Alfred Bruce Douglas.

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And the face of the prince grew white as milk,
And he answered nought, but under the band
That held his doublet of purple silk
Round his slight waist, he thrust his hand.

And the King picked up a spear, and cried,

" What hast thou there ? by the waters of Styx,

Speak or I strike," and the boy replied,

" Sweet Sire, it is a crucifix."

And the King grew black with rage and grief.
And for a full moment he spake no word.
And the spear in his right hand shook like a leaf,
And the vein on his brow was a tight blue cord.


Then he laughed and said, in bitter scorn,
" Take me this Christian fool from my sight,
Lock him in the turret till the morn.
And let him dance alone to-night.

" He shall sit in the dark while the courtly ball
All the gay night sweeps up and down
On the pohshed floor of the golden hall.
And thus shall he win his martyr's crown."

Thus spake the King, and the courtiers smiled,
And Vitus hung his head for shame ;
And he thought, " I am punished like a child,
That would have died for Christ's dear Name."

And so 'twas done, and on that night,
While silk and sword, with fan and flower.
Danced in the hall in the golden light,
Prince Vitus sat in the lone dark tower.

But the King bethought him, and was moved,
Ere the short summer night was done,
And his heart's blood yearned for the son he loved.
His dainty prince, his only son.

And all alone he chmbed the stair,
With the tired feet of a sceptred King,
And came to the door, and lo ! he was 'ware
Of the sound of flute and lute-playing.


And as the King stood there amazed,

The iron door flew open wide,

And the King fell down on his knees as he gazed

At the wondrous thing he saw inside.

For the room was filled with a soft sweet light
Of ambergris and apricot,
And round the walls were angels bright,
With lute and flute and angelot.

On lute and angelot they played.
With their gold heads bowed upon the strings,
And the soft wind that the slim flutes made,
Stirred in the feathers of their wings.

And in the midst serene and sweet
With God's light on his countenance
Was Vitus, with his gold shod feet.
Dancing in a courtly dance.

And round him were archangels four,
Michael, who guards God's citadel,
Raphael, whom children still implore,
And Gabriel and Uriel.

Thus long ago was Christ's behest,

And the saving grace that His red wounds be,

Unto this king made manifest.

And all his land of Sicily.


God sits within the highest Heaven,
His mercy neither tires nor faints,
All good gifts that may be given,
He gives unto His holy Saints.

This was the joy that Vitus gat ;
To dance with Angels knee by knee,
Before he came to man's estate :
God send us all such Company.

Aix-Les-Bains, 1897.


The City of the Soul

In the salt terror of a stormy sea

There are high altitudes the mind forgets ;

And undesired days are hunting nets

To snare the souls that fly Eternity.

But we being gods will never bend the knee,

Though sad moons shadow every sun that sets,

And tears of sorrow be like rivulets

To feed the shallows of Humility.

Within my soul are some mean gardens found
Where drooped flowers are, and unsung melodies,
And all companioning of piteous things.
But in the midst is one high terraced ground,
Where level lawns sweep through the stately trees
And the great peacocks walk like painted kings.

What shall we do, my soul, to please the King ?
Seeing he hath no pleasure in the dance,
And hath condemned the honeyed utterance
Of silver flutes and mouths made round to sing.



Along the wall red roses climb and cling,
And oh ! my prince, lift up thy countenance,
For there be thoughts like roses that entrance
More than the languors of soft lute-playing.

Think how the hidden things that poets see

In amber eves or mornings crystalline,

Hide in the soul their constant quenchless light,

Till, called by some celestial alchemy,

Out of forgotten depths, they rise and shine

Like buried treasure on Midsummer night.


The fields of Phantasy are all too wide,
My soul runs through them like an untamed thing.
It leaps the brooks like threads, and skirts the ring
Where fairies danced, and tenderer flowers hide.
The voice of music has become the bride
Of an imprisoned bird with broken wing.
What shall we do, my soul, to please the King,
We that are free, with ample wings untied ?

We cannot wander through the empty fields

Till beauty like a hunter hurl the lance.

There are no silver snares and springes set.

Nor any meadow where the plain ground yields.

O let us then with ordered utterance.

Forge the gold chain and twine the silken net.



Each new hour's passage is the acolyte

Of inarticulate song and syllable,

And every passing moment is a bell,

To mourn the death of undiscerned delight.

Where is the sun that made the noon-day bright,

And where the midnight moon ? O let us tell,

In long carved line and painted parable,

How the white road curves down into the night.

Only to build one crystal barrier

Against this sea which beats upon our days ;

To ransom one lost moment with a rhyme

Or if fate cries and grudging gods demur.

To clutch Life's hair, and thrust one naked phrase

Like a lean knife between the ribs of Time.

Naples, 1897.


Sonnet on the Sonnet

To see the moment holds a madrigal,

To find some cloistered place, some hermitage

l-or free devices, some deliberate cage

Wherein to keep wild thoughts like birds in thrall

To eat sweet honey and to taste black gall,

To fight with form, to wrestle and to rage',

Till at the last upon the conquered page

The shadows of created Beauty fall.

This is the sonnet, this is all delight
Of every flower that blows in every Spring,
And all desire of every desert place ;
This is the joy that fills a cloudy night
When, bursting from her misty following,
A perfect moon wins to an empty space. '


A Triad of the Moo


Last night my window played with one moonbeam,

And I lay watching till sleep came, and stole

Over my eyelids, and she brought a shoal

Of hurrying thoughts that were her troubled team,

And in the weary ending of a dream

I found this word upon a candid scroll :

" The nightingale is like a poet's soul.

She finds fierce pain in miseries that seem."

Ah me, methought, that she should so devise !
To seek for pain and sing such doleful bars,
That the wood aches and simple flowers cry.
And sea-green tears drench mortal lovers' eyes,
She that is made the lure of those young stars
That hang like golden spiders in the sky.

That she should so devise, to find such lore
Of sighful song and piteous psalmody,
While Joy runs on through summer greenery.
And all Delight is like an open door.


Must then her liquid notes for evermore
Repeat the colour of sad things, and be
Distilled like cassia drops of agony,
From the slow anguish of a heart's bruised core ?

Nay, she weeps not because she knows sad songs,
But sings because she weeps ; for wilful food
Of her sad singing, she will still decoy
The sweetness that to happy things belongs.
All night with artful woe she holds the w^ood.
And all the summer day with natural joy,


My soul is like a silent nightingale
Devising sorrow in a summer night.
Closed eyes in blazing noon put out the light,
And Hell lies in the thickness of a veil.
In every voiceless moment sleeps a wail,
And all the lonely darknesses are bright,
And every dawning of the day is white
With shapes of sorrow fugitive and frail.

My soul is like a flower whose honey-bees
Are pains that sting and suck the sweets untold,
My soul is like an instrument of strings ;
I must stretch these to capture harmonies,
And to find songs like buried dust of gold,
Delve with the nightingale for sorrowful things.



For the Third Edition of " The City of the Soul.'*

How have we fared my soul across the days,
Through what green valleys, confident and fleet,
Along what paths of flint with how tired feet ?
Anon we knew the terror that dismays
At noonday ; and when night made dark the ways
We bought delight and found remembrance sweet.
Though in our ears we heard the wide wings beat
Ever we kept dumb mouths to prayer and praise.

Yet never lost or spurned or cast aside,
And never sundered from the love of God,
Through how-so wayward intricate deceits,
Lured by what shining toys, our charmed feet trod.
On the sv^dft vnnds we saw bright angels ride,
And strayed into the moon-made silver streets.



Dedication to '^ Sonnets ^^ (1909)

What shall I say, what word, what cry recall,
What god invoke, what star, what amulet,
To make a sonnet pay a hopeless debt,
Or bind a winged heart with a madrigal ?
Weak words are vainer than no words at all,
The barrier of flesh divides us yet ;
Your spirit, like a bird caught in a net,
Beats ever an impenetrable wall.

This is my book, and there as in a glass.
Darkly beheld, the shadow of my mind
Wavers and flickers like a flame of fire.
So through your eyes, it may be, it will pass.
And I shall hold my wild shy bird confined
In the gold cage of shadowless desire.


The Dead Poet

I dreamed of him last night, I saw his face
All radiant and unshadowed of distress,
And as of old, in music measureless,
I heard his golden voice and marked him trace
Under the common thing the hidden grace.
And conjure wonder out of emptiness.
Till mean things put on beauty like a dress
And all the world was an enchanted place.

And then methought outside a fast locked gate
I mourned the loss of unrecorded words,
Forgotten tales and mysteries half said,
Wonders that might have been articulate.
And voiceless thoughts like murdered singing birds.
And so I woke and knew that he was dead.

Paris ^ 1 90 1.


Dies Amara Valde

Ah me, ah me, the day when I am dead,
And all of me that was immaculate
Given to darkness, lies in shame or state,
Surely my soul shall come to that last bed
And weep for all the whiteness that was red,
Standing beside the ravished ivory gate
When the pale dwelling-place is desolate
And all the golden rooms untenanted.

For in the smoke of that last holocaust,
When to the regions of unsounded air
That which is deathless still aspires and tends,
Whither my helpless soul shall we be tossed ?
To what disaster of malign Despair,
Or terror of unfathomable ends ?



To a Silent Poet

Where are the eagle-wings that Hf ted thee
Above the ken of mortal hopes and fears,
And was it thou who in serener years
Framed magic words with such sweet symmetry ?
Didst thou compel the sun, the stars, the sea,
Harness the golden horses of the spheres,
And make the winds of God thy charioteers
Along the roads of Immortality ?

Art thou dead then ? Nay, leave the folded scroll,

Let us keep quiet lips and patient hands,

Not as sheer children use, who would unclose

The petals of young flowers, but paying toll

At that high gate where Time grave gardener, stands

Waiting the ripe fulfilment of the rose.


The Traitor

Cast out my soul the broken covenant,
Forget the pitiable masquerade,
And that ignoble part ignobly played.
Let us take shame that such a mummer's rant
Of noble things, could pierce the adamant
0£ Pride wherewith we ever were arrayed,
And being with a kiss once more betrayed.
Let not our tears honour that sycophant.

Let him, on graves of buried loyalty,

Rise as he may to his desired goal ;

Ay and God speed him here, I grudge him not.

And when all men shall sing his praise to me

I'll not gainsay. But I shall know his soul

Lies in the bosom of Iscariot.


Beauty and the Hunter

Where lurks the shining quarry, swift and shy,
Immune, elusive, unsubstantial ?
In what dim forests of the soul, where call
No birds, and no beasts creep ? (the hunter's cry-
Wounds the deep darkness, and the low winds sigh
Through avenues of trees whose faint leaves fall
Down to the velvet ground, and like a pall
The violet shadows cover all the sky).

With what gold nets, what silver-pointed spears
May we surprise her, what slim flutes inspire
With breath of what serene enchanted air ? —
Wash we our star-vv^ard gazing eyes with tears,
Till on their pools (drawn by our white desire)
She bend and look, and leave her image there.



From the beginning, when was aught but stones
For English Prophets ? Starved not Chatterton ?
Was Keats bay-crowned, was Shelley smiled upon ?
Marlowe died timely. Well for him, his groans
On stake or rack else had out-moaned the moans
Of his own Edward ; and that light that shone,
That voice, that trumpet, that white-throated swan,
When found he praise, save for " his honoured bones " ?

Honour enough for bones ! but for live flesh
Cold-eyed mistrust, and ever watchful fear.
Mingled with homage given grudgingly
From cautious mouths. And all the while a mesh
To snare the singing- bird, to trap the deer,
And bind the feet of Immortality.

The Academy Office, 1908.



This is a deep hell, to be expressionless,

To leave emotion inarticulate,

To guess some form of Love or Joy or Hate

Shadowed in an imperial loveliness

Behind the hurrying thoughts that crowd and press,

To track, to follow, to lie down, to wait,

And at the last before some fearful gate

To stand eluded and companionless.

Oh, if proud summer's high magnificence
And all the garnered honey of sweet days.
And sweets of sweeter nights, cannot prevail
Against this spell of tongue-tied impotence,
How shall we sing my soul when skies are pale,
And winter suns shed melancholy rays ?


' The Green River

I know a green grass path that leaves the field,
And like a running river, winds along
Into a leafy wood where is no throng
Of birds at noon-day, and no soft throats yield
Their music to the moon. The place is sealed,
An unclaimed sovereignty of voiceless song.
And all the unravished silences belong
To some sweet singer lost or unrevealed.

So is my soul become a silent place.

Oh may I wake from this uneasy night

To find a voice of music manifold.

Let it be shape of sorrow with wan face,

Or Love that swoons on sleep, or else delight

That is as wide-eyed as a marigold.


L,a Beaute

{From the French of Baudelaire)

Fair am I, mortals, as a stone-carved dream,

And all men wound themselves against my breast,

The poet's last desire, the loveliest.

Voiceless, eternal as the world I seem.

In the blue air, strange sphinx, I brood supreme

With heart of snow whiter than swan's white cre«t,

No movement mars the plastic line — I rest

With lips untaught to laugh or eyes to stream.

Singers who see, in tranced interludes.

My splendour set with all superb design,

Consume their days, in toilful ecstasy.

To these revealed, the starry amplitudes

Of my great eyes which make all things divine

Are crystal mirrors of eternity.


Sots Sage Ma Douleur

{From the French of Baudelaire)

Peace, be at peace, O thou my heaviness,
Thou calledst for the evening, lo ! 'tis here.
The City w^ears a sombre atmosphere
That brings repose to some, to some distress.
Nov^f while the heedless throng make haste to press
Where pleasure drives them, ruthless charioteer.
To pluck the fruits of sick remorse and fear,
Come thou with me, and leave their fretfulness.

See how they hang from heaven's high balconies,
The old lost years in worn clothes garmented,
And see Regret with faintly smiling mouth ;
And while the dying sun sinks in the skies,
Hear how, far off. Night walks with velvet tread,
And her long robe trails all about the south.


To Olive

When in dim dreams I trace the tangled maze
Of the old years that held and fashioned me,
And to the sad assize of Memory
From the wan roads and misty time-trod ways,
The timid ghosts of dead forgotten days
Gather to hold their piteous colloquy,
Chiefly my soul bemoans the lack of thee
And those lost seasons empty of thy praise.

Yet surely thou wast there when life was sweet,
(We walked knee-deep in flowers) and thou wast there,
When in dismay and sorrow and unrest.
With weak bruised hands and wounded bleeding feet,
I fought with beasts and wrestled with despair
And slept (how else ?) upon thine unseen breast.

I have been profligate of happiness
And reckless of the world's hostility.
The blessed part has not been given to me
Gladly to suffer fools, I do confess


I have enticed and merited distress,
By this, that I have never bowed the knee
Before the shrine of wise Hypocrisy,
Nor worn self-righteous anger like a dress.

Yet write you this, sweet one, when I am dead
" Love like a lamp swayed over all his days
And all his life was like a lamp-lit chamber.
Where is no nook, no chink unvisited /

By the soft affluence of golden rays.
And all the room is bathed in liquid amber."

Long, long ago you lived in Italy,

You were a little princess in a state

Where all things sweet and strange did congregate.

And in your eyes was hope or memory

Or wistful prophecy of things to be ;

You gave a child's blank " no " to proffered fate,

Then became grave, and died immaculate.

Leaving torn hearts and broken minstrelsy.

But Love that weaves the years on Time's slow loom
Found you again, reborn, fashioned and grown
To your old likeness in these harsher lands ;
And when life's day was shadowed in deep gloom
You found me wandering, heart-sick and alone,
And ran to me and gave me both your hands.



My thoughts like bees explore all sweetest things

To fill for you the honeycomb of praise,

Linger in roses and white jasmine sprays,

And marigolds that stand in yellow rings.

In the blue air they moan on muted strings,

And the blue sky of my soul's summer days

Shines with your light, and through pale violet ways.

Birds bear your name in beatings of their wings.

I see you all bedecked in bows of rain,
New showers of rain against new-risen suns.
New tears against new light of shining joy.
My youth, equipped to go, turns back again.
Throws down its heavy pack of years and runs
Back to the golden house a golden boy.

When we were Pleasure's minions, you and I,

When we mocked grief and held disaster cheap.

And shepherded all joys like willing sheep

That love their shepherd ; when a passing sigh

Was all the cloud that flecked our April sky,

I floated on an unimagined deep,

I loved you as a tired child loves sleep,

I lived and laughed and loved, and knew not why.


Now I have known the uttermost rose of love ;

The years are very long, but love is longer ;

I love you so, I have no time to hate

Even those wolves without. The great winds move

All their dark batteries to our fragile gate :

The world is very strong, but love is stronger.


When I am dead you shall not doubt or fear,

Or wander nightly in the halls of gloom.

The moon will shine into my empty room,

And in the narrow garden flowers will peer.

While you look through your window. Scarce a tear

Will drench your child's blue eyes, while on my tomb,

Where the red roses wake and break and bloom,

The stars gaze down eternal and austere.

And I, in the dark ante-room of Death,
Will wait for you with ever-outstretched hands
And ears strained for your little timid feet ;
And in the listening darkness, when your breath
Pants in distress, my arms v^ll be like bands
And all my weakness like your vnnding-sheet.


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Alas ! that Time should war against Distress,
And numb the sweet ache of remembered loss,
And give for sorrow's gold the indiflferent dross
Of calm regret or stark forgetfulness.
I should have worn eternal mourning dress
And nailed my soul to some perennial cross.
And made my thoughts like restless waves that toss
On the wild sea's intemperate wilderness.

But lo ! came Life, and with its painted toys
Lured me to play again like any child.
O pardon me this weak inconstancy.
May my soul die if in all present joys,
Lapped in forgetfulness or sense-beguiled
Yea, in my mirth, if I prefer not thee.

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If Love reveal himself, to haggard eyes,

Compact of lust and curiosity,

And turn a pallid face away from thee

To seek elsevsfhere a harlot's paradise ;

If Faith be perjured and if Truth be lies,

And thy great oak of life a rotten tree,

Where shall we hide, my soul, how shall we flee

The eternal fire, the worm that never dies ?

O born to be rejected and denied,

Scorn of the years and sport of all the days.

Must the gray future still repeat the past ?

O thrice betrayed and seven times crucified,

Is there no issue from unhappy ways,

No peace, no hope, no loving arms at last ?

La Br ague, 1903.


The Witch

You cannot build again what you have broken,
You cannot bind the words your lips have spoken.

You broke the golden bowl and shattered it,
You put away Remembrance in a pit.

You sprinkled earth, you wove a spell and sang.
And on its grave certain red lilies sprang.

You watered them with a betrayed man's tears,
And found them fair. God sent you sighs and fears.

You bent them to your lust and made them be
Food for your Hell-imagined ecstasy.

You took Remorse and strangled it by night,
And sank it in a well. You bound Delight

And brought it home : the cord that held it fast
Was the forgetfulness of kindness past.


You took the price of him you had betrayed

And bought you toys and decked yourself and played

Like any child : you were all soft and sweet ;
Your lovers watched your little dancing feet

With glowing eyes, too lover-blind to see

In your white hands clasped close the Judas fee.

You took the price and you have held it still ;
And now, far off, you see Heaven on a hill,

And dream of peace and gates of pearl unlocked —
Poor fool ! be not deceived, God is not mocked.



Behold^ Your House is heft Unto You

Alas, for Love and Truth and Faith, stone dead,
Borne down by Hate to death unnatural,
Stifled and poisoned ! From the empty hall
To the dismantled chamber where the bed
Once held its breathing warmth, the soundless tread
Of sad ghosts goes by night. Timid and small
One creeps and glides ; I saw her shadow fall
Behind me on the floor uncarpeted.

Poor wistful semblance of too weak remorse
Why have we met in your forsaken room,
Where the pale moon looks in on emptiness
And holds a lamp to ruin ? Fragile force
You come too late, my cold heart is a tomb
Where love lies strangled in his wedding dress.

26 Church Row, 1913.


The End of Illusion

" And for thou wast a spirit too delicate
To act her earthy and abhorred commands.
Refusing her grand hests, she did confine thee
Into a cloven pine ; within which rift
Imprisoned, thou didst painfully remain
A dozen years," *

The Tempest, Act I, Sc, 2.

How wretchedly have I with tranced eyes
(Chained galley-slaves of Hell-born sorcery)
Gazed on this world as through a shallow sea
Or glass of coloured jewels. Who is wise
That looks to find on earth a paradise ?
Or how shall the flame-cinctured spirit go free
That's harnessed to a fleshly sovereignty,
Or gold-wired in a cage of woman's lies ?

You were all Juliet and Rosalind
And Imogen to me. You snared my soul
And would have moulded it like pliant wax
Into the image of your lust, your mind
Is like Hell's furnace full of burning coal.
I know you now, Circe and Sycorax.

Hesdigneuly 1914.
* 1902-1914.


Canker Blooms

" But for their virtue only is their show,
They live unwooed and unrespected fade."

Shakespeare, Sonnet 54.

Alas that evil things should find this gift,

To be so housed and so caparisoned.

So lapped in silk and so pavilioned

In such sweet tents, that we who darkly lift

Our still illusioned eyes know not to sift

The soaring noble from the falsely fond.

While Virtue like a needy vagabond

With unadmired demeanour makes rude shift.

You were all fair without, not so within.

I looked at you and loved you. Your bright shell

Was opal-hued but not inhabited

By honourable jewels. Like a sin

You charmed my soul, but ere we came to Hell

Love died. — ^Let now the dead entomb their dead.



The U?2speaka6ie Englishman

You were a brute and more than half a knave,
Your mind was seamed with labyrinthine tracks
Wherein walked crazy moods bending their backs
Under grim loads. You were an open grave
For gold and love. Always you were the slave
Of crooked thoughts (tortured upon the racks
Of mean mistrust). I made myself as wax

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Online LibraryAlfred Bruce DouglasThe collected poems of Lord Alfred Douglas → online text (page 3 of 4)