Alfred Noyes.

Collected poems, Volume 1 online

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The dream I lose on earth below;
And I shall come with face aglow
And find and claim it for my own
Before God's throne, I know.



SUMMER
(an ode)

Now like a pageant of the Golden Year
In rich memorial pomp the hours go by,

With rose-embroidered flags unfurled

And tasselled bugles calling through the world
Wake, for your hope draws near I

Wake, for in each soft porch of azure sky.
Seen through each arch of pale green leaves, the Gate
Of Eden swings apart for Summer's royal state.



Ah, when the Spirit of the moving scene
Has entered in, the splendour will be spent I

The flutes will cease, the gates will close;

Only the scattered crimson of the rose,
The wild wood's hapless queen,

Dis-kingdomed, will declare the way he went;
And, in a little while, her court will go.
Pass like a cloud and leave no trace on earth below.



Tell us no more of Autumn, the slow gold
Of fruitage ripening in a world's decay.
The falling leaves, the moist rich breath
Of woods that swoon and crumble into death
Over the gorgeous mould:
Give us the flash and scent of keen-edged may
Where wastes that bear no harvest yield their bloom.
Rude crofts of flowering nettle, bents of yeUow broom.



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202 SUMMER

The very reeds and sedges of the fen
Open their hearts and blossom to the sky;

The wild thyme on the mountain's knees

Unrolls its purple market to the bees;
Unharvested of men

The Traveller's Joy can only smile and die.
Joy, joy alone the throbbing whitethroats bring,
Joy to themselves and heaven t They were but bom to sing ?

And see, between the northern-scented pines.
The whole sweet summer sharpens to a glow I

8ee, as the well-spring plashes cool

Over a shadowy green fern-fretted pool
The mystic sunbeam shines

For one mad moment on a breast of snow
A warm white shoulder and a glowing arm
Up-flung, where some swift Undine sinks in shy alarm.

And if she were not all a dream, and lent

Life for a little to your own desire,
Oh, lover in the hawthorn lane,
Dream not you hold her, or you dream in vain!

The violet, spray-besprent
When from that plunge the rainbows flashed like fire,

Will scarce more swiftly lose its happy dew

Than eyes which Undine haunts wUl cease to shine on you.

What though the throstle pour his heart away,
A happy spendthrift of uncounted gold,

Swinging upon a blossomed briar

With soft throat lifted in a wild desire
To make the world his may.

Ever the pageant through the gates is rolled
Further away; in vain the rich notes throng
Flooding the mellow noon with wave on wave of song.

The feathery meadows like a lilac sea,

Knee-deep, with honeyed clover, red and white,
Roll billowing: the crisp clouds pass
Trailing their soft blue shadows o'er the grass;
The skylark, mad with glee,



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SUMMER 203

Quivers, up, up, to lose himself in light;
And, through the forest, like a fairy dream
Through some dark mind, the ferns in branching beauty
stream.

Enough of joy ! A little respite lend,
Summer, fair god that hast so little heed

Of these that serve thee but to die,

Mere trappings of thy tragic pageantry I
Show us the end, the end I

We too, with human hearts that break and bleed,
March to the night that rounds their fleeting hour,
And feel we, too, perchance but serve some loftier Power.

O that our hearts might pass away with thee,
Burning and pierced and full of thy sweet pain,

Burst through the gates with thy swift soul.

Hunt thy most white perfection to the goal,
Nor wait, once more to see

Thy chaJiced lilies rotting in the rain,
Thy ragged yellowing banners idly hung
In woods that have forgotten all the songs we sung!

Peace! Like a pageant of the Golden Year
In rich memorial pomp the hours go by.

With rose-embroidered flags unfurled

And tasseUed bugles calling through the world
Wakey for your hope draws near!

WakCf for in each soft porch of azure sky^
Seen through each arch of pale green leaves^ the Gate
Of Eden swings apart for Summ>er*s royal state.

Not wait I Forgive, forgive that feeble cry
Of blinded passion all im worthy thee!

For here the spirit of man may claim

A loftier vision and a nobler aim
Than e'er was bom to die:

Man only, of earth, throned on Eternity,
From his own sure abiding-place can mark
How earth's great golden dreams go past into the dark.



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204 AT DAWN



AT DAWN



O Hespbb-Phosphob, far away

Shining, the first, the last white star,
Hear'st thou the strange, the ghostly cry,
That moan of an ancient agony
From purple forest to golden sky

Shivering over the breathless bay?
It is not the wind that wakes with the day;

For see, the gulls that wheel and call.

Beyond the tumbling white-topped bar.
Catching the sun-dawn on their wings,

like snow-flakes or like rose-leaves fall.
Flutter and fall in airy rings;

And drift, like lilies ruffling into blossom

Upon some golden lake's unwrinkled bosom.

Are not the forest's deep-lashed fringes wet
With tears? Is not the voice of all regret

Breaking out of the dark earth's heart?
She too, she too, has loved and lost; and we —
We that remember our lost Arcady.
Have we not known, we too.
The primal greenwood's arch of blue.
The radiant clouds at sun-rise curled
Around the brows of the golden world;
The marble temples, washed with dew,
To which with rosy limbs aflame
The violet-eyed Thalassian came.
Came, pitiless, only to display
How soon the youthful splendour dies away;

Came, only to depart
Laughing across the grey-grown bitter sea;
For each man's life is earth's epitome.
And though the years bring more than aught they take^
Yet might his heart and hers well break
Remembering how one prayer must still be vain.

How one fair hope is dead.

One passion quenched, one glory fled
With those first loves that never come again.



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AT DAWN 20S

How many years, how many generations,

Have heard that sigh in the dawn,
When the dark earth yearns to the unforgotten nataoas

And the old loves withdrawn,
Old loves, old lovers, wonderful and unnimibered

As waves on the wine-dark sea,
'Neath the tall white towers of Troy and the temples that
slumbered

In Thessaly?



From the beautiful palaces, from the nuraculous portals,

The swift white feet are flown I
They were taintless of dust, the proud, the peerless Immortak

As they sped to their loftier throne I
Perchance they are there, earth dreams, on the shores of
Hesper,

Her rosy-bosomed Hours,
Listening the wild fresh forest's enchanted whisper,

Crowned with its new strange flowers;
listening the great new ocean's triumphant thunder

On the stainless unknown shore,
While that perilous queen of the world's delight and wonder

Comes white from the foam once more.



When the mists divide with the dawn o'er those glittering
waters.

Do they gaze over unoared seas —
Naiad and n3rmph and the woodland's rose-crowned
daughters

And the Oceanides?
Do they sing together, perchance, in that diamond splendour,

That world of dawn and dew.
With eyelids twitching to tears and with eyes grown tender

The sweet old songs they knew.
The songs of Greece? Ah, with harpHstrings mute do they
falter

As the earth like a small star pales?
When the heroes launch their ship by the smoking altar

Does a memory lure their sails?



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206 THE SWIMMBIR'S RACE

Far, far away, do their hearts resume the story

That never on earth was told,
When all those urgent oais on the waste of glory

Cast up its gold?

Are not the forest fringes wet

WUh tears? Is not the voice of aU regret

Breaking out of the dark earth's heart?

She toOf she too, has loved and lost; and though

She turned last night in disdain

Away from the sunset-embers,
From her soul she can never depart;
She can never depart from her pain.
Vainly she strives to forget;
Beautiful in her woe.

She awakes in Vie dawn and remembers.

THE SWIMMER^S RACE

I
Between the clover and the trembling sea

They stand upon the golden-shadowed shore
In naked boyish beauty, a strenuous three.
Hearing the breakers* deep Olympic roar;
Three young athletes poised on a forward limb,
Mirrored like marble in the smooth wet sand,
Three statues moulded by Praxiteles:
The blue horizon rim
Recedes, recedes upon a lovelier land,
And England melts into the skies of Greece.

II

The dome of heaven is like one drop of dew.

Quivering and clear and cloudless but for one
Crisp bouldered Alpine range that blinds the blue

With snowy gorges glittering to the sun:
Forward the runners lean, with outstretched hand
Waiting the word — ah, how the light relieves
The silken rippling muscles as they start
Spuming the yellow sand.
Then skimming lightlier till the goal receives
The winner, head thrown back and lips apart.



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THE SWIMMER'S RACE 207

III

Now at the sea-marge on the sand they lie

At rest for a moment, panting as they breathe,
And gazing upward at the unbounded sky

While the sand nestles round them from beneath;
And in their hands they gather up the gold
And through their fingers let it lazily stream
Over them, dusking all their limbs' fair white,
Blotting their shape and mould,
Till, mixed into the distant gazer's dream
Of earth and heaven, they seem to sink from sight



IV

But one, in seeming petulance, oppressed

With heat has cast his brown young body free:
With arms behind his head and heaving breast

He lies and gazes at the cool bright sea;
So young Leander might when in the noon
He panted for the starry eyes of eve
Aiid whispered o'er the waste of wandering waves,
''Hero, bid night come soon I"
Nor knew the nymphs were waiting to receive
And kiss his pale limbs in their cold sea-caves.



Now to their feet they leap and, with a shout.

Plunge through the glittering breakers without fear,
Breast the green-arching billows, and still out.

As if each dreamed the arms of Hero near;
Now like three sunbeams on an emerald crest.
Now like three foam-flakes melting out of sight,
They are blent with all the glory of all the sea;
One with the golden West;
Merged in a myriad waves of mystic light
As life is lost in immortality.



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208 THE VENUS OF MILO

THE VENUS OP MILO

I

Backwabd ahe leans, as when the rose unblown

Slides white from its wann sheath some mom in May!
Under the sloping waist, aslant, her zone

Clings as it slips in tender disarray;
One knee, out-thrust a little, keeps it so

Lingering ere it fall; her lovely face
Gazes as o'er her own Eternity 1
Those armless radiant shoulders, long ago

Perchance held arms out wide with yearning grace
For Adon by the blue Sicilian sea.

n

No; thou eternal fount of these poor gleams,

Bright axle-star of the wheeling temporal skies,
Daughter of blood and foam and deathless dreams,

Mother of flying Love that never dies.
To thee, the topmost and consummate flower,

The last harmonic height, our dull desires
And our tired souls in dreary discord climb;
The flesh forgets its pale and wandering fires;

We gaze through heaven as from an ivory tower
Shining upon the last dark shores of Time.

Ill

White culmination of the dreams of earth.

Thy splendour beacons to a loftier goal.
Where, slipping earthward from the great new birth,

The shadowy senses leave the essential soul!
Oh, naked loveliness, not yet revealed,

A moment hence tiliat falling robe Tvill show
No prophecy like this, this great new dawn.
The bare bright breasts, each like a soft white shield.

And the firm body like a slope of snow
Out of the slipping dream-stuff half withdrawn.



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NIOBE 209

THE NET OP VULCAN

Fbom peaks that dove the heaveiui asunder

The hunchback god with sooty claws
Loomed o'er the night, a cloud of thunder,

And hurled the net of mortal laws;
It flew, and all the world grew dimmer;

Its blackness blotted out the stars,
Then fell across the rosy glinmier

That told where Venus couched with Mars.

And, when the steeds that draw the morning

Spumed from their Orient hooves the spray.
All vainly soared the lavrock, warning

Those tangled lovers of the day:
Still with those twin white waves in blossom,

Against the warrior's rock-broad breast,
The netted light of the foam-bom bosom

Breathed like a sea at rest.

And light was all that followed after,

light the derision of the sky,
Light the divine Olympian laughter

Of kindlier gods in days gone by:
Low to her lover whispered Venus,

"The shameless net be praised for this —
When night herself no more could screen us

It snared us one more hour of bliss."

NIOBE

How like the sky she bends above her child.

One with the great horizon of her pain!
No sob from our low seas where woe runs wild,

No weeping cloud, no momentary rain.
Can mar the heaven-high visage of her grief,
That frozen anguish, proud, majestic, dumb.
She stoops in pity above the labouring earth.
Knowing how fond, how brief
Is all its hope, past, present, and to come,
She stoops in pity, and yearns to assuage its dearth*



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210 NIOBE

Through that faur face the whole dark universe

Speaks, as a thorn-tree speaks thro' one white flower;
And all those wrenched Promethean souls that curse

The gods, but cannot die before their hour,
Find utterance in her beauty. That fair head
Bows over all earth's graves. It was her cry-
Men heard in Rama when the twisted ways
With children's blood ran red!
Her silence utters all the sea would sigh;
And, in her face, the whole earth's anguish prays.



It is the pity, the pity of human love

That strains her face, upturned to meet the doom.
And her deep bosom, like a snow-white dove

Frozen upon its nest, ne'er to resume
Its happy breathing o'er the golden brace
Whose fostering was her death. Death, death alone
Can break the anguished horror of that spell t
The sorrow on her face
Is sealed: the living flesh is turned to stone;
She knows all, ail, that life and Time can tell.



Ah, yet, her woman's love, so vast, so tender;

Her woman's body, hurt by every dart;
Braving the thunder, still, still hide the slender

Soft frightened child beneath her mighty heart.
She is all one mute immortal cry, one brief
Infinite pang of such victorious pain
That she transcends the heavens and bows them down!
The majesty of grief
Is hers, and her dominion must remain
Eternal. God nor man usutpr that crown*



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ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE 211

ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE

I

Height over height, the purple pine-woods climg to the
rich Arcadian mountains,
HolyHsweet as a sea of incense, under the low dark crimson
skies:
Glad were the glens where Eurydice bathed, in the beauty
of dawn, at the haunted fountains
Deep in the blue hyacinthine hollows, whence all the
rivers of Arcady rise.

Long ago, ah, white as the Himtress, cold and sweet as
the petals that crowned her.
Fair and fleet as the fawn that shakes the dew from the
fern at break of day,
Wreathed with the clouds of her dusky hair that swept in
a sun-bright glory around her,
Down to the valley her light feet stole, ah, soft as the
budding of flowers in May.

Down to the valley she came, for far and far below in the
dreaming meadows
Pleaded ever the Voice of voices, calling his love by her
golden name;
So she arose from her home in the hills, and down through the
blossoms that danced with their shadows,
Out of the blue of the dreaming distance, down to the
heart of her lover she came.



Red were the lips that hovered above her lips in the flowery
haze of the June-day:
Red as a rose through the perfumed mist of passion that
reeled before her eyes;
Strong the smooth young sunburnt arms that folded her
heart to his heart in the noon-day.
Strong and supple with throbbing sunshine under the
blinding southern skies.



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212 ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE

Ah, the kisses, the little murmursi mad with pain for thw
phantom fleetness,
Mad with pain for the passing of love that lives, thej
dreamed — as we dream — ^for an hour I
Ah, the sudden tempest of passion, mad with pain for its
overnsweetness,
As petal by petal and pang by pang their love broke out into
perfect flower.

Ah, the wonder as once he wakened, out of a dream of remem-
bered blisses,
Couched in the meadows of dreaming blossom to feel,
like the touch of a flower on his eyes.
Cool and fresh with the fragment dews of dawn the touch
of her light swift kisses,
Shed from the shadowy rose of her face between his face and
the warm blue skies.



II

Lost in his new desire

He dreamed away the hours;

His lyre
Lay buried in the flowers:

To whom the King of Heaven,
Apollo, lord of light.

Had given
Beauty and love and might:

Might, if he would, to slay
All evil dreams and pierce

The grey
Veil of the Universe;

With Love that holds in one
Sacred and ancient bond

The Sim
And all the vast beyond,



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ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE 213

And Beauty to enthrall
The Boul of man to heaven:

Yea^aU
These gifts to him were given.



Yd in his dream's desire
He drowsed away the hours:

His lyre
Lay buried in the /lowers.



Then m his wrath arose
Apollo, lord of light,
That shows
The wrong deed from the right;



And by what radiant laws
O'emiling human needs,

The cause
To consequence proceeds;



How balanced is the sway
He gives each mortal doom:

How day
Demands the atoning gloom:



How all good things await
The soul that pays the price

To Fate
By equal sacrifice;



And how on him that sleeps
For less than labour's sake

There creeps
Uncharmed, the Pythian snake.



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214 ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE

III

Lulled by the wash of the feathery grasses, a sea with many a
sun-swept billow,
Heart to heart in the heart of the summer, lover by lover
asleep they lay,
Hearing only the whirring cicala that chirruped awhile at
their poppied pillow
Faint and sweet as the murmur of men that laboured in
villages far away.



Was not the menace indeed more silent? Ah, what care for
labour and sorrow?
Gods in the meadows of moly and amaranth surely might
envy their deep sweet bed
Here where the butterflies troubled the lilies of peace, and took
no thought for the morrow,
And golden-girdled bees made feast as over the lotus the
soft Sim spread.



Nearer, nearer the menace glided, out of the gorgeous gloom
around them.
Out of the poppy-haunted shadows deep in the heart of the
purple brake;
Till through the hush and the heat as they lay, and their own
sweet listless dreams enwound them, —
Mailed and mottled with hues of the grape-bloom suddenly,
quietly, glided the snake.



Subtle as jealousy, supple as falsehood, diamond-headed and
cruel as pleasure.
Coil by coil he lengthened and glided, straight to the fragrant
curve of her throat:
There in the print of the last of the kisses that still glowed red
from the sweet long pressure.
Fierce as famine and swift as lightning over the glittering
lyre he smote.



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ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE 216

IV

And over the cold white body of love and delight
Orpheus arose in the terrible storm of his grief,

With quivering up-clutched hands, deadly and white,
And his whole soul wavered and shook like a wind-swept
leaf:

As a leaf that beats on a mountain, his spirit in vain
Assaulted his doom and beat on the Gates of Death:

Then prone with his arms o'er the lyre he sobbed out his pain,
And the tense chords faintly gave voice to the pulse of his
breath.

And he heard it and rose, once again, with the Ijrre in his
hand,

And smote out the cry that his white-lipped sorrow denied :
And the grief's mad ecstasy swept o'er the summer-sweet land.

And gathered the tears of all Time in the rush of its tide.

There was never a love forsaken or faith forsworn,

There was never a cry for the living or moan for the slain,
But was voiced in that great consummation of song; ay, and
borne
To storm on the Gates of the land whence none cometh
again.

Transcending the barriers of earth, comprehending them all
He followed the soul of his loss with the night in his eyes;

And the portals lay bare to him there; and he heard the faint
call
Of his love o'er the rabble that wails by the river of sighs.

Yea, there in the mountains before him, he knew it of old.
That portal enormous of gloom, he had seen it in dreams,
When the secrets of Time and of Fate through his harmonies
rolled;
And behind it he heard the dead moan by their desolate
streams.



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216 ORPHEUS AND EURTDICE

And he passed through the Gates with the light and the cloud
of his song,
Dry-shod over Lethe he passed to the chasms of hell;
And the hosts of the dead made mock at him, ciying, Haw long
Have we dwelt in the darkness, oh fool, and shaU evermore
dweUr



Did our lovers not love usf the grey skulls hissed in his face;

Were our lips not red? Were these cavernous eyes not bright?
Yet us, whom the soft flesh dothed with such roseate grace,

Our lovers would loathe if we ever returned to their sight!



Oh then, through the soul of the Sing^, a pity so vast
Mixed with his anguish that, smiting anew on his lyre,

He caught up the sorrows of hell in his utterance at last,
Comprehending the need of them all in his own great desire.



And they that were dead, in his radiant music, remembered
the dawn with its low deep crimson.
Heard the murmur of doves in the pine-wood, heard the
moan of the roaming sea.
Heard and remembered the little kisses, in woods where the
last of the moon yet swims on
Fragrant, flowernstrewn April nights of young-eyed lovers
in Arcady;



Saw the soft blue veils of shadow floating over the
billowy grasses
Under the crisp white curling clouds that sailed and trailed
through the melting blue;
Heard once more the quarrel of lovers above them pass, as a
larkH9ong passes.
Light and bright, till it vanished away in an eye-bright
heaven of silvery dew.



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ORPBEUS AND EURYDIGE 217

Out of the dark, ah, white as the Huntress, cold and sweet
as the petals that crowned her,
Fair and fleet as a fawn that shakes the dew from the fern
at break of day;
Wreathed with the clouds of her dusky hair that swept in a
sun-bright glory around her,
On through the deserts of hell she came, and the brown air
bloomed with the light of May.



On through the deserts of hell she came; for over the fierce and
frozen meadows
Pleaded ever the Voice of voices, calling his love by her
golden name;
So she arose from her grave in the darkness, and up through
the wailing fires and shadows,
On by chasm and cliff and cavern, out of the horrors of death
she came.



Then had she followed him, then had he won her, striking a
chord that should echo for ever,
Had he been steadfast only a little, nor paused in the great
transcendent song;
But ere they had won to the glory of day, he came to the brink
of the flaming river
And ceased, to look on his love a moment, a little moment,
and overlong.



VI

O'er Phlegethon he stood:
Below him roared and flamed

The flood
For utmost anguish named.

And lo, across the night,
The shining form he knew

With light
Swift footsteps upward drew.



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218 ORPHEUS AND EURYDICB

Up through the desolate lands
She stole, a ghostly star,

With hands
Outstretched to him afar.

With arms outstretched, she came
In yearning majesty,

The same
Royal Eurydice.

Up through the ghastly dead
She came, with shining eyes

And red
Sweet lips of child-surprise.

Up through the wizened crowds
She stole, as steals the moon

Through clouds
Of flowery mist in June.

He gazed: he ceased to smite
The golden-chorded lyre:

Delight
Consumed his heart with fire.

Though in that deadly land
His task was but half-done,

His hand
Drooped, and the fight half-won*

He saw the breasts that glowed.
The fragrant clouds of hair:

They flowed
Around him like a snare.

O'er Phlegethon he stood,
For tUmost anguish named:

The flood
Below him roared and Mmed,



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ORPHEUS AND EURYDIGE 219

Out of his hand the lyre
Suddenly slipped and fell,

The fire
Acclaimed it into hell.

The night grew dark again:
There came a bitter cry

Of pain,
Oh Love, once more I die!

And lo, the earth-dawn broke.
And like a wraith she fled:

He woke
Alone: his love was dead.

He woke on earth: the day
Shone coldly: at his side

There lay
The body of his bride.



VII

Only now when the purple vintage bubbles and winks in the
autumn glory,
Only now when the great white oxen drag the weight of


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Online LibraryAlfred NoyesCollected poems, Volume 1 → online text (page 12 of 26)