Edmund John.

The wind in the temple : poems online

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IN t.

U DM UNI) JdltK •'





(For Press appreciations see pp. 55 — 58.)







erskine macdonald







Several of the following poems have already
appeared in various periodicals, and they
are included in the present volume by the
courteous permission of the editors of
" The English Review," " The British
Review," " Colour," " The Gypsy," and
- *' The Anthology of Trees."




Autumn _ _ - -




Phantasy - - - .




In the Wood - _ _




ICHABOD - - - -




Litany of the Seven Devils




Lux Perpetua - - _




Aftermath - - - -




Death-Song - - - -




On Debussey's " Shepherd-Boy "




Ballade of Farewell




Carpe Diem - - - -




A Song of Life - - -




In Memoriam - - -




1. The Huns. 1914

2. Ave Indi

3. In Memoriam

- 51

- 52

- 53



(To T. J.)

... A broken blossom, a dead rose enshrined
In odours of the wood, brown briers twined

About an ancient stone . . .
A leaf of withered amber in the wind

Drifts on alone.

In the still hollows the curled vapours seem
To mourn ; and on dim grass sunk to a dream

Of shrouded amethyst,
Like fallen stars white scattered petals gleam

Through the blue mist.

The wood IS soundless, save where gems are shed
From dripping branches, soft like laughter sped

Away from eyes that weep
On the pine-carpet and the dead leaves spread

By hands of Sleep.

Singing is fled, frail music of the merle

Is lost like Love ; and like a dead child's curl

A curved gold rose-leaf rests.
E!ach needle of the pines has its own pearl

Of vanished quests.


Autumn — continued

The last sad fires of purple heather set
In a grey pall of mist, seem like Regret,

Whose blood, fallen and proud.
Traces strange crimson symbols even yet

Upon its shroud.

... A yellow fern ; a mystic silent sea
Of bracken, pale, breast-high ; a fallen tree

Half-veiled by the moist breath
Of the dim forest, calm as though there be

Content in death . . .

Black ancient pines v^atch round a pool of glass
Set in the forest's heart ; the ashen grass

Dreams deathlike on the slope
Where Autumn crept last night to see Love pass.

And buried Hope.



(To C. H. S. J.)

Silence as of eternity, a halt of breath,

As unseen eyes that watch in sleep, that wake at death;

Hath fallen on the plain :
Only the pollard willows comprehend its spell,
The pollards, and the little hills where the sun fell

With crinnson stain.

The pale pool mirrors motionless the amber sky.
The air is dust of burnished bronze, a purple dye

Hath changed the white wild rose
From peace to passion, and rich sombre colours creep
On vervain where the dew hath strung strange gems of sleep

And no breeze blows.

There is a dreamless twilight in this mystic place
Of low dwarf-myrtles where the creepers Interlace,

Where gorse hath aureoled
Its stars with moon-wove gossamer, and all around
A faint unearthly light is rising from the ground

Like pallid gold.

Then wakes a subtle sense of something strange and bright ;
Lo, by the tall white lilies a mellow mist of light.

As of some old stained glass.
Clings round the shining form of one whom men call Love,
Whose wings are folded, and whose frail feet float above

The unreal grass.


Phantasy — continued

His body is like milk edged with rose-colour rare.
With vine and lure of hemlock in his red-gold hair.

Night-kissed, that burns and gleams ;
His grave sweet scarlet lips are parted voicelessly.
His eyes like stars reflected in a violet sea

Of dawn and dreams.

And in his hand he clasps a chalice wrought by Death,
A cup that he withholdeth not nor offereth.

With wine of wondrous blend
Of sweet and bitter, pressed by youthful pagan feet
And crowned with foam from where the tides of Lethe beat.

At last, for end.

With limbs of ivory and curved mouth made for song,
Past the phantasmal shrubs the glory drifts along.

Over illusive green
And copper of the grass, past the still pool of sleep
Bound by red poppies, and through odours sad and deep.

Half-felt, half-seen.

Between the ashen pollards, set like minor notes

In some strange symphony, the shining wonder floats

Held in nocturnal frame
Of lucent shadow on the hill of sunset's sighs.
Where stands a marble sepulchre against the skies

Of fading flame.


Phantasy— continued

Above the white cold columns hangs the ghostly moon.
And the dark spectral dead rise up for bitter boon

Of sight of Love's closed wmgs.
And beat their pitiful dead breasts and die again,
Unshrived, of their old longing and the old hot pain

Of far-off things.



(To S. L.)

. . . Night, and the amber moon,

And the vast dreamy hyacinthine sky ;
And deep below, the valley and the sigh

Of sleeping lakes in June . . .

Upon the silent hill

Dream through the luminous dark the mystic trees,
And in the vales they break through misty seas

Like islands dim and still.

The hills are crowned with sleep,

Yet here within this lonely wood moon-girt
There seems a vivid consciousness alert.

Subtle and still and deep.

The scents of night are thrown

Over my hair ; the shadowy boughs enlace
Themselves like arms that dream of some embrace

The years have turned to stone.

And as I lean my cheek

Against the rough bark of this sycamore.
Like surf that sobs on some forgotten shore,

I hear dead voices speak.


In the Wood — continued

The wind creeps up the slope,
And calls from out the leaves and moonlit bowers
The whispers of lost children like frail flowers

Upon the grave of Hope.

The murmunng branches sway

With gestunng hands ; the subtle voices speak
Of all the sweet lost thmgs men used to seek

Before the world grew gray.

And each tree seems to be

Itself an mcarnation of the past,

Some swift slain moment captured and held fast
By the wood's sorcery.

The glade sighs, and I see

Dim faun-like forms, and through the parted fan
Of moonlit leaves there peers the face of Pan

Set in night's phantasy.

The odour warm and sweet

Of the nocturnal pines dream-clad.

Is all the perfume of Love's body, sad

As laughter over-fleet.


In the Wood — continued

And in the scented hollow.

By the rhododendrons, Hyacinthus lies ;

Blood on his slim kissed limbs, and in his eyes
The bright tears of Apollo.

Aye, touch my lips, O leaves.

And brush against my brow, for I would learn
To sing these dreams in gold words that shall burn

To Spring the Winter eves.

Strange pictures on the moon

The branches trace ; the flickering foliage sings,
Like some far-off Greek chorus, of bright things

From some once brighter June.

Wind, wind in the leaves —

No more ? And do the sighs of night delude
With whisperings of some long-dead multitude

Whose robes the moonlight weaves ?



(To W. R. S. J.)

Visions and autumn mists, and the strange hush
Born of unbroken endless dreaming, dwell
In this deserted garden with its spell

Of sighs, Its crumbling dial, its dying flush

Upon the leaves where once Youth's sunlight fell.

The moist breath of the faint October wind
Sighs through the solitary trees ;
Lost petals line the emptied treasuries

Of June, and the neglected tendrils bind
To the lone gates only dim memories.

The birds have fled ; the mournful branches droop
Over the weed-clad paths ; the briers hold
Dead blossoms in their weary arms, and old

And desolate the wistful willows stoop

Over the rose-trees* deepening brown and gold.

An alley of chrysanthemums forlorn

Leads to an empty seat of wind-worn stone.
Scarred deep by many years, and overgrown

With clinging moss ; the rhododendrons mourn
Above its ruin, sombre and alone.


ICHABOD — continued

And everywhere the fallen leaves are strev^rn,
In mellowred heaps and like a scattered chain,
— Dead leaves, lost hopes, with tears of quiet rain,

That fell from the grey drifting clouds at noon,
Filling their withered lifeless hearts in vain.

Within encircling melancholy trees

The old house rises desolate and still,

And round the empty porch and on each sill

Clings clematis m faded fantasies.

Half-veiled by dreaming vapours wan and chill.

Upon the lintels the pale lichens creep.
And wind and rain have stained the grey stone green
The bloomless climbing roses pine and lean

Their dying leaves against the wall ; and sleep
Has stolen on the gloomy pond unseen.

Unlifted silence like a dream m death.

Dwells here. Behind the blackened windows drear
Dim ghostly faces seem to move and peer

Into the ruined garden where the breath
Of the moist earth rises from Autumn's bier.


IcHABOD — continued

There is a room whose windows face the east,
Where, in the far-off days, the early Hght
Of summer dawns fell on a bed all white

And stainless, and the joyous sun released

Life and the songs of childhood from the night.

And through the open casement came the scent
Of summer flowers and the clean morning air.
Ah, sweet awakenings of youth ! How fair

The future smiled ; with what high hopes he went !
What changed return, with dreams become despair.

Ghosts, ghosts ! How empty are the shadowy rooms,
How black the windows ! Through the stillness beat
Echoes of youth and summer over-fleet.

The flowers are dead, the rose no longer blooms.
The brown leaves rustle underneath one's feet.

Wild brambles wreathe the lonely steps untrod.
And on the darkened door that keeps its tryst
With shadows that the lips of Sleep have kist.

Is writ in pallid letters—" ICHABOD,"
Decked with dead pearls by fingers of the mist.



(To M. C. B.)

There are Seven Devils in my heart,
That sleep through wintry days, but in the nights of June
Pour forth their vials before the half-veiled violet moon.
And lave their limbs with mcense sweet and curious,
And fling red roses where white lilies had been strewn.

There are Seven Devils m my heart ;

And when one stirs and wakes, I start, and feel soft-pressed

The delicate satin body slide upwards o'er my breast.

Veiling my eyes and lips with perfume sensuous.

Full of elusive music and a strange unrest.

There are Seven Devils m my heart ;
And one is lithe and dark and warm, with shinmg eyes
Of deep imaginings, and subtle hands like sighs
That fall upon my skin, and poignant finger-tips
That touch my soul to madness bright that crucifies.

There are Seven Devils in my heart ;

One has a voice like flutes entwined with jessamine,

That haunts the lotus-paths my strange thoughts wander in.

And stirs the summer aisles of moonlit odorous flowers.

Which lead to the pale temple of forbidden sin.


Litany of the Seven Devils — continued

There are Seven Devils in my heart ;
And one is young and agile, v^ith limbs slim and bare
And scented with the lure of youth, and eyes that snare
With the frail call of dawn, and wayward heart wound round
By delicate wickedness like some half-wanton prayer.

There are Seven Devils in my heart ;

One with the burning hands of God, and words that beat

With lordship o'er men's souls and bodies — power sweet

And terrible, evil and good, that can call forth

Children and flowers of Spring from Winter's windmg-sheet.

There are Seven Devils in my heart ;

And one, with my own eyes and voice from the lost years,

Holds up an opal mirror set with pearls like tears.

And dreams my own dead dreams ; and my maimed hopes

he knows.
And sees each deed, and all the words I say he hears.

There are Seven Devils in my heart ;

And one, upon whose forehead gleams a wondrous name,

With ivory limbs and kissed feet shod with lambent flame.

Calls with gold v^^ngs toward the unattainable,

And bids me trample heaven and hell, honour and shame.


Litany of the Seven Devils — continued

There are Seven Devils in my heart ;

And one there is who stands upon the eastern slope

At davs^n, when Day flings off Night's purple cope.

Him most of all I fear ; master of pam is he ;

His eyes are sad, his path a circle, and his name is Hope.

There are Seven Devils in my heart.
With strange elusive eyes.
And sensuous lips, and sighs
Of night, and tears which rise

From bitter memories that smart.

Are they Seven Devils set apart —
Or is it some disguise

Of Angels who shall soon depart ?



(To R. R. W.)

(On a fragment, preserved in AlHENitUS, OF AN ANCIENT

The white sand stretches ghostly to the sea,
— The tranquil sea that sombrely

Circles the shore in a dark line inset
With leaping pools of liquid silvery fire —
The great moon floats above, and all desire

Seems twined around the dead it would forget.

Diaphanous black curtains of the night.

Like some Plutonic breath beneath the moon's still light.

Trail o'er the edges of the smooth wide shore ;
The shadowy land curves down, mystic and sweet
With tufts of samphire where the lost sun's heat

Shall lave the hero's dead calm limbs no more.

The perfume of the rhododendron caves
Mingles with cool salt odours of the waves.

Colours the still nocturne of sea and land.
And dreams beneath the slanting trees that grow
Upon the overhanging cliffs and throw

Deep purple shadows on the shining sand.


Lux Perpetua — continued

A sea-bird circles darkly round the moon ;
The air is tender with the youth of June ;

There is no sound save hquid music clear
Of the small rippling waves that break and die
And fade away in foam, and fadmg sigh

Soft songs come back awhile from yester-year.

He lies there restful by the summer sea,
Dumb and immobile as carved ivory —

This young dead hero Sleep hath set apart —
What unstirred ashes of a golden fire 1
How stilled the passionate hopes of his desire.

How quiet now the throbbing of his heart.

He is anointed for some festal rite.

His lids are closed, and on his lips the night

Hath laid her perfumes and her seal of dreams
And every limpid glittering ripple calls
To dead ears, and lifts itself to gaze, and falls

Into the sliding foam that breaks and gleams.

At head and feet four slender lamps are set.
That throw swift shadows of strange violet ;

The flames gleam steady in the windless night,
With amber haloes swaying to and fro,
And cast on the dead limbs a subtle glow

That mingles with the cold moon's silver light.


Lux Perpetua — continued

Silent from the dim shadowy purple land,
A youth comes forth across the moonlit sand.

More beautiful than Love, more calm than Death,
With deep eyes that shall ever seek in vain.
And tragic lips stained with the lees of pain.

And memories of piteous words unsaid.

He waits a space by the dead hero's side.
And on his slim fair body falls the tide

Of mingled light that shines upon the dead ;
He bends, and by the couch of rue and vine
Places two costly cups of bubbling wine.

Amidst the splendid feast that he has spread.

He scatters scarlet roses on the sand,
A rum of red petals from his hand

Falls on the little waves that sigh and beat ;
He twines his flowers dreaming of some old vow.
And wreathes a garland round the dead man's brow.

Then sits serene at those still, icy feet.

The flames are flickering in the restless air,
A famt breeze lifts his hyacinthine hair.

Freeing its perfumes like the ghosts of joy.
The minutes fall ; the tide creeps up, its hymns
Sound like an elegy ; it laps the limbs

Of the dead hero and the watching boy,



(To W. G. F.)

Lo, thou hast taken all !

My sight IS gone with the lost gold
Of thy wild hair, kissed, aureoled

Like fire where my tears fall.

My ears are sealed to song,

Save of thy voice ; and on my mouth
Dream of thy breath from the veiled South

Is lying the pale night long.

Thy feet are on the throne

Of my dead soul ; thy strange eyes gaze
Far off ; and rain of ruined days

Falls on my lids alone.



(To S. S.)

I have done sweet things, though I go down to die,
Sipped honey, though I drink from Lethe now.

Danced to the viols, however still I lie,

Wreathed garlands gay, though grim shall be my brow.

Along the path of pomegranates I passed,

And followed the fair flower-flung way of flutes,

And in the orchard where sprmg scents were cast,
Culled, over-carelessly, Youth's first flushed fruits.

I did dream with the lotus on my lips

Beneath the sensuous oleander tree.
And heard Pan's music where the river slips

Like some slim maid into the sapphire sea.

I have poured out the spikenard of my soul
Upon the altars of strange gods, set round

With vials of myrrh, and mystic perfumes that unroll
Themselves like incense-smoke upon the ground.

And at the feast I flung pale pearls of hope

Mid scarlet roses scattered on the floor.
And saw the lithe young gilded wine-boys grope

For gems their own feet crushed for evermore.


Death-Song — continued

The sensuous music shook, the cymbals clashed,
The dancing-maidens with strange perfumed breath

And vine-wreathed bodies and white limbs that flashed.
Danced marvellously, hotly . . , into death.

Have I forgot these things ? — A memory swims
Of some I dreamed I loved, of my mouth bruised

By passion of young restless ivory limbs.
And soul and body m one mad fire fused.

Your name is darkened ; but ofttimes it seems
Your clinging lips and body I still hold

Against me, fierce and passionate, in my dreams.
Your satin skin hot like a flame of gold.

And your young wayward naked heart throbs yet
On mine, and your lithe youthful limbs entwine

My own ; and the faint vein so frailly set

In your slim neck makes mad my mouth like wine.

I bartered the to-morrows for your kiss,

I was less wise than tender with your youth.

You were content to slay me with brief bliss,
— Then bitterness of one more barren truth.


Death-Song — continued

These things I knew, and they were swift and sweet,
Aye, sweet their shame — but sweet so long ago !

For pain and passion both are fair and fleet ;
Death only is eternal, dreaming slow.

And though tears jewel Love and spring from Laughter,
And joy comes but to teach us how to weep,

And each kiss has red wounds that follow after.
The quiet end of it is always sleep.

I have done sweet thmgs, though I go down to die.

If I missed the best, and have bleeding heart and feet.

Yet in the dark on my still lips shall lie
Some smile of triumph in my last defeat.



(To R. A. H.)

. . . Breath of the early dawn.
And cool sweet odours of the dew-washed leaves.
And hope that wakes at daybreak after eves


The vales are amethyst,

The sky is pearl ; the wild grass on the hill
Just stirs, and in the hollows slumbers still

The mist.

And half-real as a dream.

The little shepherd sits upon a mound.
With body white, a goatskin flung around

Its gleam.

He IS lifting to his lips

His pipe of reed ; he raises violet eyes

To the mist-wreaths that cross the mellowing skies

Like ships.

He is playing the song of dawn.
And cool and clear the notes are like pale pearls
And moonstones falling in a pool where swirls

A faun.


On Debussey's " Shepherd-Boy " — continued

And as he plays he dreams

Of gods, and woods, and peacock-coloured seas.
And hears the liquid whispering prophecies

Of streams.

His boy's song drifts away ;

Behind the opal mists the copper sun
Mounts up ; for warm and sleepy, has begun

The day.



(To V )

The path parts here ; your road is fresh with dew ;
'Tis time to turn your eyes away
From mine. To-morrow you shall say,

" He was my friend " ; and I shall answer you,
Far off, " I am your friend alway."

The perfumed East, the warm winds from the South,
Chant round your virginal white throne
With voice and lure of things unknown :

Life laughs and calls you with his young red mouth.
And lo, you must go forth alone.

You must stand naked in the wind that blows
About your brow your soft, child's hair.
And brave and lonely make your prayer.

And weep sometimes, and smile, and pluck your rose.
With not a comrade anywhere.

For none can help you read the secret scroll
Of life ; nor is there rest nor rod
To aid you on the path Love trod ;

But all alone, if you would find your soul.
You must gaze in the eyes of God.


Ballade of Farewell — continued

On some lone hill, or by the spreading fan

Of palm or pine on summer days,

Or by the winding watery ways
That dream in Delphic woods, you shall hear Pan,

And learn, at last, the song he plays.

Oh sing it once before you must depart !
And laugh, and be not over-wise —
I have seen these thmgs in your eyes,

And read deep secrets in your shy young heart,
And heard Pain's laughter in your sighs.

Already you have seen upon the hills
The ancient gods move joyously.
As I once saw them wondrously ;

And touched, in odours of young daffodils.
Lips of Narcissus suddenly.

The Unattainable shall call you on
With wide eyes lit by hope and pain.
To fail and fall and hope again,

Until one day the Vision shall be gone.
And you must sleep or wake in vain.


JUllade of Farewell — continued

Where beauty is most fleet as some soft song
The veiled Ideal bids us pray,
And strange and swiftly fades away,

Because we have not strength to hold it long
And live until the close of day.

Vision Beautiful, beyond the shore
Of dreams ! how far it is, and sweet
As dymg odours frail and fleet

Of lilies locked behind Death's faithless door,
— Sought eyes our own shall never meet.

And ever must we follow it in vain,
Nor shall our hope nor pain avail.
Nor eager eyes, nor lips grown pale :

And death there is for him who shall attain,
And dreamless sleep for those who fail.

In places where he lingers least of all
You shall find Love and make your cry
To him and Death, and say good-bye

With his bright kiss on your closed lids for pall
— It is the fairest way to die.


Ballade of Farewell— continued

For you the ancient temple doors stand wide ;
Open your arms, be brave and strong
Although the way seem over-long :

The great gods call you on the green hillside.
Open your lips to them m song.

Eros shall lay young passion on your mouth,

Apollo teach you notes divine.

And Dionysus give you wine
Of life pressed out from the hot E^st and South

Where children tread the purple vine.

And you shall teach your own soul how to weep.
Shall steal from Syrinx piping near,
Strange lyric music cool and clear,

•And learn of Proserpine the way to sleep —
Some day, at end of the dead year.

Great gifts the gods shall give — Oh fail them not
When falls the hour of your despair.
When sorrow strips your garden bare.

Lost is your lute and all your song forgot,
— Fail not, for then the gods are there.


Ballade of Farewell — continued

Fail not, but with your eyes towards the sky
Gaze steadfast though your heart may break ;
Fad not, even for my poor sake.

That I may hear your singing where I He,
Through music that the wan winds make.

So shall your voice rise to Apollo's throne.

So shall the prophecy I read

Cling laurel-wise about your head.
And scent of hours we spent — how swiftly flown !

Shall find us out amongst the dead.

Kiss my brow once, for there farewell is writ-
A moment's pang while Love floats by,
A catching of the breath, a cry . . .

Oh turn away, this is the end of it,
This IS the way all sweet things die.

This is the end of it ; for seal a tear
Upon half-uttered thoughts to-day
Is set. To-morrow you shall say,

" He was my friend " ; and I will answer clear.
Far off, " I am your friend alway."



(To OLD Omar, in his grave of withered vine-leaves)

Introibo ad altare Dei :

Ad Deum, qui latificat juventutem meam.

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Online LibraryEdmund JohnThe wind in the temple : poems → online text (page 1 of 3)