Alfred Noyes.

Collected poems, Volume 1 online

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Melts in the distant battlefield or brings the dream so near it

That, almost, as the rifted clouds around them swim and reel,

A thousand grey-lipped faces flash — ah, hark, the heart can

hear it —

The sharp command that lifts as one the levelled lines of

steel.



And through the purple thunders there are silent shadows
creeping
With murderous gleams of light, and then — a mighty leaping
roar
Where foe and foe are met; and then — a long low sound of
weeping
As Death laughs out from sea to sea, another fight is o'er.



Another fight — ^but ah, how much is over? Night descending

Draws o'er the scene her ghastly moon-shot veil with

piteous bands;

But all around the bivouac-glare the shadowy pickets wending

See sights, hear sounds that only war's own madness

understands.



No circle of the accursed dead where dreaming Dante
wandered,
No city of death's eternal dole could match this mortal
world
Where men, before the living soul and quivering flesh are
sundered.
Through all the bestial shapes of pain to one wide grave are
hurled.



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IN TIME OP WAR 183

But in the midst for those who dare beyond the fringe to enter
Be sure one kingly figure lies with pale and bloodnsoiled
face,
And round his brows a ragged crown of thorns; and in the
centre
Of those pale folded hands and feet the sigil of his grace.

See^ bow the pale limbs, marred and scarred in love's lost
battle, languish;
See how the splendid passion still smiles quietly from his
eyes:
Come, come and see a king indeed, who triumphs in his
anguish,
Who conquers here in utter loss beneath the eternal skies.

For unto lips so deadly calm what answer shall be given?

Oh pale, pale king so deadly still beneath the unshaken stars,
Who shall deny thy kingdom here, though heaven and earth
were riven,

With the last roar of onset in the world's intestine wars?

The laugh is Death's; he laughs as erst o'er hours that England
cherished,
"Count up, count up the stricken homes that wail the first-
bom son,
Count by your starved and fatherless the tale of what hath
perished;
Then gather with your foes and ask if you — or I — ^have won."



Ill

The world rolls on; and love and peace are mated:
Still on the breast of England, like a star.

The blood-red lonely heath blows, consecrated,
A brooding practice-ground for blood-red war.

Yet is there nothing out of tune with Nature
There, where the skylark showers his earliest song,

Where sun and wind have moulded every feature,
And one world-music bears each note along.



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184 IN TIME OP WAR

There many a brown-winged kestrel swoops or hoven
In poised and patient quest of his own prey;

And there are fern-clad glens where happy lovers
May kiss the murmuring summer noon away.

There, as the primal earth was — all is glorious
Perfect and wise and wonderful in view

Of that great heaven through which we rise victorious
O'er ail that strife and change and death can do.

No nation yet has risen o'er earth's first nature;

Though love illumed each individual mind,
Like some half-blind, half-formed primeval creature

The State stiU crawled a thousand years behind.

Still on the standards of the great World-Powers
Lion and bear and eagle sullenly brood,

Whether the slow folds flap o'er halcyon hours
Or stream tempestuously o'er fields of blood.

By war's red evolution we have risen
Far, since fierce Erda chose her conquering few,

And out of Death's red gates and Time's grey prison ^
They burst, elect from battle, tried and true.

But now Death mocks at youth and love and glory,
Chivalry slinks behind his loaded mines.

With meaner murderous lips War tells her story,
And round her cunning brows no laurel shines.

And here to us the eternal charge is given
To rise and make our low world touch God's high:

To hasten God's own kingdom, Man's own heaven.
And teach Love's grander army how to die.

No kingdom then, no long-continuing city
Shall e'er again be stablished by the sword;

No blood-bought throne defy the powers of pity,.
No despot's crown outweigh one helot's word.



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IN TIME OF WAR 185

Imperial England, breathe thy marching orders:
The great host waits; the end, the end is close,

When earth shall know tiiy peace in all her borders,
And all her deserts blossom with thy Rose.

Princedoms and peoples rise and flash and perish
As the dew passes from the flowering thorn;

Yet the one E^ngdom that our dreams stiU cherish
Livee in a light that blinds the world's red mom.

Hasten the Kingdom, England, the days darken;

We would not have thee slacken watch or ward.
Nor doff thine armour till the whole world hearken,

Nor till Time bid thee lay aside the sword.

Hasten the Kingdom; hamlet, heath, and city.
We are all at war, one bleeding bulk of pain;

Little we know; but one thing— by God's pity —
We know, and know all else on earth is vain.

We know not yet how much we dare, how little;

We dare not dream of peace; yet, as at need,
England, Ood help thee, let no jot or tittle

Ot Love's last law go past thee without heed.

Who Boves his life skaU lose it! The great ages
Bear witness— Rome and Babylon and T^^

Cry from the dust-stopped lips of all their sages, —
There is no hope if man can climb no higher.

England, by God's grace set apart to ponder

A little while from battle, ah, take heed.
Keep watch, keep watch, beside thy sleeping thunder;

Call down Christ's pity while those others bleed;

Waken the God within thee, while the sorrow

Of battle surges round a distant shore,
While Time is thine, lest on some deadly morrow

The moving finger write — buJt thine no more.



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186 SEVENTIETH BIRTHDAY OF SWINBURNE

Little we know — but though the adyancing flBons

Win every painful step by blood and fire.
Though tortured mouths must chant the world's great pieans,

And martyred souls proclaim the world's desire;



Though war be nature's engine of rejection,
Soon, soon, across her universal verge

The soul of man in sacred insurrection
Shall into God's diviner light emerge.



Hasten the Kingdom, England, queen and mother;

Little we know of all Time's works and ways;
Yet this, this, this is sure: we need none other

Knowledge or wisdom, hope or aim or praise,



But to keep this one stormy banner flying
In this one faith that none shall e'er disprove.

Then drive the embattled world before thee, crying,
There is one Emperor, whose name is Love.



ODE FOR THE SEVENTIETH BIRTHDAY OP
SWINBURNE



He needs no crown of ours, whose golden heart
Poured out its wealth so freely in pure praise
Of others: him the imperishable bays
Crown, and on Sunium's height he sits apart:
He hears inmiortal greetings this great mom:
Fain would we bring, we also, all we may,
Some wayside flower of transitory bloom,
Frail tribute, only born
To greet the gladness of this April day
Then waste on death's dark wind its faint perfume.



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SEVENTIETH BIRTHDAY OP SWINBURNE 181

II

Here on this April day the whole sweet Spring
Speaks thro' his music only, or seems to speak.
Aiid we that hear, with hearts uplift and weak,
What can we more than claim him for our king?
Here on this April day (and many a time
Shall April come and find him singing still)
He is one with the world's great heart b^ond the years.
One with the pulsing rhyme
Of tides that work some heavenly rhythmic wiU
And hold the secret of all human tears.



in

For he, the last of that immortal race
Whose music, like a robe of living light
Re-clothed each new-bom age and made it bright
As with the glory of Love's transfiguring face,
Reddened earth's roses, kindled the deep blue
Of England's radiant, everHsinging sea.
Recalled the white Thalassian from the foam,
Woke the dim stars anew
And triumphed in the triumph of Liberty,
We claim him; but he hath not here his home.



IV

Not here; round him to-day the clouds divide:
We know what faces thro' that rose-flushed air
Now bend above him: Shelley's face is there,
And Hugo's, lit with more than kingly pride.
Replenished there with splendour, the blind eyes
Of Milton bend from heaven to meet his own,
Sappho is there, crowned with those queenlier flowers
Whose graft outgrew our skies,
His gift: Shakespeare leans earthward from his throne
With hands outstretched. He needs no crown of ours.



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188 IN CLOAK OF GREY

IN CLOAK OP GREY

I

Love's a pilgrim, cloaked in grey,
And his feet are pierced and bleeding:

Have ye seen him pass this way
Sorrowfully pleading?

Ye that weep itte worid away,

Have ye seen King Love to-day?—



n



Yea, we saw him; but he came
Poppy-crowned and white of limb I

Song had touched his lips with flame,
Ajad his eyes were drowsed and dim;

And we kissed the hours away

Till night grew rosier than the day.-*



m

Hath he left you? — Yea, he left us

A little while ago.
Of his laughter quite bereft us

And his limbs of snow;
We know not why he went away
Who ruled our revels yesterday.—



IV

Because ye did not understand

Love Cometh from afar,
A pilgrim out of Holy Land

Guided by a star:
Last night he came in cloak of grey,
Begging. Ye knew him not: he went his way.



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A RIDE FOR THE QUEEN 189



A RIDE FOR THE QUEEN

Queen of queens, oh lady miDe,

You who say you love me.
Here's a cup of crimson wine

To the stars above me;
Here's a cup of blood and gall

For a soldier's quaflSngt
What's the prize to crown it all?

Death? I'll take it biughingl
I ride for the Queen to-night I



Though I find no knightly fee

Waiting on my lealty,
High upon the gallows-tree

Faithful to my fealty,
What had I but love and youth,

Hope and fame in season?
She has proved that more than truth

Glorifies her treason I

Would that other do as much?

Ah, but if in sorrow
Some forgotten look or touch

Pierce her heart to-morrow
She might love me yet, I think;

So her lie befriends me.
Though I know there's darker drink

Down the road she sends me.

Ay, one more great chance is mine

(Can I faint or falter?)
She shall pour my blood like wine,

Make my heart her altar.
Bum it to the dust! For, there.

What if o'er the embers
She should stoop and — I should hear^

'*Hu8hI Thy love remembera!"



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190 A RIDE FOR THE QUEEN

One more chance for every word

Whispered to betray me,
While she buckled on my sword

Smiling to allay me;
One more chance; ah, let me not

Mar her perfect pleasure;
Love shall pay me, jot by jot.

Measure for her measure.



Faith shall think I never knew,

I will be so ferventl
Doubt shall dream I dreamed her true

As her war-worn servant I
Whoso flouts her spotless name

(Love, I wear thy token!)
He shall face one sword of flame

Ere the lie be spoken!



All the world's a-f oam with may,

(Fragrant as her bosom!)
Could I find a sweeter way

Through the year's young blossom.
Where her warm red mouth on mine

Woke my soul's desire? . . .
Hey! The cup of crimson wine.

Blood and gall and fire!



Castle Doom or Gates of Death?

(Smile again for pity!)
"Boot and horse," my lady saith, \

"Spur against the City,
Bear this message!" God and she

Still forget the guerdon;
Nay, the rope is on the tree!

That shall bear the burden!
I ride for the Queen to-night!



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BONG 101

SONG



When that I loved a maiden

My heaven was in her eyes,
And when they bent above me

I knew no deeper skies;
fiut when her heart forsook me

My spirit broke its bars,
For grief beyond the sunset

And love beyond the stars.



II

When that I loved a maiden

She seemed the world to me:
Now is my soul the universe,

My dreams the sky and sea:
There is no heaven above me,

No glory binds or bars
My grief beyond the sunset.

My love beyond the stars.



Ill

When that I loved a maiden

I worshipped where she trod;
But, when she clove my heart, the cleft

Set free the imprisoned god:
Then was I king of all the world,

My soul had burst its bars.
For grief beyond the simset

And love beyond the stars.



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192 THE HIGHWAYMAN

THE HIGHWAYMAN
PART ONE



The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees^
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding —

Riding — ^riding —
The highwasrman came riding, up to the old inn-Kloor.

II

He'd a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at

his chin,
A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin;
They fitted with never a wrinkle: his boots were up to the thigh !
And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,
His pistol butts a-twinkle.
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.

Ill

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn«

yard,
And he tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was

locked and barred;
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting

there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,

Bess, the landlord's daughter.
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

IV

And dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim the ostler listened; his face was white and peaked;
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,
But he loved the landlord's daughter.

The landlord's red-lipped daughter,
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say —



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THE HIGHWAYliAN 193

V

''One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I'm after a prise to-night,
But I shall be back with the ydlow gold before the morning

light;
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the

day, ^.

Then look for me by moonlight,

Watch for me by moonlight,
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the



way."



VI



He rose upright in the stirrups; he scarce could reach her

hand.
But she loosened her hair i' the casement I His face burnt

like a brand
As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;
And he kissed its waves in the moonlight,

(Oh, sweet black waves in the moonlight!)
Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight, and galloped away

to the West.



PART TWO



He did not come m the dawning; he did not come at noon;
And out o' the tawny sunset, before the rise o' the moon,
When the road was a gipsy's ribbon, looping the purple moor,
A red-coat troop came marching —
Marching — ^marching —
King George's men came marching, up to the old inn-door.

II

They said no word to the landlord, they drank his ale in-
stead,

But they gagged his daugnter and bound her to the foot of her
narrow bed;

13



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194 THE HIGHWAYMAN

Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side !
There was death at every window;

And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he
would ride.

Ill

They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering

jest;
They had bound a musket beside her, with the barrel beneath

her breast!
''Now keep good watch I" and they kissed her.

She heard the dead man say —
Look for me by moonlight;

Watch for me by moonlight;
rU come to thee by moonlight, thofugh hell should bar the way!

IV

She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held

good!
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat

or blood I
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours

crawled by like years,
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,

Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it I The trigger at least was hers I



The tip of one finger touched it; she strove no more for the

rest!
Up, she stood up to attention, with the barrel beneath her

breast,
She would not risk their hearing; she would not strive again;
For the road lay bare in the moonlight;

Blank and bare in the moonlight;
And the blood of her veins in the moonlight throbbed to her

love's refrain.



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THE HIGHWAYMAN 195

VI

ThfrOoi; Uoi^btl Had they heard it7 The horse-hoofs
ringing clear;
Tlot-Oot, tloi-Uot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they

did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding,

Riding, riding I
The red-coats looked to their priming I She stood up, straight
andstilll

VII
Thtrtlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-Uoi, in the echoing night I
Nearer he came and nearer! Her face was like a light!
Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep

breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,

Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him — ^with
her death.

VIII
He turned; he spurred to the West; he did not know who stood
Bowed, with her head o'er the musket, drenched with her own

red blood!
Not till the dawn he heard it, his face grew grey to hear
How Bess, the landlord's daughter.

The landlord's black-eyed daughter.
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the
darkness there.

IX
Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier

brandished high!
Blood-red were his spiu^ i' the golden noon: wine-red was his

velvet coat.
When they shot him down on the highway,

Down like a dog on the highway,
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of

lace at his throat.



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196 THE HAUNTED PALACE

X

And sHU of a winter^ night, they say, when the wind is in (he

trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
A highwayman comes riding —

Riding — riding —
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old tnti-door .

XI

Over the cobbles he daUers and clangs in the dark inn^yard;

He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and

barred;
He whisUes a tune to the window, and who should be waiting

there
But the landlord's blackreyed daughter,

Bess, the landlord's daughter.
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long bUick hair.



THE HAUNTED PALACE

Comb to the haunted palace of my dreams,
My crumbUng palace by the eternal sea,

Which, like a childless mother, still must croon

Her ancient sorrows to the cold white moon,
Or, ebbing tremulously,

Wiih one pale arm, where the long foam-fringe gleams.
Will gather her rustling garments, for a space
Of muffled weeping, round her dim white face.

A princess dwelt here once: long, long ago
This tower rose in the sunset like a prayer;

And, through the witchery of that casement, rolled

In one soft cataract of faSry gold
Her wonder-woven hair;

Her face leaned out and took the sacred glow
Of evening, like the star that listened, high
Above the gold clouds of the western sky.



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THE HAUNTED PALACE 197

Was there no prince behind her in the gloom,
No crimson shadow of his rich array?

Her face leaned down to me: I saw the tears

Bleed through her eyes with the slow pain of years,
And her mouth yearned to say —

"Friend, is there any message, from the tomb
Where love lies buried?" But she only said —
"Oh, friend, canst thou not save me from my dead?



"Canst thou not minister to a soul in pain?

Or hast thou then no comfortable word?
Is there no faith in thee wherewith to atone
For his unfaith who left me here alone,
Heart-sick with hope deferred;
Oh, since my love will never come again,

Bring'st thou no respite through the desolate years.
Respite from these most unavailing tears?"



Then saw I, and mine own tears made response.
Her woman's heart come breaking through her eyes;

And, as I stood beneath the tower's grey wall,

She let the soft waves of her deep hair fall
Like flowers from Paradise

Over my fevered face: then all at once
Pity was passion; and Uke a sea of bliss
Those waves rolled o'er me drowning for her kiss.



Seven years we dwelt together in that tower,
Seven years in that old palace by the sea,

And sitting at that casement, side by side,

She told me all her pain: how love had died
Now for all else but me;

Yet how she had loved that other: like a flower
Her red lips parted and with low sweet moan
She pressed their tender su£Fering on mine own.



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198 THE HAUNTED PALACE

And always with vague eyes she gazed afar,
Out through the casement o'er the changing tide;

And slowly was my heart's hope brought to nought

That some day I should win each wandering thought
And make her my soul's bride:

Still, still she gazed across the cold sea-bar;
Ay; with her hand in mine, still, still and pale,
Waited and watched for the unretuming sail.



And I, too, watched and waited as the years
Rolled on; and slowly was I brought to feel

How on my lips she met her lover's kiss,

How my heart's pulse begat an alien bliss;
And cold and hard as steel

For me those eyes were, though their tender tears
Were salt upon my cheek; and then one night
I saw a sail come through the pale moonlight.



And like an alien ghost I stole away,
And like a breathing lover he returned;

And in the woods I dwelt, or sometimes crept

Out in the grey dawn while the lovers slept
And the great sea-tides yearned

Against the iron shores; and faint and grey
The tower and the shut casement rose above:
And on the earth I sobbed out all my love.



At last, one royal rose-hung night in June,
When the warm air like purple Hippocrene

Brimmed the dim valley and sparkled into stars,

I saw them cross the foam-lit sandy bars

And dark pools, glimmering green,

To bathe beneath the honey-coloured moon :
I saw them swim out from that summer shore.
Kissed by the sea, but they returned no more.



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THE HAUNTED PALACE 199

And into the dark palace, like a dream

Remembered after long oblivious years,
Through the strange open doors I crept and saw
As some poor pagan might, with reverent awe,

And deep adoring tears,
The moonlight through that painted window stream

Over the soft wave of their vacant bed;

There sank I on my knees and bowed my head,



For as a father by a cradle bows.
Remembering two dead children of his own,

I knelt; and by the cry of the great deep

Their love seemed like a murmuring in their sleep,
A little fevered moan,

A little tossing of childish arms that shows
How dreams go by I "If I were God," I wept,
"I would have pity on children while they slept."



The days, the months, the years drift over me;
This is my habitation till I die:

Nothing is changed; they left that open book

Beside the window. Did he sit and look
Up at her face as I

Looked while she read it, and the enchanted sea
With rich eternities of love unknown
Fulfilled the low sweet music of her tone?



So did he listen, looking in her face?
And did she ever pause, remembering so
The heart that bore the whole weight of her pain

Until her own heart's love returned again?
In the still evening glow

I sit and listen in this quiet place,
And only hear — ^like notes of phantom birds —
Their perished kisses and little broken words.



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200 THE SCULPTOR

Come to the haunted palace of my dreams.
My crumbling palace by the eiemal sea.

Which, like a childless mother, still must croon

Her ancient sorrows to the cold white moon,
Or, ebbing tremulously.

With one pale arm, where the long foamrfrin^ge gleams,
Will gcUher her rusUing garments, for a space
Of muffled weeping, round her dim white face.



THE SCULPTOR

This is my statue: cold and white
It stands and takes the morning light I
The world may flout my hopes and fears,
Yet was my life's work washed with tears
Of blood when this poor hand last night
Finished the pain of years.

Speak for me, patient lips of stone,
Blind eyes my lips have rested on
So often when the o'er-weary brain
Would grope to human love again,
And found this grave cold mask alone
And the tears fell like rain.

Ay; is this all? Is this the brow

I fondled, never wondering how
It lived — ^the face of pain and bliss
That through the marble met my kiss?

Oh, though the whole world praise it now,
Let no man dream it is I

They blame; they cannot blame aright
Who never knew what infinite

Deep loss must shame me most of all!

They praise; like earth their praises fall
Into a tomb. The hour of light

Is flown beyond recall*



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SUMMER 201

Yet have I seen, yet have I known,
And oh, not tombed in cold white stone


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Online LibraryAlfred NoyesCollected poems, Volume 1 → online text (page 11 of 26)