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SHADOW VERSES





Shadow Verses



by



Gamaliel Bradford



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New Haven
Yale University Press

London : Humphrey Milford : Oxford University Press

Mdccccxx







Copyright 191 7, 1918 by "Contemporary Verse."

Copyright 191 7 by "The Minaret."

Copyright 1920 by Yale University Press.






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TO
CHARLES WHARTON STORK

WHO FIRST GAVE THEM THE SEMBLANCE OF REALITY
THESE SHADOW VERSES EXPRESS ALL GRATITUDE



In what a shadow, or deep pit of darkness,
Doth womanish and fearful mankind live!

Duchess of Malfi.



CONTENTS



The Diary

The Task

Ardor

The Pursuit

God

My Verses

The Best of All

Brown Leaves

Perhaps

I .

The Idle Wind

Chance

The Fleck

Shreds

Disorder

A Social Being

An Unsocial Being

Themes

Ineluctabilis

The Curtain

Rousseau

Expenses

Heinelet

The Argument

Anacreon's Apology

My Youth

Sisyphus

Crumpled Leaves



Page
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18
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24
25
26
27
28
29
30
•31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38













Page


Heinelet ...... 39


The Clock








40


The Swing








41


Hope








42


A Thousand Years








43


Why?








44


Fear


* . •








45


Comedy


► . •








46


Nerves


• •








47


Hunger


. i








48


Glory


» . «








49


Leaves


> • «








50


Love's Detective








51


" I Might — and I Might Not


. M






52


The Riot .








53


Heinelet








54


Profit








55


Imagination








56


Fragments








57


The Desert Shore .








58


Fleas






>


59


The Drone








60


The Thing








61


The Testament








62


Yours ?








63


A Novel .








64


Sparkles








65


Heinelet








66


Nurses, Nurses, Nurses!








67


Can't You?








68


Robert E. Lee








69


The Seamstress








70


Night


• .








71



8



The Cost of Living

Books

Fulscrc vere candidi tibi soles

The Schedule

The Topmost Bough

The Clink

Heinelet

Rose and Rue

Exit God .

God



Page
72
73
74
75
76
77
78
79
80
81



THE DIARY

I put my heart in verses,

My secrets I disclose,
As many a man disperses

His inmost soul in prose.

My secrets or another's,

The scraps and shreds of time-
I leave myself and others

A diary in rhyme.



4 •



1 1



THE TASK

I am here in nook and angle,
Oft in many a hidden spot.

Dainty task, to disentangle
Me from others, is it not?

I have passions ; so have others.

They have raptures; so have I.
Their attraction mainly smothers

My obscure identity.



12



ARDOR

Others make verses of grace.

Mine are all muscle and sinew.
Others can picture your face.

But I, all the tumult within you.

Others can give you delight,

And delight I confess is worth giving.
But my songs must tickle and bite

And burn with the ardor of living.



13



THE PURSUIT

I had visited her often,

Long had sought, with vain endeavor,
Her obdurate heart to soften;

But she answered, " never, never."

Then it softened and ran widely,
Like an ink-drop on a blotter.

I ceased labor, tasted idly,

Found it bitter, and forgot her.



14



GOD

I think about God.

Yet I talk of small matters.
Now isn't it odd

How my idle tongue chatters !
Of quarrelsome neighbors,

Fine weather and rain,
Indifferent labors,

Indifferent pain,
Some trivial style

Fashion shifts with a nod.
And yet all the while

I am thinking of God.



15



MY VERSES

Wine of time
Whipped into rhyme,
Shreds of decay
Thus snatched away
And woven together
To outlast weather,
Quaint scraps of breath
Rescued from death.



16



THE BEST OF ALL

Sleep and turn and sleep again,
Spite of the morning birds.

I am weary of strife with men,
Weary of fruitless words.

Once I traveled in blossomed ways,
Ere I had learned to weep.

Sleep is better than loveless days.
Death is better than sleep.



17



BROWN LEAVES

The passage of dead leaves in spring

Is like the aged vanishing.

Amid the bustle and delight

Of beauty thronging sound and sight,

Their lengthened course we hardly know

Nor mark their exit when they go.

Yet through the burst of budding green

And blossoms rich with varied sheen

A brown leaf sometimes flutters by

And breeds a sombre revery.



18



PERHAPS

He who knows
What life and death is, is above all law.

Chapman.

He who knows what life and death is

Walks superior to fate.
Every word that Fortune saith is

Just accordant to his state.
Unto him indifferent breath is

Nature's bitter use and wont.
He who knows what life and death is

Ah, perhaps you do, I don't.



19



I



The study of human souls

Is the daintiest pleasure I know,
The tracing of what controls

Their passionate ebb and flow.

To follow some curious trail

In the mind's wide wilderness —

All other pursuits must pale
By the magical charm of this.

And the reason and full excuse
Which gives it a practical goal

And a manifold, infinite use,
Is that I am a human soul.



20



THE IDLE WIND

The idle wind blows all the day.
I wish it blew my care away.
The idle wind blows all day long
And weaves a burden to my song
Upon the melancholy flight
Of youth and beauty and delight.
The idle wind blows all the day.
I wish it blew my care away.



21



CHANCE

I want to sing what's righteous, but I'm apt to sing what's

wrong,
For I cannot control the eccentricities of song.
My verses whirl like autumn leaves upon a windy day.
Before I've told them half my mind, they flutter far away,

Full of moonlight, love, and laughter, mixed with other

dim affairs
As far removed from economic profit as from prayers.
The quaint, fantastic creatures shake their skirtless limbs

and dance
And my brain goes dancing after them, the dizzy sport of

chance.



22



THE FLECK

I have been a mystic,

Thrilled with fire divine.

I've been atheistic,
Scoffing at design.

I have been a stoic,
Stifled passion's flame.

I have been heroic —
Till disaster came.

I have been a sceptic,
Burned illusion out

With the antiseptic
Of dissolving doubt.

Now I'm merely nothing,
Fleck of foam astray,

Fancifully frothing
Till it fades away.



23



SHREDS

Little shreds of ecstasy
Float across the gray.

Otherwise our life would be
Stuff to cast away.

Here a kiss and there a kiss.

Love that laughter screens,
Walking through a wilderness.

Tell me what it means.



24



DISORDER

My life is governed by the clock,
All duly mapped and plotted;

And only with a nervous shock
I miss the time allotted.

My course without has always been
Set straight to hedge and border;

But I confess that all within
Is vast and vague disorder.



25



A SOCIAL BEING

You ask me why I ride and run

With such a wild desire
And come at call of every one

With feet that never tire?

Do not believe that I adore

The creatures that I see;
But one I most of all abhor,

And I myself am he.

And yet for all my hurrying flight

To anvone I've known,
There come the dreadful hours of night

When I must be alone.



26



AN UNSOCIAL BEING

It is not that I hate mankind

Or their pursuits at all.
I love them every one, but find

My own the best of all.

Society of man is sweet,

Of woman even sweeter,
With varied interest replete,

Only my own repleter.

For discipline I must deny

Myself myself sometimes ;
But I return with luxury

To books and thought and rhymes.



27



THEMES

Just a few themes,

Love, God, and glory,
Laughter and dreams,

Make all my story.

I croon them idly

In the sunbeams. .

How to spread widely

Just a few themes?



28



INELUCTABILIS

Said the spider to the fly,

" I will eat you by and by.

Roam as widely as you will.

Flaunt your wings and feed your fill.

Your capacity is quite

Ample for this world's delight.

You will find my cold web spun

When your brief career is done.

Triumph under heaven high.

I will eat you by and by."



29



THE CURTAIN

Others may seem gay and certain,
Steering one unbroken line.

But lift up the heart's dim curtain,
It might prove as frail as mine.

Full of shift and light vagary,

Thirsting, shrinking from the cup.

Truly, we had best be wary
And not lift the curtain up.



30



ROUSSEAU

That odd, fantastic ass, Rousseau,

Declared himself unique.
How men persist in doing so,

Puzzles me more than Greek.

The sins that tarnish whore and thief

Beset me every day.
My most ethereal belief

Inhabits common clay.



31



EXPENSES

I'm sick to death of money, of the lack of it, that is,

And of practising perpetually small economies ;

Of paring off a penny here, another penny there,

Of the planning and the worrying, the everlasting care.

The savages went naked and no doubt digested fruit,
And when they longed for partridge all they had to do

was shoot.
But it may be Mrs. Savage was extravagant in paint
And all the little Savages made juvenile complaint.

"We want a bow like We-We's. We want a fine canoe.
We don't have half such dandy things as other fellers do."
And Mrs. Savage quite agreed it was an awful shame.
So Mr. Savage sighed about expenses just the same.



32



HEINELET 1

He asked if she ever could love him.

She answered him, no, on the spot.
He asked if she ever could love him.

She assured him again she could not.

He asked if she ever could love him.

She laughed till his blushes he hid.
He asked if she ever could love him.

By God, she admitted she did.



IThe title of this and similar poems throughout the book does not
mean that they are translated from Heine, or even paraphrased ; but
they are written largely under Heine's influence. Lowell told Mr. How-
ells to " sweat the Heine out of his blood as men do mercury," but I see
no reason why one should not attempt to convey a very little of Heine's
charm into English, especially as Heine himself imitated the form and
spirit of earlier German lyrics.

33



THE ARGUMENT

I suggested the rapture of God.

They laughed at the very idea,
And it seemed to them almost as odd

As a message from Cassiopeia.

I liked Catholic ritual best.

They thought I was talking at random,
And mocked with a good deal of zest

At a trio of priests praying tandem.

I prated of mystic delight.

But to them my white dove was a pigeon,
My day divine nothing but night.

So I argued no more on religion.



34



ANACREON'S APOLOGY

An eye where lov r e with laughter twinkles,
And songs on kisses still insistent,

Blended with graying hair and wrinkles,
To you, my child, seem inconsistent?

In fact, you think such conduct shocking!

The old should mind their souls and purses
Ah, youthful blood, refrain from mocking

Till you can only kiss in verses.



35



MY YOUTH

Oh, my youth was hot and eager,

And my heart was burning, burning,

And the present joy seemed meagre,
Dwarfed by that perpetual yearning.

I was always madly asking

Ampler beauty, keener pleasure,

Had not wit enough for basking
In the sunshine rich with leisure.

Now with ripeness of October
I have reasoned and reflected,

And I feed my soul, grown sober,
With the crumbs that I rejected.



36



SISYPHUS

Old Sisyphus must roll a stone

Forever up a weary hill.
He sighs and thinks his task is done,

But has to recommence it still.

So we, with Adam in our bones,
Not you, or you, but all of us,

Keep rolling, rolling, rolling stones,
Exactly like old Sisyphus.



37



CRUMPLED LEAVES

Hope is always bent to fill

Life with vague anticipations.

Little drops of joy distil

From enormous expectations.

Hope has now brief field to cover,
Tedious days that flutter by ;

I'm reduced to turning over
Crumpled leaves of memory.



38



HEINELET

Oh, what a creature am I !

What inelegant moods I pass through.
■ I sin, though I cannot tell why —

Yet just such another are you.

I stumble I cannot tell how

Over bogs where no blossom e'er grew.
In short, I'm a fool I allow —

But just such another are you.



39



THE CLOCK

I live by the clock.

It is wearing, I grant you ;
For lost minutes mock

And delays always haunt you.

You cannot repair

A duty neglected,
Have little to spare

For a call unexpected,

Find leisure unknown,

Ever live in a flurry,
Must labor alone,

May die in a hurry.

All this I perceive,

The wise it should shock;
But I really believe

I was born by the clock.



40



THE SWING

Our life is like a twisted swing.

We start with little labor
And turning slowly ring by ring

Rise higher than our neighbor.

We twist and twist in endless strain,
With effort almost bursting;

And still, the more that we attain,
For more and more are thirsting.

Then suddenly there comes a pause,
And the untwist beginning,

When life's inexorable laws
Set the reversal spinning.

The triumph of our pain immense,
And all our boast and frothing,

Are whirled away to lack of sense
And so at last to nothing.



4i



HOPE

When I was a little boy,

I followed hope and slighted joy.

Now my wit has larger scope,

I clutch at joy and heed not hope.

At least that doctrine I profess,
For there I know lies happiness;
But hope, for all the shifts I try,
Will be my sovereign till I die.



42



A THOUSAND YEARS

Just to utter a word,

That is all I require;
That may still be heard,

When I expire ;
That still may glow,

Like a soft, sweet flame,
When others go,

As they lightly came ;
That may still be sung,

With hopes and fears,
By a careless tongue

In a thousand years.



43



WHY?

Hist ! Zop !

The world is all awry.
Think that you can mend it 1
Take a turn and try.
Virtue gets a fall or two,
Vice careers on high.
I prefer to sing myself,
Sick of asking why.



44



FEAR

When I was little,

My life was half fear.
My nerves were as brittle

As nature may bear.

Shapes monstrous would follow

My footsteps alone,
And night, huge and hollow,

Yawned cold as a stone.

At trifles I started,

For nothing I wept,
And terror departed

Not all when I slept.

Now I've grown older,

My nerves I restrain.
My pulses are colder,

And clearer my brain.

Yet still with a shudder
I drift through the dark,

And fear holds the rudder,
A-guiding my bark.

The world's so enormous

In multiple whole,
What god can inform us

It cares for a soul?



45



COMEDY

I'm writing comedy again,

The daintiest pleasure known to men;

Unless a daintier might be

To watch your acted comedy :

The airy ladies gaily dressed,

And much adored, and much caressed,

The men who swagger like gamecocks,

Or undermine, like cunning fox,

And over all these shaken free

The spangled gleam of repartee —

No keener joy awaits us here.

And yet each day I write with fear.



4 6



NERVES

Nerves are most extraordinary,

Full of useful information,
At a moment's notice merry

With abounding cachinnation,
Then with subtle transformation,

Dreary as a cemetery
Just prepared for occupation. —

Nerves are most extraordinary.



47



HUNGER

I've been a hopeless sinner, but I understand a saint,
Their bend of weary knees and their contortions long and

faint,
And the endless pricks of conscience, like a hundred

thousand pins,
A real perpetual penance for imaginary sins.

I love to wander widely, )W I understand a cell,

Where you tell and tell your beads because you've nothing

else to tell,
Where the crimson joy of flesh, with all its wild fantastic

tricks,
Is forgotten in the blinding glory of the crucifix.

I cannot speak for others, but my inmost soul is torn
With a battle of desires making all my life forlorn.
There are moments when I would untread the paths that

I have trod.
I'm a haunter of the devil, but I hunger after God.



4 8



GLORY

Ever since I can remember I have thirsted after glory.
And my earliest desire was to have a place in story.
When my mates were only eager for their sport or game

or pastime,
I was thinking, thinking, thinking of a name that should

outlast time.

Love distracted me and learning lured my wayward steps
a moment,

Hope to find what life's mad forces tossing blindly to and
fro meant.

I, like Obermann, have known high virtue's fierce enthu-
siasm,

And, like him, have found a month enough to wear away
its spasm.

But through ecstasy of lovers and through lofty dream of
, learning

And through virtue's ashes still I saw ambition burning,
burning.

Snow of years, rebuffs, quips, mocks, but fed the flame
like precious ointment.

What a pity after all I should be doomed to disappoint-
ment !



49



LEAVES

Down come the leaves,
Like fleeting years,
Or idle tears

Of love that grieves.

A tinkling trill,

A pallid flight,

Like brief delight. —
And all is still.



50



LOVE'S DETECTIVE

They always called her Love's detective,
Thought her inopportune, but harmless.

She looked at life without perspective,
A dry soul, erudite and charmless.

She had a habit of appearing

Just when four lips were ripe for kissing.
'Excuse me if I'm interfering."

The mild words sounded like a hissing.

And when at last the bomb exploded

Which rent love like a wind-blown thistle,

They never knew that she had loaded,

And primed, and aimed, and fired the missile.



5i



"I MIGHT— AND I MIGHT NOT"

I might forget ambition and the hunger for success.
I might forget the passion to escape from nothingness.
I might forget the curious dreams of ecstasy that haunt
My fancy day and night. I might forget them. But I can't.

If I could let the pen alone and leave the inkstand dry,
And forego perpetual effort to be climbing, climbing high,
And lay aside my mad designs to startle and enchant,
I might enjoy the sweet of common living. But I can't.

I might be just a Philistine, and eat, and drink, and sleep,

And drive a dusty motor and pile money in a heap,

And let the stream of life run through my brain and be

forgot.
If I did, I might be happier. I might — and I might not.



52



THE RIOT

V'ou think my life is quiet.

I find it full of change,
An ever-varied diet,

As piquant as 'tis strange.

Wild thoughts are always flying,
Like sparks across my brain,

Now flashing out, now dying,
To kindle soon again.

Fine fancies set me thrilling,
And subtle monsters creep

Before my sight unwilling :
They even haunt my sleep.

One broad, perpetual riot
Enfolds me night and day.

You think my life is quiet?

You don't know what you say.



53



HEINELET

They walked through the meadow together,
And made the little frogs croak.

She asked him in agony whether
His wooing was merely a joke.

He said that the earth's base should sever
Ere his word and his promise he broke.

He swore he would love her forever —
And made the little frogs croak.



54



PROFIT

If I have the time to sing,
Golden hours to spend,

Surely you at least may bring
Leisure to attend.

I have profit for your soul,

Also much delight.
Others almost reach the goal,

I attain it quite.



55



IMAGINATION

Imagination plays me most intolerable tricks.
To enumerate them all would be unbearably prolix.
Just a trifle bids them gather and a trifle bids them go.
And they tease me and torment me more than any one can
know.

Tricks of strange disordered action, tricks of strange dis-
ordered thought,

Tricks of seeking explanations most unprofitably sought.

But my will is learning daily, when the creatures growl
and leap,

That a stern voice and a stinging lash will drive them
back to sleep.



56



FRAGMENTS

Nothing of biography,
Nothing quite dramatic.

Study my geography

Till you grow rheumatic.

Other folks' psychology

Mixed with my sensations :

Fragments of biology
Edifying nations.



57



THE DESERT SHORE

My soul and I are cast away

Upon a desert shore,
Where never other soul will stray,

Nor ever did before.

Sweet airs and dreadful murmurs haunt
The spot. Strange shapes appear,

Fantastic visions that enchant,
Only to thrill with fear.

My God, are these and just my soul,

My little soul and I,
Condemned to dwell here through the whole

Waste of eternity?



58



FLEAS

My thoughts are like fleas,

Eternally skipping,
I try as I please

To prevent their slipping,
To probe them for more meant

Then my wit can utter;
But out of the torment

They quiver and flutter,
Dance, sparkle, and vanish

With insolent ease.
To hold or to banish,

My thoughts are like fleas.



59



THE DRONE

I might have been a worker, but I'm nothing but a drone.

I tell my idle stories in a philosophic tone.

In a fuzzy, spiny mantle of remoteness softly furled

I lie and watch with half-shut eyes the stupefying world.

And they bustle and they rustle with their self-consuming

din.
And eager feet go hurrying out and tired feet come in.
Like Bottom, when they hear a sound, they all must rush

to see.
They're always running after life. I let it come to me.



60



THE THING

I wish I had a body
A little more complete,

For mine is made of shoddy
From head unto the feet.

It serves me when admonished,
But serves me very ill.

I really am astonished
To find it serving still.

But yet perhaps I've vented
My anger quite astray;

For I shall be contented
To throw the thing away.



61



THE TESTAMENT

Poor Amiel made his testament
Of broken scraps of prose,

To which he daily, nightly went
And jotted down his woes.

I hasten at the dawn of day,

When light my dreams disperses,

To make my perishable clay
Imperishable verses.



62



YOURS?

If I should lay

My soul right bare,
You would shrink away,

And shudder and stare,
And cry, "in the whole

Wide world naught cures
Such a putrid soul" —

How about yours?



63



A NOVEL

Just write a novel. Oh,

You'll find it most diverting:
The puppet souls are so

Extremely disconcerting.

Their dainty dialogue

Flits light before your fancy,
Not deft enough to dog

Their footsteps gay and chancy.

But tell me — would you could —
What sets my nerves a-twinkle,

Why the dear public should
Pass by without a wrinkle.



6 4



SPARKLES

Strange fantasies oppress
My sorrow-crumpled brain,

A riot of distress,
A carnival of pain :

Sparkles and points of fear
That flash and dart and leap

And merge and disappear. —
And then I fall asleep.



65



HEINELET

They met, as it were, in a mist,

Pale, curious, eager, uncertain.
When each clasped the other and kissed,

The mist rolled aside like a curtain.

There were fields of delight to explore,

Where it seemed that their lips could not sever.-

Now their lips are as lone as before,
And the cold mist is thicker than ever.



66



NURSES, NURSES, NURSES!

I hear the tread of many feet

Along the quiet floor.
And someone's face I'm sure to meet

In every open door.

My soul's domain is widely free

For all to be included ;
But I should like my house to be

A little more secluded.



67



CAN'T YOU

Oh, believe I wish you well.

But I will not haunt you,
Lie awake devising spell

Or potion to enchant you.
Since I know that charms divine

Cannot move or daunt you,
Go your way and I'll go mine.

Leave me peaceful — can't you 1



68



ROBERT E. LEE

I've followed you ten years, my Lee,
And I adore you more than ever,

Assured that nothing now can be
Of force my tie to you to sever.

If I could only touch your hand,
Or look into your eyes of kindness,

Perhaps your strength would help me stand
In all my groping and my blindness.

Or would there hang 'twixt you and me
The old veil fluttering in the middle?

And should I find you still to be,
Like God, an everlasting riddle?



6 9



THE SEAMSTRESS

I turn my spirit inside out

And let the March wind, blowing free,
Shake wide the creases boisterously

And scatter scraps and crumbs of doubt :

A spirit worn and full of holes,

With many a seam and many a patch
Of stuffs ill set that do not match. —

Oh, seamstress, who shall mend our souls?



70



NIGHT

I cannot weep, but I remember

In the silent night.
I cannot weep, but I remember

What has taken flight.

Like the blasts of stern December,

Chilling kindly sleep,
Come the things that I remember.

Yet I cannot weep.



71



THE COST OF LIVING

Just a little upset here:


1

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