A FL.\GOX OF SOXG
A FLAGON OF SONG
E. J. RUPERT ATKINSON
Author of "a Nocturne," " By a Midnight Sea"
"Wayside Poems," "A Modem Magdalene."
EDWARD A. VIDLER
THE OLDERFLEET, COLLINS STREET WEST
Frontispiece by Mervyn Napier Waller.
Cover Design by Hugh McCrae.
Proem I. . .
The Flight of Puck
Before the Altars . .
Nightmare . .
Homage to Oberon
On Manly Beach . .
At Break of Day
A Sonnet of Life . .
They Talk of Love
In the Cafe
The Dead Saint
In the Realm of Night
The Passing of Night
My Lady of Dreams
The Break of Day . .
Caught from the Lees
A Song of Gallantry
A Rondeau of Solipsism . .
An Interlude . . . . ;
A Tavern Tragedy
Each Man is Each . .
Bacchanal . .
A Night Piece
A Drinking Song . .
A Song for Rosamond
A Ballad of Desire
An Elegy . .
A Viking's Death . .
The King of Sardis
IF I should gather up my waste-worn hours,
Dead blooms of passion heaped about my feet,
And breathe again their mellow fragrance sweet
And drowsy with the love wan time endowers;
If all the squandered wealth of time were mine
Years of ambition mute, the refuse stale
Flung into chaos potent to exhale
Hopes, weak and shameful, still to me divine;
If all the winds of wedded heaven and hell
Bore up my soul to search the dizziest height;
If every memory of far delight
Flooded desire upon one boundless swell;
While still I hold omnipotence and seem
One with all time, what shall mine anguish be
When dark derisive deeps in agony
Awake me to the horror of a dream !
ONTEMPTUOUS of universes, I
Survey all space devoid of fear or trust.
With will defiant fearful to defy,
Awed by the vastness of a speck of dust
Yea, suns and planets multitudinous
Speed hurtling on — at pause for us they stay
Unmeaning, mute forever, glamorous.
Lost in the brilliance of the dazzling day.
Thus by a hand-thrust all is gone, the wide
Long vast expanse of glory struck from sight,
And at a tremor of your will subside
The sparkling deeps illumined by the night.
Blue in the beauty of the blinding sky
All space is silent, lost, save where the breeze
Breaks through the straggling branches, bent awry,
Winged from the dead deep with your memories.
And through your brain the throb of living blood
— Each beat one ripple of one moving tide —
Stirs love or care or laughter on this flood
Whereon you move; and so all men abide.
Contemptuous of universes, I
Survey all space devoid of fear or trust,
With will defiant fearful to defy.
Awed by the vastness of a speck of dust.
THE FLIGHT OF PUCK.
THROUGH bright glistening dew, light-listening
To the stir of flowering meads,
Singing shyly, winging slyly,
Ever on he gladly speeds
Open fairy realms and under
Open skies of joyous wonder,
Plucking buds and boughs asunder,
Green among green water-reeds.
By stark-streaming skies, dark-gleaming,
Where the warm night sinks aswoon.
Lying grayly — flying gaily.
Summer petals softly strewn
Tell his song till hours grow fonder;
On he goes, and strange dreams wander
In his wake till, burning yonder.
Red, the sun outshines the moon.
Through bright glistening dew, light-listening.
Still he strays mid deep woods dim;
Half in weeping, laughing, leaping.
Mocking Sorrow at his whim,
Beckoning Beauty — Hope knows whither !
Youth and Pleasure, coming hither.
Hear his call, and, hastening thither.
Laugh their joy in seeking him !
WHAT dream in what strange land
Shall waken me to-night? What sweet
Lips burn for mine? What arms entwine
My neck, my knees, my feet —
Beneath white columns graven.
Above an azure haven;
Within vast castles paven
With the gold of Fairyland?
Where captive damsels hear my fleet
Steps rescuing them — their lips I meet.
O, life is grand! O, night is sweet
In that voluptuous land !
Prone from a dizzy shore,
Calm oceans, cool with wind and wave.
Oblivious reach past isle and beach.
Glad from my very grave —
From rose-wrought roof and rafter
Falls merrily back our laughter;
I hear the echoes after
More sweetly moan. This shore
As with hushed ages I hear rave
Around me. Foam and crooning cave
Sound more and more; sound in each wave,
Alone on that lone shore.
Through tribute realms I go,
And all life echoes my desire.
A pagan shrine with skins of wine
Drips, and our souls afire
Strike through the clouds. And over
Lanes lush with corn and clover
We stray, she and her lover.
The glad earth all aglow
Beneath the gentle sky — through mire,
Through glade and hall, by peak and pyre;
And ever so ; since all desire
I never can forego.
Our dreams outshine the world.
Far swathed beyond, long-visioned seas
Are empty, or from sky to shore
With great ships flash. Dark trees
Stir as with winds narcotic
From craggy vales chaotic,
For sea and land exotic
Abjure our common world.
I watch the glamorous centuries.
Which shape men's mimic pageantries.
In mist upcurled by these mute seas.
In this most magic world.
What dream shall be to-night —
Pent darkly now — that shall awake
My pregnant, deep, abysmal sleep
By forest, hill, and lakcl
Down ways and streets nocturnal,
By autumn fields and vernal;
Through lands fair and Infernal —
Mine through the magic night! —
Mine till pale dawn clouds, flake by flake,
Gleam, glow, redden, burst, and break.
The moon shines white. What dream shall wake
Me in what world to-night?
BEFORE THE ALTARS.
HE answered: Though prayers dark 'mid
Beseech my mercy, hearken how I strain
Against you know not what, whose dreaded shrouds
Benumb you now; you know not what is vain.
He said : But give Me time to answer you
With words that you may fathom where you crouch
Low at Mine altar humble, while you sue
For pity — warmed as from your bridal couch.
He moaned: No pity lightens Me when down
Before Invisible Desire Immense
I waste for wisdom, eager for His frown,
Half-blinded by the blank earth's insolence.
His echoes thus I also voiced when her
Prayers hung like shackles sore about my feet.
Thy supplications, God, I watched them stir
The world with springtime, and the world was sweet.
Yea, even I, when warm her lips were mine,
Which begged my mercy, dallied, whispering
And high in heaven I caught her soul divine,
Thrilled by her burning body passionate.
DOWN crumbling steeps I galloped fast;
Swart cliffs and gullies on each hand
Engulfed the night; dry, yellow sand,
Far-strewn with wreckage, gaped aghast.
Alone I swayed; deep in the night
Hooves beat away, and faces dark
Rose surging, menacing; and stark
Squat shapes swung backward, feigning flight.
With scarce a murmur from the sea,
Gashed, scarred, and sullen, sinuous.
Long billows foamed, and even thus
The white-fanged waves leered up at me.
Before me and around, the blind
Earth stirred; a sigh of sick despair
Sobbed, stifled, through the sluggish air;
Black horror urged me from behind.
I knew not whence I fled, nor why;
Fear paled within me, and desire
Shrank, spurting like an ebbing fire;
Hope mocked me from the pallid sky.
And whither I should flee, or whence
Had fled, I knew not. Like one grin
The grey, grimacing tide swept in;
Far tumult shook the darkness dense.
Forever strong to fleer and flout,
Wild sea-rack eddied nearer yet;
My sorry limbs were sore with sweat,
My livid soul consumed by doubt.
And red scorn from aloft shone wide;
Black from the sky grey waters raped
Incestuous waves; and, terror-shaped,
My eyes surveyed the grinning tide.
Strange shudderings whimpered far and near;
My vision quailed; derisive forms
Approached, and, gibbering, gibed in swarms;
They touched me, and I ceased to fear!
And ocean, earth, and sky, effete.
Were shown but witless growths of Time —
Sudden my soul burst forth sublime
With budding wisdom, violet-sweet !
But now awoken, wistfully
I envy him who watched aghast
That frantic rabble weltering past,
The scowling sky and loathsome sea;
For barely breathes an echo thence
When that one moment thrilled with light,
Whose memory taunts and daunts my plight,
And chokes me with my diffidence.
A WORLD for laughter, this
Live earth-abyss I
Around the glad gods sit
And gloat on it,
While tottering men dare tread,
Tiptoe among the dead:
Watch how they shrink!
Toys for the high ones,
Noise for the sky-ones —
Up from earth's edge
This cup let us pledge;
Yet in a blink
Their lives and ours are one,
Sure as the sun!
Mark out each merry god.
Jerk him a nod
Up from earth's brink!
Now to them quaffing,
Bow to them laughing —
A world of wanton flowers
This heaven of ours,
Whence gods touch life in men,
We gods, and when
We choose they die, and so
Are puppets in their woe,
Where down they sink.
Their pain is our pleasure,
Gain for our leisure —
Down on the earth,
Frown in your mirth;
Yet in a blink
Our lives and theirs are one
What shall they shun?
Mark how each self-sure face
Mimics our grace,
Up from earth's brink I
Fate schools them hereafter,
Fools for our laughter —
HROUGH pregnant past thousands of years,
They laboured, the gods, to mould me —
This creature that merits their jeers —
Their masterpiece I Laugh and behold me !
For, spurned from the tombs of their creeds.
Men scoff in their maddened elation.
This rabble that babbles and breeds 1
And such are the best of creation.
And so what a folly it were
Not to revel in all that is human !
I'd as soon not scoff at your care —
I'd as soon keep faith with a woman!
HOMAGE TO OBERON.
WHEN black midnight owls their hooting
Cease, and whisperings ebb and fall,
Buds are shaken,
And thin shooting
Tendrils waken —
Fairies call I
Gaily crickets from far thickets
Past the moss-grown garden wall
Time the fairies' footsteps there,
Merrily dancing, one and all;
And among these branches, where
Swift they flare and flutter, swinging,
Laughing, ringing, lightly flinging
Joy upon me with their singing —
I can touch them if I dare!
Through the long midsummer night, sweet
With cool dew on flower and grass —
Look how quick
Those bats their flight beat.
Up and flick
The moon and pass!
Over mellow hayfields yellow.
Starred with poppies red and sparse,
How frail fairies chuckling there
Watch some dainty elfin farce,
Or hunt snails, or from their lair
Green moths scare, for gliding, sailing,
Downward trailing, upward paling.
Half the bright sky they are veiling!
I can hear them everywhere !
ON MANLY BEACH.
IT has taken all time for that wave to swell,
Low-ridged, from the ocean over the bay.
While cEons withered and nations fell,
Precursors fixed for this moment's sway,
Till swift, like a frosted sword, should reach
Waters running with foam and spray,
Loud and white to the peopled beach,
In the sheen of the westering day.
Down, far down in the gulfs of Time,
Crumbling centuries, heap on heap,
Rot forgotten ere world and clime
Split the chaos of timeless sleep.
Numberless ages, in limitless space,
Bore this day that that wave might sweep.
As forth from the worlds they create and efface.
Back into the silence deep.
Down and down with each breath they sink,
Grim, spectral throbbings of Time outworn.
Through depthless, visionless vaults they shrink —
Blind forever to dusk and dawn —
Wraiths potential that huddle and cower,
Vacant and voiceless, long forsworn,
That this wave might flash, rush forward, and shower
Alive in its flight forlorn.
For it took all time ere that wave could burst
With all presaged of it, curve and hue :
How from that headland rocks immersed
Would blur the long glimmering green and blue,
Wan with the dusk-gray glamour of night,
Fragrant and mellow, and soft with dew;
All time lay prone for one moment's might —
Now one with the void anew.
It was not once and it is not now.
Fulfilment sudden existed and ceased;
Strong to be, though one knows not how.
One wave seethed forth from the wind-wet east;
And Time all past for this end subdued
Suns and planets, and bud and beast.
And men's joy and their laughter and passion and feud,
In the riot of battle and feast
No; nothing exists but the souls of men,
The Soul of God that has burst into spray;
From desert and mire and through forest and fen
We flickered and died, as we die each day
In our doubt and our sorrow, and life's own joy
Throbs in our blood, for we live, I say.
Who die each moment, glad to decoy
Woe for the dread of our love's decay I
We live — we can perish not; all things change —
This rock and those skies : I am still, you remain
Soul-centred, bewildered by thoughts that estrange
You from yourself. Thoughts stored in your brain,
Age-long, inherited, guard you well —
Well from that wisdom no death shall disdain,
When Time shall be silenced and heaven and hell
Lapse — lapse from our life again.
I. IN COLLINS STREET.
THIS city's greatness glares — a wild obsession,
New, crude, harsh, unremembering, un-
Some latent thing gropes here, unseen, gigantic,
With Internecine commerce by confession
Main motive, puffed with lies, bluff, and aggression.
Sapped by unnumbered agents, oddly frantic.
Superfluous shopmen, clerks, and snobs most antic,
Diverse, estranged, bowed by their own oppression.
How Money glories! Truth Is Incidental,
And honour needless; all beside is menial.
Hear how they jabber tales of scrip and rental —
Sleek, surreptitious, blankly glum and genial.
Extolling all success. To cheat is venial,
Intrigue and riot merely sentimental.
II. — THE PAWN SHOP.
REMOTE, strange relics of romance are piled
Inside and out, each with its tragic tale.
Forlorn, quiescent. Listen ! Through the
Past, through the silence, from far lands beguiled.
They stir, they call. The moan of some dead child;
A drunkard's haggling curse; a woman's wail,
That he might drink and drowse; that she might
Through one more timorous night, still undefiled.
Or there comes fluttering in some dainty dame,
Who for one trinket snatches for one week
More than a strong man saves through many years.
Here all may come — they bring their vice and shame,
As with their woe the floors and rafters reek;
The very air is heavy with their tears I
III. — AN ADDRESS IN REPLY.
YOU modern men, purveyors of perfection,
Whose blazoned gifts from catalogue and
Refurbish hackneyed eulogies, recording
Your stock's worth and all rivalry's subjection —
How has the past been honoured, whose erection
Towers to your greatness, with clapped tongues
Most pompous gulls, that pilfer your marauding'
Exalted dupes, most smug in your protection I
Proud kings of traffic, what filth could you dwarf,
Who swindle, haggle, hoard, and gravely cheat.
Exhaling lies? What reptile sense have you.
Fat with the spoil of field, exchange, and wharf.
That by your stone-age cunning you subdue
Men, and infect them with your grave deceit?
IV. — ON THE KERB.
ALL'S life, and yet men doubt it, deeming it
Absorbed by one of its conditions; so
Destroyed in one breath's trifling death, as
The sun were drowned in every pool or pitl
Deeming, moreover, that one's soul is lit
And fashioned by his warm blood's ebb and flow,
Like blood's own warmth — which he could only
Because aloof, undying, infinite
All is life! Men watch the trickling years dissolve;
Earth strives to life. Life from unfeeling clay
Must prove the Cosmos sentient, the blue sky
God's garment; and men watch the dust evolve
With will for sight and hearing, and survey
Life — only life! Fools do not doubt they die!
V. AT THE DOCKS.
DAWN, around packed buildings, flickering,
Daylight full on sullen waters glowing,
Rippled; crawling streets stirred; ships, outgoing.
Slipped down seaward; wind and chimney showered
Smoke and coal-dust; summer burst and towered.
Pelting grit from inland deserts, blowing
Pell-mell southward, lanes and vessels showing
Blurred; beneath the sky all shrank and cowered.
Arctic shores of frozen glory, tropic
Isles uncharted, indolent, cool, sunny —
Tales for children such are. There'e no topic
Left now, clever, sad, glad, strange, or funny,
But, as the voyager knows, though microscopic,
Spells the desire for woman, drink, or money.
VI. — INCIDENTAL.
WITH bleared eyes blinking, dazed, the cripple
Among the plunging traffic; peering
Uncertain, moved and fell. One fearful sound
Caught his life bubble-like; one flash dismayed
Him struck to instant death, from sun to shade,
Where the kerb dribbled blood; his palsied jaw
Fell slack, his tongue lolled; and wide lids, in awe,
Scarce dared to loathe the grin his torn mouth made.
All time is the same to him now — his entire
Life perished and potential, instantly
Flashed one with death, exempt from time and care,
Apart from chance of change, dread, or desire.
As petrified — freed from these years that flee.
Immune from time forever, everywhere.
VII. — IN THE BANK.
OUT of the dead cathedral, where dead saints
Mark for untold contempt worn, sorry tales
Mumbled by fatted priests, whose boast be-
i Earth, so its part — their creed — that grey church
Me with sepulchral care, till pleasure faints.
Limp under suckling grief. Away from this !
Out in the live town's turmoil, all remiss,
Is nobler than such prolix grandeur paints.
Here in this sacred place God is secure!
His golden blood hence, here, and hither drugs
Life. Ships, lands, cables, railways, roads, entice
Spoil to this great hushed temple; men immure
Their sons, all future hope here; here Death hugs,
Slimes, and devours their gluttony and vice.
VIII THE STOCK EXCHANGE.
THROUGH the stench and smoke of pipe and
stale cigar —
Black coats, black hats, and raucous tones,
Quick, past them — hold your breath! Yet in this
Here throbs the nation's heart! Iron, coal, and tar,
Goldfields, farms, foundries, and all earth at par.
Pour forth their wealth, like blood, to vitalize
These very walls, these very men, their lies,
Their houses, parks, and cities, near and far.
To-day the world's romance is centred here.
This is the nation's heart — its arteries
Flood from this spot, and turn and twist and veer.
Here sluggish prudes and leech-like rakes, at ease.
Sap the land's life with schemes effete, austere —
As sure and tardy as their own disease.
IX. AT THE DRAPER S.
LET Woman be his creed who would lament
This modern world of sensual luxury I
It is her world! Like waves nursed by the sea
Men rise, and rage, and vanish; but, content.
She bears her children. Her sweet wonderment,
Bewitching men forever, makes them be
For her but as a mirthful tragedy.
Though she weeps, too, and seems as diffident.
Here Her chief joy lies I Let this place be kept.
Then, sacred to Her for Whose lovely sake
Men toil and squander with one will, no less,
To gladden Her with silk and lace, all swept.
Bejewelled, close round Her thrilling you — to make
More ravishing yet Her holy nakedness!
X. THE DECADENT.
FOR him the stale conventions, habits, all
The thoughts men bow beneath, make virtue
Itself a fashion — whence rank cities teem
With millions mouldering to their graves, who crawl
Around like vermin when alive; who maul
Each other, multiplying, and one stream.
Putrescent, wallowing deathward, tells the theme
Which all their noblest virtue can recall.
He cries: "I'll glory, then, in every vice!
Sublimely drunken with men's wickedness,
Which I'll assume. My life can be the price —
My love, truth, honour, faith — all I possess.
Against myself I'll help to load the dice —
I'm the one sickly god that I'll confess."
XI. — THE AGENT.
MUTE or loquacious, as chance may require,
Shrewdly complacent, quick to equivocate,
Bluff, bully, browbeat, brag, conciliate,
Cant, sympathize, or jest — both quack and liar —
He is the creature of effete desire;
The market-gauge of bargainings which inflate
His windbag mind with words to vindicate
The acts that his scarce-witting words respire.
Mendacity is his perfection. He,
Conventionally too timid to degrade
Truth frankly, as a thief does, affably
Smirks acquiescent, never unafraid
To envy those who daunt his jealousy —
Who dare to plot, rob, pilfer, rape, and raid.
XII. AT FLEMINGTON.
DEGRADE yourself to this with feverish drink,
Sustained by baudy tales of urban wit;
This gay environment is surely fit.
Invidious females, decked In white and pink.
Green, blue, and scarlet, all grimacing, think.
Poor dolls ! that they are happy — hag and chit.
Their mindless menfolk wager, drawl, smoke, spit.
And talk their twaddle, roar, and grin and wink.
Gubernatorial pomp's their bait, no doubt —
Spice for their savagery. Who's squared what horse
Pricks them to serious thought. The loud bands
Mingling with yells of jockey, bookie, tout.
Till the rush of hooves along the matted course
Holds every gaze beneath the vernal glare.
XIII. ON THE BLOCK.
WHIRLED in a shimmer of muslin, satin, lace,
They chatter, laugh, and smile; their
And from their loveliness a fragrance blows
Which deifies each mystic girlish face.
Here's more than magic 1 In every coy grimace,
A glove's half-gesture, the tilting of a nose,
There lightens something from each dainty pose.
Some startled sweetness or elusive grace.
Observe them thus in splendour — yet they walk
No less in nakedness though pads complete
Their glittering, fluttering raiment — nearer gaze
Deep through their warm, white skin ; watch how they
Stiff bones, automatons of what they eat —
Who live — and live but while their flesh decays.
XIV. — HIGH SOCIETY.
STAID sires of maids divine, they strut, rotund,
Climax of culture and peace, these fatted
Who wallow through the towns their torpor stag-
In whom remains some virtue moribund,
Since at their heels, though with convention shunned.
They dare parade, luscious from cars and cabs.
Correct, spruce, dignified, their ornate drabs,
Superb with all their venal bulk has dunned.
Her one need is that he should prostitute her:
Why praise him? Smile with his proud wife, who,
Him and his petted bias, taking cover
In prudish crazes — suffragism would suit her —
Sweetly ingenuous ever, on her own showing —
Rejuvenates her face and bilks — her lover.
THAT she may languish in her sumptuous flat,
Ten thousand acres sweat with wool and
That she may lunch, maids tend her jewelled feet.
While she leans back and pets a costly cat.
She sips champagne from crystal, musing at
Her whole shape glassed in carven ivory,
Bored even with her lovers, even she.
Bored with her latest twenty-guinea hat
She weeps: Her wistful loveliness could know
Not anything in all experience, sad.
To her, unknown — who is more proud than
Her great-aunt drubs, rubs, thumps and scrubs like
And scolds: "I ain't got time to cry!" — and so