Alfred Noyes.

Collected poems, Volume 1 online

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36 THE FLOWER OF OLD JAPAN

But we came to a bend, and the white moon

g;k>wed
Like a gate at the end of the narrowing road

Far away; and on either hand,
As guards of a path to the heart's desire,
The strange tall blossoms of soft blue fire

Stretched away thro' that unknown land.
League on league with their dwindling lane
Down to the large low moon; and again
There shimmered around us that mystical strain.

In a tongue that it seemed we could under-
stand.



SONG

Hold by right and rule by fear
Till the slowly broadening sphere
Melting through the skies above
Merge into the sphere of love.

Hold by might until you find
Might is powerless o*er die mind:
Hold by Truth until you see,
Though they bow before the wind.
Its towers can mock at liberty.

Time, the seneschal, is blind;
Time is blind: and what are wef
Captives of Inftniiy,
Claiming through TrvtKs prison bars
Kinship with the wandering stars.

O, who could tell the wild weird sights
We saw in all the days and nights

We travelled through those forests old.
We saw the griffons on white cliffs,
Among fantastic hieroglyphs,

Guarding enormous heaps of gold:



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THE FLOWER OF OLD JAPAN 37

We saw the Ghastroi — curious men
Who dwell, like tigers, in a den,

And howl whene'er the moon is cold;
They stripe themselves with red and black
And ride upon the yellow Yak.



Their dens are always ankle-deep
With twisted knives, and in their sleep

They often cut themselves; they say
That if you wish to live in peace
The surest way is not to cease

Collecting knives; and never a day
Can pass, unless they buy a few;
And as their enemies buy them too

They all avert the impending fray,
And starve their children and their wives
To buy the necessary knives.



The forest leapt with shadowy shapes
As we came to the great black Tower of

Apes:
But we gave them purple figs and grapes

In alabaster amphoras:
We gave them curious kinds of fruit
With betel nuts and orris-root,

And then they let us pass:
And when we reached the Tower of Snakes
We gave them soft white honey-cakes.

And warm sweet milk in bowls of brass:
And on the himdredth eve we found
The City of the Secret Wound.



We saw the mystic blossoms blow
Round the City, far below;
Faintly in the s\mset glow
We saw the soft blue glory flow



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88 THE FLOWER OP OLD JAPAN

O'er many a golden garden gate:
And o'er the tiny dark green seas
Of tamarisks and tulip-trees,
Domes like golden oranges

Dream aloft elate.



And dearer, clearer as we went,
We heard from tower and battlement
A whisper, like a warning, sent

From watchers out of sight;
And clearer, brighter, as we drew
Close to the walls, we saw the blue
Flashing of plumes where peacocks flew

Thro' zones of pearly li^t.

On either side, a fat black bonze
Guarded the gates of red-wrought bronze,
Blazoned with blue sea-dragons

And mouths of yawning flame;
Down the road of dusty red,
Though their brown feet ached and bled,
Our coolies went with joyful tread:
Like living fans the gates outspread
And opened as we came.



PART III
THE MYSTIC RUBY

The white moon dawned; the sunset died;
And stars were trembling when we spied

The rose-red temple of our dreams:
Its lamp-lit gardens glimmered cool
With many an onyx-paven pool.

Amid soft soimds of flowing streams;
Where star-shine shimmered through the white
Tall fountain-shafts of cr3rstal light

In ever changing rainbow-gleamB.



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THE FLOWER OP OLD JAPAN 39

Priests in flowing yellow robes
Glided under rosy globes

Through the green pomegranate boughs
Moonbeams poured their coloured rain;
Roofs of sea-green porcelain

Jutted o'er the rose-red house;
Bells were hung beneath its eaves;
Every wind that stirred the leaves

Tinkled as tired water does.

The temple had a low broad base
Of black bright marble; all its face

Was marble bright in rosy bloom;
And whore two sea-green pillars rose
Deep in the flower-soft eave-shadows

We saw, thro' richly sparkling gloom.
Wrought in marvellous years of old
With bulls and peacocks bossed in gold,

The doors of powdered lacquer loom.

Quietly then the tall thin man,
Holding his turquoise-tinted fan,

Alighted from the palanquin;
We followed: never painter dreamed
Of how that dark rich temple gleamed

With gules of jewelled gloom within;
And as we wondered near the door
A priest came o'er the polished floor

In sandals of soft serpent-skin;
His mitre shimmered bright and blue
With pigeon's breast-plumes. Wlien he knew

Our quest he stroked his broad white chin,
And looked at us with slanting eyes
And smiled; then through his deep disguise
We knew him! It was Creeping SinI

But cunningly he bowed his head
Down on his gilded breast and said

Came: and he led us through the dusk
Of passages whose painted walls
Gleamed with dark old festivals;



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40 THE FLOWER OP OLD JAPAN

Till where the gloom grew sweet with musk
And incense, through a door of amber
We came into a high-arched chamber.

There on a throne of jasper sat
A monstrous idol, black and fat;

Thick rose-oil dropped upon its head:
Drop by drop, heavy and sweet,
Trickled down to its ebon feet

Whereon the blood of goats was shed,
And smeared around its perfumed knees
In savage midnight mysteries.

It wore about its bulging waist

A belt of dark green bronze enchased

With big, soft, cloudy pearls; its wrists
Were clasped about with moony gems
Gathered from dead kings' diadems;

Its throat was ringed with amethysts,
And in its awful hand it held
A softly smouldering emerald.

Silkily murmured Creeping Sin,
"This is the stone you wished to win I"

"White Snake," replied the tall thin man,
"Show us the Ruby Stone, or I
Will slay thee with my hands." The sly

Long eyelids of the priest began
To slant aside; and then once more
He led us through the fragrant door.

And now along the passage walls
Were painted hideous animals.

With hooded eyes and cloven stings:
In the incense that like shadowy hair
Streamed over them they seemed to stir

Their craggy claws and crooked wings.
At last we saw strange moon-wreaths curl
Around a deep, soft porch of pearl.



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THE FLOWER OF OLD JAPAN 41

O, what enchanter wove in dreams
That chapel wild with shadowy gleams

And prismy colours of the moon?
Shrined like a rainbow in a mist
Of flowers, the fretted amethyst

Arches rose to a mystic tune;
And never mortal art inlaid
Those cloudy floors of sea-soft jade.

There, in the midst, an idol rose
White as the silent starlit snows

On lonely Himalayan heights:
Over its head the spikenard spilled
Down to its feet, with myrrh distiUed

In distant, odorous Indian nights:
It held before its ivory face
A flaming yellow chrysoprase.

0, silkHy murmured Creeping Sin,
"This is the stone you wished to win/'

But in his ear the tall thin man
Whispered with alow, strange lips — ^we knew
Not what, but Creeping Sin went blue

With fear; again his eyes began
To slant aside; then through the porch
He passed, and lit a tall, brown torch.

Down a corridor dark as death.
With beating hearts and bated breath

We hurried; far away we heard
A dreadful hissing, fierce as fire
When rain begins to quench a pjrre;

And where the smoky torch-light flared
Strange vermin beat their bat-like wings,
And the wet walls dropped with slimy things.

And darker, darker, wound the way,
Beyond all gleams of night and day,
And still that hideoiis hissing grev
Louder and louder on our ears,
And tortured us with eyeless fears;



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42 THE FLOWER OF OLD JAPAN

Then suddenly the gloom turned blue,
And, in the wall, a rough rock cave
Gaped, like a phosphorescent grave.

And from the purple mist within
There came a wild tumultuous din

Of snakes that reared their heads and hissed
As if a witch's cauldron boiled;
All round the door great serpents coiled,

With eyes of glowing amethyst,
Whose fierce blue flames began to slide
Like shooting stars from side to side.

Ah! with a sickly gasping grin
And quivering eyelids, Creeping Sin

Stole to the cave; but, suddenly,
As through its glimmering mouth he passed.
The serpents flashed and gripped him fast:

He wriggled and gave one awful cry.
Then all at once the cave was cleared;
The snakes with their victim had disappeared.

And fearlessly the tall thin man
Opened his turquoise-tinted fan

And entered; and the mists grew bright.
And we saw that the cave was a diamond haU
Lit with lamps for a festival.

A myriad globes of coloured light
Went gliding deep in its massy sides,
Like the shimmering moons in the glassy tides

Where a sea-king's palace enchants the night.

Gliding and flowing, a glory and wonder,
Through each other, and over, and under,

The lucent orbs of green and gold,
Bright with sorrow or soft with sleep,
In music through the glimmering deep,

Over their secret axles rolled.
And circled by the murmuring spheres
We saw in a frame of frozen tears

A mirror that made the blood run cold.



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THE FLOWER OF OLD JAPAN 43

For, when we came to it, we found
It imaged everything around

Except the face that gazed in it;
And where the mirrored face should be
A heart-shaped Ruby fierily

Smouldered; and round the frame was writ»
Mystery: Time and Tide shall pass,
I am the Wisdom Looking-Glass.



This is the Rvby none can touch:
Many haoe loved it overmuch;

Its fathomless fires flutter and sigh,
Being as images of the flame
That shall make earth and heaven the same

When the fire of the end reddens the sky,
And the toorld consumes like a burning poU,
TiU where there is nothitp^, there is aU.



So we looked up at the tall thin man

And we saw that his face grew sad and wan:

Tears were glistening in his eyes:
At last, with a breaking sob, he bent
His head upon his breast and went

Swiftly away! With dreadful cries
We rushed to the softly glimmering door
And stared at the hideous corridor.

But his robe was gone as a dream that flies:
Back to the glass in terror we came,
And stared at the writing round the frame.



We could not understand one word:
And suddenly we thought we heard

The hissing of the snakes again:
How could we front them all alone?
O, madly we clutched at the mirrored stone

And wished we were back on the flowery plain:
And swifter than thought and swift as fear
The whole world flashed, and behold we were there.



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44 THE FLOWER OP OLD JAPAN

Yes; there was the port of Old Japan,
With its twisted patterns, white and wan.
Shining like a mottled fan

Spread by the blue sea, faint and far;
And far away we heard once more
A soimd of singing on the shore,
Where boys in blue kimonos bore

Roses in a golden jar:
And we heard, where the cherry orchards blow,
The serpent-charmers fluting low,
And the song of the maidens of Miyako.



And at our feet unbroken lay

The glass that had whirled us thither away:

And in the grass, among the flowers
We sat and wished all sorts of things:
0, we were wealthier than kings!

We ruled the world for several hours I
And then, it seemed, we knew not why,
All the daisies began to die.



We wished them alive again; but soon
The trees all fled up towards the moon

Like peacocks through the simlit air:
And the butterflies flapped into silver fish;
And each wish spoiled another wish;

Till we threw the glass down in despair;
For, getting whatever you want to get,
Is like drinking tea from a fishing net.



At last we thought we'd wish once more
That all should be as it was before;

And then we'd shatter the glass, if we oouldf
But just as the world grew right again.
We hear4 a wanderer out on the plain

Singing what none of us understood;
Yet we thought that the world grew thriee more sweet
And the meadows were blossoming under his feet.



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THE FLOWER OP OLD JAPAN 46

And we felt a grand and beautiful fear,

For we knew that a marvellous thought drew near;

So we kept the glass for a little while:
And the skies grew deeper and twice as bright,
And the seas grew soft as a flower of light,

And the meadows rippled from stile to stile;
And memories danced in a musical throng
Thro' the blossom that scented the wonderful song.



SONG

We sailed across the silver seas

And saw the seorblue bowers.
We saw the purple cherry trees.

And all the foreign flowers,
We travelled in a palanquin

Beyond the caravan,
And yet our hearts had never seen

The Flower of Old Japan.



The Flower above all other flowers,

The Flower that never dies;
Before whose throne the scented hours

Offer their sacrifice;
The Flower that here on earth below

Reveals the heavenly plan;
Bui only little children know

The Flower of Old Japan.



There, in the dim blue flowery plain
We wished with the magic glass again

To go to the Flower of the song's desire:
And o'er us the whole of the soft blue sky
Flashed like fire as the world went by,

And far beneath us the sea like fire
Flashed in one swift blue brilliant stream,
And the journey was done, like a change in a dream.



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46 THE FLOWER OF OLD JAPAN

PART IV
THE END OF THE QUEST

Like the dawn upon a dream

Slowly through the scented gloom
Crept once more the ruddy gleam

0*er the friendly nursery room.
There, before our waking eyes,

Large and ghostly, white and dim,
Dreamed the Flower that never dies,

Opening wide its rosy rim.

Spreading like a ghostly fan,

Petals white as porcelain,
There the Flower of Old Japan

Told us we were home again;
For a soft and curious light

Suddenly was o'er it shed,
And we saw it was a white

English daisy, ringed with red.

Slowly, as a wavering mist

Waned the wonder out of sight,
To a sigh of amethyst,

To a wraith of scented light.
Flower and magic glass had gone;

Near the clutching fire we sat
Dreaming, dreaming, all alone,

Each upon a furry mat.

While the firelight, red and clear,

Fluttered in the black wet pane,
It was very good to hear

Howling winds and trotting rain.
For we found at last we knew

More than all our fancy planned.
All the fairy tales were true,

And home the heart of fairyland



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THE FLOWER OF OLD JAPAN 47



EPILOGUE

Carol, every violet has
Heaven for a looking-gkuas!

Every little valley lies
Under many-clouded skies;
Every little cottage stands
Girt about with boundless lands.
Every little glimmering pond
Claims the mighty shores beyond —
Shores no seamen ever hailed,
Seas no ship has ever sailed.

All the shores when day is done
Fade into the setting sim,
So the story tries to teach
More than can be told in speech.

Beauty is a fading flower,
Truth is but a wizard's tower,
Where a solemn death-bell tolls,
And a forest round it rolls.

We have come by curious ways
To the Light that holds the days;
We have sought in haimts of fear
For that all-enfolding sphere:
And lo! it was not far, but near.

We have found, foolish-fond,
The shore that has no shore beyond.

Deep in every heart it lies
With its untranscended skies;
For what heaven should bend above
Hearts that own the heaven of love?

Carol, Carol, we have come
Back to heaven, back to home.



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48 APES AND IVORY



APES AND IVORY

Apes and ivory, skulls and roses, in junks of old Hong-Kong,
Gliding over a sea of dreams to a haunted shore of song,
Masts of gold and sails of satin, shimmering out of the East,
0, Love has little need of you now to make his heart a feast.

Or is it an elephant, white as milk and bearing a severed head
That tatters his broad soft wrinkled flank in tawdry patches

of red.
With a negro giant to walk beside and a temple dome above.
Where ruby and emerald shatter the sun, — is it these that

should please my love?

Or is it a palace of pom^ranates, where ivory-limbed young

slaves
Lure a luxury out of the noon in the swooning fountain's

waves;
Or couch like cats and sim themselves on the warm white

marble brink?
0, Love has little to ask of these, this day in May, I think.

Is it Lebanon cedars or purple fruits of the honeyed southron

air.
Spikenard, saffron, roses of Sharon, cinnamon, calamus, myrrh,
A bed of spices, a fountain of waters, or the wild white wings

of a dove.
Now, when the winter is over and gone, is it these that should

please my love?

The leaves outburst on the hazel-bough and the hawthorn's

heaped wi' flower,
And Gk)d has bidden the crisp clouds build my love a lordlier

tower.
Taller than Lebanon, whiter than snow, in the fresh blue skies

above;
And the wild rose wakes in the winding lanes of the radiant

land I love.



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A SONG OF SHERWOOD 49

Apes and ivory ^ skulls and roses^ in junks of old Hong-Kong^
Gliding over a sea of dreams to a haunted shore of song,
Masts of gold and sails of satiny shimmering oui of the EeM,
0, Love has little need of you now to make his heart a feast.



A SONG OP SHERWOOD

Sherwood in the twilight, is Robin Hood awake?
Grey and ghostly shadows are gliding through the brake.
Shadows of the dappled deer, dreaming of the mom,
Dreaming of a shadowy man that winds a shadowy horn.

Robin Hood is here again: all his merry thieves

Hear a ghostly bugle-note shivering through the leaves,

Calling as he used to call, faint and far away,

In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day.

Merry, merry England has kissed the lips of June:
All the wings of fairyland were here beneath the moon,
Like a flight of rose-leaves fluttering in a mist
Of opal and ruby and pearl and amethyst.

Merry, merry England is waking as of old.
With eyes of blither hazel and hair of brighter gold:
For Robin Hood is here again beneath the bursting spray
In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day.

Love is in the greenwood building him a house
Of wUd rose and hawthorn and honeysuckle boughs:
Love is in the greenwood, dawn is in the skies.
And Marian is waiting with a glory in her eyes.

Hark I The dazzled laverock dimbs the golden steep I

Marian is waiting: is Robin Hood asleep?

Round the fairy grass-rings frolic elf and fay,

In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day.

Oberon, Oberon, rake away the gold,
Rake away the red leaves, roll away the mould.
Rake away the gold leaves, roll away the red.
And wake Will Scarlett from his leafy forest bed.

4



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50 THE WORLD'S MAY-QUEEN

Friar Tuck and Little John are riding down together
With quarternstaff and drinking-can and grey goose-feather.
The dead are coming back again, the years are rolled away
In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day.

Softly over Sherwood the south wind blows.
All the heart of England hid in every rose
Hears across the greenwood the sunny whisper leap,
Sherwood in the red dawn, is Robin Hood asleep?

Hark, the voice of England wakes him as of old
And, shattering the silence with a cry of brighter gold
Bugles in the greenwood echo from the steep,
Sherwood in the red dawn, is Robin Hood adeepf

Where the deer are gliding down the shadowy glen
All across the glades of fern he calls his merry men —
Doublets of the Lincoln green glancing through the May
In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day —

Calls them and they answer: from aisles of oak and ash
Rings the Follow! Follow! and the boughs begin to crash.
The ferns begin to flutter and the flowers begin to fly.
And through the crimson dawning the robber band goes by.

Robin! Robin! Robin! All his merry thieves
Answer as the bugle-note shivers through the leaves.
Calling as he used to call, faint and far away.
In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day.



THE WORLD'S MAY-QUEEN
I

Whither away is the Spring to-day?

To England, to England!
In Prance they heard the South wind say,
"She's off on a quest for a Queen o' the May,
So she's over the hills far away,

To England 1"



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THE WORLD'S MAY-QUEEN 51

And why did she fly with her golden feet

To England, to England?
In Italy, too, they heard the sweet
Roses whisper and flutter and beat —
''She's an old and a true, true love to greet

InEng^d!"

A moon ago there came a cry

From England, from En^and,
Faintly, fondly it faltered nigh
The throne of the Spring in the Southern sky,
And it whispered "Come," and the world went by,
And with one long loving blissful sigh

The Spring was away to England I



II

When Spring comes back to England

And crowns her brows with May,
Round the merry moonlit world

She goes the greenwood way:
She throws a rose to Italy,

A fleur-de-lys to France;
But round her regal morris-ring

The seas of England dance.

When Spring comes back to England

And dons her robe of green.
There's many a nation garlanded

But England is the Queen;
She's Queen, she's Queen of all the world

Beneath the laughing sky.
For the nations go a-Maying

When they hear the New Year cry —

"Come over the water to England,

My old love, my new love,
Come over the water to England,

In showers of flowery rain;



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62 THE WORLD'S MAY^UEEN

Come over the water to En^and,

April, my true love;
And tell the heart of England

The Spring is here again!''

Ill

So it's here, she is here with her eyes of blue

In England, in England I
She has brought us the rainbows with her, too,
And a glory of shimmering glimmering dew
And a heaven of quivering scent and hue
And a lily for me and a rose for you

In England.

There's many a wanderer far away

From England, from England,
Win toss upon his couch and say —
Though Spain is proud and France is gay,
And there's many a foot on the primrose way.
The world has never a Queen o' the May
But England.

IV

When Drake went out to seek for gold

Across the uncharted sea.
And saw the Western skies unfold

Their veils of mystery;
To liu*e him through the fevered hours

As nigh to death he lay,
There floated o'er the foreign flowers

A breath of English May:

And back to Devon shores again

His dreaming spirit flew
Over the splendid Spanish Main

To haunts his childhood knew.
Whispering "God forgive the blind

Desire that bade me roam,
I've sailed aroimd the world to find

The sweetest way to home."



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PIRATES 53

V

And it's whither away is the Spring to-day?

To England, to England!
In France you'll hear the South wind say,
"She off on a quest for a Queen o' the May,
So she's over the hills and far away,

ToEnglandl"

She^s flown with the swallows across the sea

To England, to England I
For there's many a land of the brave and free
But never a home o' the hawthorn-tree,
And never a Queen o' the May for me

ButEng^dl

And round the fairy revels whirl

In England, in England I
And the buds outbreak and the leaves unfurl.
And where the crisp white cloudlets curl
The Dawn comes up like a primrose girl
With a crowd of flowers in a basket of pearl

For England I



PIRATES

Come to me, you with the laughing face, in the night as I lie
Dreaming of days that are dead and of joys gone by;
Come to me, comrade, come through the slow-dropping rain,
Come from your grave in the darkness and let us be pirates
again.

Let us be boys tc^ther to-night, and pretend as of old
We are pirates at rest in a cave among huge heaps of gold,
Bed Spanish doubloons and great pieces of eight, and muskets

and swords.
And a smoky red camp-fire to glint, you know how, on our ill-^

gotten hoards.



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54 PIRATES

The did cave in the fir-wood that slopes down the hills to the

sea
Still is haunted, perhai)s, by young pirates as wicked as we:
Though the fir with the magpie's big mud-plastered nest used

to hide it so well,
And the boys in the gang had to swear that they never would

teU.

Ah, that tree; I have sat in its boughs and looked seaward for

hours.
I remember the creak of its branches, the scent of the flow^B
That climbed round the mouth of the cave. It is odd I recall
Those little things best, that I scarcely took heed of at aU.

I remember how brightly the brass on the butt of my spy-glass
gleamed

As I climbed through the purple heather and thyme to our
e3rrie and dreamed;

I remember the smooth glossy sun-bum that darkened our
faces and hands

As we gazed at the merchantmen sailing away to those wonder-
ful lands.

I remember the long, slow sigh of the sea as we raced in the

Sim,
To dry ourselves after our swimming; and how we would run
With a cry and a crash through the foam as it creamed on the



Online LibraryAlfred NoyesCollected poems, Volume 1 → online text (page 3 of 26)