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The caged eagle, and other poems online

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B M 1DD 555









GIFT OF




BY GEORGE STERLING

The Caged Eagle and Other Poems

Crown 8vo. Cloth 1.50

The Testimony of the Suns and Other

Poems. Crown 8vo. Cloth SI. 2 5

A Wine of Wizardry and Other Poems

Crown 8vo. Cloth 1.25

The House of Orchids and Other Poems

Crown 8vo. Cloth 1.25

Beyond the Breakers and Other Poems

Crou<n 8vo. Cloth 1.25

Yosemite. Crown 8vo. Full Paper

Boards, Illustrated .75

Ode on the Opening of the Panama-
Pacific International Exposition.
Limited edition on hand-made
paper and the type distributed.
Small 4to. Full Hand- Made Paper
over Boards 1.75

The Evanescent City, with Illustrations

by Francis Bruguiere. 4to. Boards. ,75
A. M. ROBERTSON
San Francisco



THE CAGED EAGLE

AND OTHER POEMS



THE CAGED EAGLE

AND OTHER POEMS



BY

GEORGE STERLING



AUTHOR OF

"THE TESTIMONY OF THE SUNS"

"A WINE OF WIZARDRY"

"THE HOUSE OF ORCHIDS"

"BEYOND THE BREAKERS"

"YOSEM1TE"



A. M. ROBERTSON

SAN FRANCISCO
1916



COPYRIGHT

1916
BY A. M. ROBERTSON




TO

RAPHAEL WEILL
CHEVALIER OF THE LEGION OF HONOR



339711



CONTENTS

PAGE

THE CAGED EAGLE AND OTHER POEMS:

THE WITCH 9

To TWILIGHT 14

HENRI ... 16

CONSPIRACY 19

INDIAN SUMMER 22

BALLAD OF THE FATAL WORD . 23

ON THE SALE OF THE LOVE-LETTERS OF A DEAD POET . 27

MEDIATRIX 28

A DOG WAITS His DEAD MISTRESS 30

HUMILITY IN ART 32

AN AUTUMN THRUSH 34

THE FALL OF THE YEAR 36

OCTOBER . . . . 38

IN AUTUMN 4

THE CAGED EAGLE 42

TIME AND TEARS 45

To AN OLD NURSE 46

To THE MUMMY OF THE LADY Isis (In the Bohemian Club,

San Francisco) 49

THE RAMPARTS AND THE ROSE 5

ON A PORTRAIT OF LINCOLN 52

THE TRYST 54

A YELLOW ROSE 58

SHAKESPEARE 61

THE SHADOW OF NIRVANA 65

THE RETURN 66

MOLOCH . 6



CONTENTS

PAGE

THE CAGED EAGLE AND OTHER POEMS Continued:

THREE SONNETS ON SLEEP 7 o

MAN 73

ON A CITY STREET . 74

ILLUSION 75

ESSENTIAL NIGHT 7 6

THE GLEANER 77

CALIFORNIA 7 g

POEMS ON THE PANAMA-PACIFIC EXPOSITION:

ODE ON THE OPENING 8 7

THE BUILDERS 102

THE EVANESCENT CITY I0 4

PERSONAL POEMS:

FRANK UNGER 109

To XAVIER MARTINEZ, PAINTER no

THE LIGHT-GIVER m

To MARGARET ANGLIN II4

ON THE GREAT WAR:

THE SONG OF THE VALKYRS n 7

THE DREAM OF WHILHELM II I2 o

EARTH S ANTHEM 121

To GERMANY 122

BETRAYAL I27

BELGIUM, AUGUST, 1914 I2 g

ENGLAND, AUGUST, 1914 I30

To THE WAR-LORDS I3I

THE WAR-GOD 134

THE LITTLE FARM I35

THE HOUSE OF WAR I3 6

"As IT WAS IN THE BEGINNING" i 37

To BELGIUM I3 8



CONTENTS

PAGE

ON THE GREAT WAR Continued:

THE Two PRAYERS 139

AFTERMATH 140

THE WAR-MACHINE 141

BOMBARDMENT 142

GERMANY 143

THE DEATH-CHORDS 144

THE FEAST 145

WAR S Music 146

THE AEROPLANE 147

BEFORE DAWN 148

THE TURK 149

THE NEW KINGS 150

To FRANCE 151

THE NIGHT OF MAN . 152

To THE ALLIED ARMS 153

THE BATTLEFIELD AT NIGHT 154

KINGSHIP 155

THE DEATH OF RUPERT BROOKE ........ 156

THE HELOTS 157

THE CROWN-PRINCE AT VERDUN 158

BEFORE DAWN IN AMERICA 159

GUN-PRACTICE 160

To ENGLAND 161

CIVILIZATION AT BAY 162

THE DAY OF DECISION 163

BROADWAY, NEW YORK, 1916 164

THE "LUSITANIA" 165

WAR, THE PAST 166

WAR, THE PRESENT 167

WAR, THE FUTURE 168



THE CAGED EAGLE

AND OTHER POEMS

THE WITCH

Erik the prince came back from sea,

His galley low with spoil-
Armor and silks and weeping slaves,

Silver and wine and oil.

And there was one that did not weep,

But laughed in Erik s face,
And tween the helmsman and the mast

Strode with a leopard s grace.

Her hair was darker than the night

In which our foemen sink;
Her limbs were whiter than the milk

Of which our maidens drink.



THE WITCH



Her lips were coral-red; her eyes
As shoaling seas were green.

She wore cupped gold on either breast
And one blue gem between.

And cross her path or say her word

No man save Erik dared ;
But all day long men stood apart,

And knit their brows, and stared.

And they have made the harbor strand,
And all have seen her charms;

Erik hath borne her to the shore
Uplifted hi his arms.

Soon hi the council-hall they stood

Of Gudrod, sire and king,
Who bade grey Sigurd, seer and skald,

The prince s valor sing.



10



THE WITCH

Long looked the skald on Erik s face

And face of her he led;
Then snatched the blade from Erik s belt

And stabbed the captive dead.

Erik hath sprung at Sigurd s throat,
But four lords hold him fast,

With eyes that glare on nothingness,
And straining arms upcast.

There is hot tumult in the place,
With clash of steel and word,

Until in thunder over all
The king s deep voice is heard.

"Assoil thee, skald! and give good cause

For this that thou hast done,
Or ravens for thy sightless eyes
Shall fight ere set of sun!"



ii



THE WITCH



The skald stood silent and apart,

Then smiled upon his deed.

It is that we bleed not," he said,

"That she in time does bleed.

From isles of sin that one was brought,

Far westward ard to-south;
She whispered in a witch s tongue

And hath a harlot s mouth.

O Gudrod ! in thy grandsire s time

Such one across the sill
Was led into the royal house

To love, and plot her will.

Thou hast heard sung what strong one s death

Her cunning did devise,
With sorcery of philtred glance,

With promise of her eyes.



12



THE WITCH



Thou hast heard sung the woes she wrought

With swords of jealous men :
Know now that in this serpent slain

That poison came again !

I have done well by thee and thine

Thy daughters, lords and son;
And many hearts shall go unpierced,

For that I pierced this one."

He made an end, and smiled aloof ....

The great king bent his head ....
Then, gazing long on him that smiled,
"Thou hast done well," he said.

And from the sorceress the blood

Crept slowly on the stone,
And pointed like a scarlet arm

At Gudrod on his throne.



TO TWILIGHT

Linger, we pray,
Shy mother of the white and earliest star!

For in thy keeping are

The Dreams that suffer not the light of day
Dim presences, that find us from afar.

O soundless feet,
Between the night and sunset hesitant!

The cricket s eager chant
And voice of some faint bell, remotely sweet,
Alone await thee, clear and consonant.

Sing to thyself
A song as pure, as low, as delicate,

Ere music seem too late,
Or yet the moonray seek the hidden elf,
Or mute, the night fall uncompassionate.



TO TWILIGHT



We shall not hear;
But in the heart an echo swiftly flown

Shall touch us from thine own,
And voices of the past, forlorn and clear,
Shall haunt us from the days that love hath
known ....

So hast thou come,
Whose benediction ceases not for night,

To close the gates of light,
And tell, from fields for thee a moment dumb,
That age-old pain of Beauty and her flight.



HENRI

To-night I drifted to the restaurant
We scribblers fancy, finding it unchanged,
Save that I saw no more my dapper friend,
The waiter Henri. When I asked for him,
"Gone to the war," another waiter said ....

"Gone to the war!" That man so mild a part
Of peace and its traditions ! Debonnair,
Childlike, alert, and none too strong, we d thought.
He who had served so deftly, and, secure,
Had walked the beaten path and sheltered ways-
He now was with the cannon and the kings !
Gentle he was, and ever with a smile:
Ah! wears he still a smile? For now his soul
Has taken iron, and stood forth austere,
Made suddenly acquainted with despair,
And pain, and horror, and the timeless things.



16



HENRI

I called him once, and he unhurried came;
And now he hurries at Another s beck-
Ancient, enormous, immemorial War
And, by the trampled valley of the Meuse,
Finds a red service in the day s vast hall
Of thunders, and in night s domain of death
Attends, unless he too be of the dead.
And I sit here beneath the harmless lights !

O simple soul War s hands laid hold upon
And led to devastations, and the shock
Of legions, and the rumble of huge guns,
And crash and lightning of the rended shells
Above a region veined and pooled with blood !
You now have part with all intrepid youth
That took, in ages past, the battle-line,
And in a mighty Cause had faith and love.
You are the hero now, and I the sheep !
And quietly beneath the pleasant lamps



HENRI



I sit, and wonder how you fare to-night.
It s midnight now in France. Perhaps you find
Uneasy slumber; or perhaps, entrenched,
You wait the night-attack across the rain.
Perhaps, my friend, they ve made your bed with

spades !

And I sit moody here, remembering,
As careless men and women rise and go,
I never asked you if you had a wife.



18



CONSPIRACY

I had a dream of some great house of stone,
Not dark, but open to the northern ray.
Beneath a cold and somber sky it lay,

Soundless and secret, mournful and alone.

It had no prospect save upon the sky
Set in a great and old and windy wood.
Profound its essence seemed, but not of good;

Yet had one asked, none could have answered why.

A single door it had, that faced the east,
Ponderous, brazen and without a lock.
I thought, as stubbornly I dared to knock,

That past the sill a cryptic murmur ceased.



CONSPIRACY



And none said "Enter! 1 yet I entered there,
And saw that house was all one marble room,
Austere, and given to the dead, for whom

The walls held chiseled couches, scant and bare.

Arctic, immense, no pillar stayed that hall,
And from the north the melancholy light
Sank through translucent windows, vast and white,

On alabaster niche and frozen pall.

Rigid they lay, that session of the dead,
From whom the hands of Change seemed held a space,
With folded arms and enigmatic face,

Marmorean, as portion of their bed.

And half I thought that wafts of presence stole
On the urned air significantly still,
Upon whose wintry crystal crept a chill

That fell not on the body but the soul.



20



CONSPIRACY



That air unused, it seemed to crave escape
From that sad hall, to be a wind again.
I felt a terror of those tranquil men,

And feared the wisdom of each silent shape.

Whereat I turned, importunate, to win
My way to life s complacencies once more;
Which done, behind the safety of the door

Again I heard that muttering begin.



21



INDIAN SUMMER

Come with me to some woodland where the chill
Of autumn stirs with ecstasy the day,
Or where the tranquil edges of a bay

Shoal to untroubled turquoise, pure and still;

There let immortal Beauty have her will
In that hushed temple of the year s delay,
Crowning thy heavens with her holy ray,

While the heart leaps and eyes unbidden fill.

Assent thou not unto the year s "Alas!"
Tho all that is depart and leave no trace.

Suffice it, ere the lonely vision pass,
That loveliness be given for a space,

When, set with stars, the souPs deep waters glass
The glory and the sorrow of her face.



22



BALLAD OF THE FATAL WORD

The boulders lie along the downs;

The turf is hard between ;
The Channel waves are low this dawn.

And turf and wave are green.

Now three come down from out the wood,

And cross the verdant span;
And two have swords and one a rose

A man, a maid, a man.

Beside the sea the turf is flat,

With space for one to spring
To right or left, and in or out,

With steel upraised to sting.



BALLAD OF THE FATAL WORD



"Have at thee, Carew!" cries the one:
"Defend thyself! "it came.
The blades against the rising sun
Make sudden wands of flame.

Now let the timid curlew fly

And let the gull veer past,
For point is set to truceless point

And doubt shall end at last.

And long below a windy sky

The dancing rapiers blaze
The grating edge, the slender death

That seeks an hundred ways.

And neither hath the vantage yet,

Nor do the Fates decide
Above those lists where pride and youth

Encounter youth and pride.



BALLAD OF THE FATAL WORD



Then sudden on the breast of one

There lies a scarlet stain.
Tis but a touch, yet at the sight

The maiden cries, "Duane!"

And in that voice, for all to know,

Are love and bitter fear;
And neither knew, until she cried,

Which one to her was dear.

And at that voice the one she named
Stands dazed, for instant weal,

Till in that heart where joy is crowned
Slips the dethroning steel.

He had not struck had he but known
How bliss strikes unawares;

Now she is on her knees at last,
With unavailing pray rs.



BALLAD OF THE FATAL WORD



Upon the breast of him that fell
Her red rose. laid she then;

And unto him whose blade was red
She never spoke again.



26



ON THE SALE OF THE LOVE-LETTERS
OF A DEAD POET

The fond and foolish lines writ for the one

On those the gaping many have their will.

About the grave contending voices shrill,
In profanation of a trust undone :
The dead man sleeps, and protest has he none

On those that soil his passion s memory still.

Where geese may crane before the sullied sill,
The heart s poor shrine lies open to the sun.

There is no grace of shadow for this flow r,
No balm of silence for this outraged love,

Laid bare to leering peasants for a doom.
The ghouls are out before the midnight hour;
The buzzards gather in the skies above;
The stained hyena snuffles in the tomb.



27



MEDIATRIX

Voiceless, we hear thee plead,
O Music, bond unseen
That God hath made between

His silence and our need.

Tho Heaven have graver speech
Than thy communing tongue,
Yet save as thou hast sung

Its angels may not teach.

What none shall ever say

With sound of speech, say thou,

Upon whose holy brow
Falls now our lesser day.



28



MEDIATRIX



In thy compassion be
A refuge from the mirth
And babble of mad earth,

Till all are lost in thee.

From ways to us unshown,
Grant us, the dumb and blind,
The word that grief would find,

The word that love hath known.

Thy voice of joy and pain
All worlds and times allot
Which lacking, love stands not,

Nor Heaven to lose or gain.



29



A DOG WAITS HIS DEAD MISTRESS

Lift not thy head at some familiar sound :
It is not she, the comrade taken hence.
The solitary pathway she has found
Gives not upon the sense.

Be patient, for thou shalt forget at last
Forget, and in thy fashion be at peace:
Here in my changeless valley of the Past
Her voice will never cease.

happy! that thy brown and mournful eyes

Look only on the barriers that are !
But mine remember how the solemn skies
Shut westward on her star.



A DOG WAITS HIS DEAD MISTRESS



It is not thine to wonder, faithful friend,

If Morning close the vigil and the pain,
If doubt and loss be given for an end
And sorrow to our gain.

It is not thine to hunger for her light,

And know, as I, how long the watch must be
Till the grey sentry hear upon the night
The word that sets him free.

Nay lift no more thine eager head to greet

Her presence in the garden or the hall :
It is in Paradise the soundless feet
Fare, if they fare at all.



HUMILITY IN ART

What do they know who did not see the Dream?
O brother ! tho men praise thee and acclaim,
They did not see the vision and the flame,

Nor saw the wings of Beauty lift and gleam.

Thou to thyself in silence shalt confess
How scant thy tidings of that angel are
That blazed upon thee like a holy star,

Shaking all Heaven with its loveliness.

But thou has seen and what thy tale to men?
The vouchsafed Presence canst thou render whole ?-
The iris of her footprints in thy soul?

The Wind that passed and cometh not again?



HUMILITY IN ART



Be meek, who saw st the marvel of her face,
Nor canst restore her semblance to the throng!
Bow down, who knowest how thy sorry song

Shall never be the witness of her grace !

From that high garden where thy feet were led,
What evanescent lilies dost thou bring !
Thou who hast heard the seas of Heaven sing,

Return an echo of their quiring fled!

Is it for these that thou wouldst take thy throne,
Or mail thy spirit with indifference
The stammered words, the music dulled by sense,

The tawdry colors and the mangled stone?



33



AN AUTUMN THRUSH

Like some regret that, half-forgot,

Gropes into memory,
Here in a shadow-chosen spot

Thy music steals to me.

To/soft for joy, too mild for grief,

Within the wood it dies-
Beauty too wayward and too brief
To grace our noonday skies.

The dusk enfolds me, and the year
Stands at the western gate.

Thy song, the symbol of a tear,
Echoes the cry "Too late!"



34



AN AUTUMN THRUSH

Too late!" cries back the conscious heart,

As one that in dismay
Had seen the affronted gods depart

And could not bid them stay;

Nor could retain from Time s control

A moment or a flow r,
Save when in woodlands of the soul

Such strains endure an hour.



35



THE FALL OF THE YEAR

It is that season when the soul must know
The challenge of Transition, she who lays

On the reluctant days
The burden of departure and its woe.

And all spring sowed in ecstasy and tears
Reaps autumn now with sorrow and a smile.

The world s heart rests awhile,
Yet knows the mournful music of the years.

The myriad wings beat south, the myriad flow rs
Have said farewell to sun and rain and wind;

Here sense and spirit find
That change alone has empire of the hours.



THE FALL OF THE YEAR



Nay, tho the gaze turn backward at the gate,
The going-forth is certain. In each breast

What mutinies attest
The ceaseless march of all things to their fate !

Unto what Land, on what dim road compelled,
Depart, unlingering, the bidden feet?

What memories repeat
That life is exile and a home withheld?



37



OCTOBER

No voice hath said the mighty word " Fare well!"
What spirit, then, fills with a sweet despair

And swiftly broken spell
The crimson gardens of the mourning air?

The clouds go forth on seas without a port ;
Back unto Earth, its mother, sinks the leaf.

Lone are the days and short
That hold at heart this ecstasy and grief.

Now Sorrow hath her pure and perfect part,
Turning great eyes on Beauty s dear excess,

Till, desperate, the heart
Aches for some wild and unknown happiness.



OCTOBER

Tho Time have shown us that it is not here
The joy that stirs our hunger still we wait.

Its iris in the tear
Gives Hope her haven and our dreams their gate.

Now find we, tho the guerdon be forgot,
A glory set beyond us, and a call

That cries that we are not
As clouds that vanish or as leaves that fall.



39



IN AUTUMN

Mine eyes fill, and I know not why at all.

Lies there a country not of time and space

Some fair and irrecoverable place
I roamed ere birth and cannot now recall?
A land where petals fall

On paths that I shall nevermore retrace?

Something is lacking from the wistful bow rs,
And I have lost that which I never had.
The sea cries, and the heavens and sea are sad,

And Love goes desolate, yet is not ours.
Brown Earth alone is glad,

Robing her breast with fallen leaves and flow rs.



40



IN AUTUMN

High memories stir; the spirit s feet are slow,
In nameless fields where tears alone are fruit.
And voices of the wind alone transmute

The music that I lost so long ago.
I stand irresolute,

Lonely for some one I shall never know.



THE CAGED EAGLE

Dost hear the west wind calling thee afar,
O thou that hast beheld the night withdrawn,
And past the crystal thresholds of the dawn

Soared on the pathway of the morning star?

O er what cold forests and what granite hills
Were once thy roads, in days remote from this?
What torrents knew thee and what valleys miss

The shadow of thy pinion on their rills?

Does no mate mourn thee, faithful to thee yet,
Deep in the wilderness where men are few,
Whose wings, now tireless on the eternal blue,

Would fold by thine on some snow-parapet?



42



THE CAGED EAGLE



Or was it thine the bitter coasts to know,
Where the profound Atlantic thunders welled
To walls from which thine ageless eyes beheld

The northern ocean foaming far below?

Thy mate alone might share thy towering flight,
On equal wing in lonely heavens borne,
And rest with thee, waiting the distant morn,

On pinnacles made silent by the night.

Here is no sea, nor wood of western leaf,
Nor mountains where the wind is on the snow:
Before thy prisoned gaze thy jailors go,

Curious, careless, knowing not thy grief.

The seasons of thy liberty are fled,

And hours when thou wast comrade of the cloud.

Now vultures are companions, and the crowd,
Long with the vision of thy bondage fed.



43



THE CAGED EAGLE

What music here shall mingle with thy dreams,
Or grace the years in which thou still must pine?
The song of tempest-halting firs was thine,

And the ascending voice of many streams.

And men have brought thee unto this at length,
Tho "Freedom! freedom!" seemed thy native cry,
Lost are the ancient eyries on the sky,

The azure lanes, the sunlight in its strength.

Yet look on me, and one thy gaze shall find
Freeborn, but doomed awhile thy fate to share
Whose wings, as thine, ache for a wider air

And solitudes august with stars and wind.



44



TIME AND TEARS

Ere the bent skies were soft with afternoon,
A cloud crept up those arching walls of day
And like a pall upon the heavens lay,

Casting a shadow on the fields of June.

Then the tyrannic winds arose, and soon,
Like eagles harrying a helpless prey,
Drove its dark pinions on that azure way

Foretrodden by the white, belated moon.

And now far down the royal West it lies,
Where its bright sisters in the sunset float,

While the first voices of the twilight call.
A dweller for a little in our skies,
How still it seems, how tender and remote,
Like some old grief that time has rendered small !



45



TO AN OLD NURSE

Ever the thrush, on days like these of June,
Sings to the dead, as leafy shadows veer,
Swung by the slow decline of afternoon :
The dead folk do not hear.

There go the unmeaning ages as the hours;

Absolved of Time, they reckon not his flight,
Compassionately starred by lowly flow rs,
Lies an unlifting night.

They are made silent in a silent place,

Abiding past our gratitude and tears ;
Nor shall our music touch with choral grace
Their sleep s unnoted years.



46



TO AN OLD NURSE



Better, perhaps, no voice importunate
Deliver at the bourn of their repose
The certain and immutable "Too late!"
No living heart but knows.

Yet there, of those who lie so dreamless now,

Is one whose love I knew in seasons past :
O warden of my youngest dreams ! O thou
I reckon with at last!

How should a child be conscious of such care?

A heedless boy have gratitude? Ah, yes!
Yet still the heart of memory wakes aware,
Sad for old thanklessness.

And now, to have thee know the full regret

For thanks unfelt, undreamt-of and unsaid !
Elder and lessoned, now the eyes are wet
Above the gentle dead.



47



TO AN OLD NURSE

There is no mound to tell where thou dost sleep

O watcher by the bed, lone sentinel
Of long-gone midnights desolate and deep,
I know thou sleepest well!



48



TO THE MUMMY OF THE LADY ISIS

IN THE BOHEMIAN CLUB, SAN FRANCISCO

No bird shall tell thee of the seasons flight:

Sealed are thine ears that now no longer list.

The little veins of temple and of wrist
Are food no more for sleepless love s delight,
And crumbling in the sessions of thy night,

Pylon and sphinx shall be as fleeting mist.

Bitter with natron are the lips that kissed,
And shorn of dreams the spirit and the sight.

Ah! dust misused! better to feed the flow r,
Than grace the revels of an alien hour,
When babe or lord wake never to caress
The bosom where unerring Death hath struck
And milkless breasts that give the ages suck
Stilled in the slumber that is nothingness.



49



THE RAMPARTS AND THE ROSE

The king came back from war with slaves and spoil,
And said, "A vaster palace must there be
Than where my fathers dwelt." So purposed he,

And set a captive nation to the toil.

And arch on arch and wall by nightless wall
The royal eyries towered to the sun . . .
The years were long before the task was done

And captains feasted in the banquet hall.

Then to his youngest poet said the king,
" Behold the magnitude of mine estate!
The courts, the lions graven at the gate,

The armies vassal to my ramparts! Sing!



THE RAMPARTS AND THE ROSE



"Sing the strong towers basaltic and sublime!

Sing the high walls whose strength shall make
my fame

A star of legend and immortal flame,
And house my princes to the snows of Time!"

And the red lords kept silence for the lay;

The sceptred king smiled proudly on the queen;

But the mad poet, willful and serene,
Sang of a rose whose life was for a day ....

Of all the pomp abides nor gate nor tow r;
But o er the ruins bloom the roses still,


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Online LibraryGeorge SterlingThe caged eagle, and other poems → online text (page 1 of 4)