but given me you!
- Had Fate but ordered your soft light to fall
- Across my solitudes, O eyes of blue.
- In the Far East the old Religions say
- Man rises nearest to the Gods above,
- For a brief space becoming even as they,
- In the last ecstasy of human love.
- Might I not also rise and reach your soul
- If once its passionate life had passed to me
- In the surrender of your self control,
- The unguarded moments of your ecstasy?
- For though you hold that Love is brief and mortal,
- What other way can I attain to you?
- I know, O Azure Eyes, no other portal
- To reach the mind beyond your mystic blue.
- And yet--what use these dear, delusive dreams?
- The night wears through, the stars grow pale above,
- Farewell, O Sapphires, set in tears, there seems
- No hope, no rest, you would not, could not, love.
- In purple haze the sun has set,
- A tuft of palms, a Minaret,
- Rise clear against the sky.
- The silence of the scented air
- Stirs to a sense of evening prayer
- At the muezzin's cry.
- What care have I, that yesterday
- I led thee as a slave away
- From Maroc's market-place?
- Are we not all the slaves of love?
- The very stars that wheel above
- Are bound by time and space!
- I struck the fetters from thy hands
- Only to forge thee stronger bands;
- Leastways, 'twas my desire
- To hold thy captive soul to me,
- Even as mine is chained to thee,
- By links of passionate fire.
- I want thee for thy beauty's sake,
- Though naught, as owner, will I take;
- Thou art entirely free.
- Yet, if thy gaze of sombre fire
- Find aught in me to wake desire
- Then give thyself to me!
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