Margaret Sackville.

Selected poems online

. (page 1 of 5)
Online LibraryMargaret SackvilleSelected poems → online text (page 1 of 5)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook
















Lady Margaret Sackville is the best In my
opinibn of our English poetesses, at least of the
younger generation. Certainly she is among the
most interesting. She has written verse since she
was six years old, and it has always been good
verse. Though misled for a while into the blind
alley of blank verse, the common snare of young
and ambitious writers of a dozen years ago, she has
always emerged into the daylight of sound rhyme,
metre and melody, the three essentials in our
English tradition, for blank verse, though it may
be poetry, is not really verse at all, even in master
hands, say, rather a dignified kind of prose
pompous in recitation and for common reading,

It is difficult to forecast what the future of
English poetry will be. At the present moment it
is going through a period of delirium, in harmony
with the war-fever which has overspread the
western world, an,d we must wait for really good


original work until white mankind shall have
regained its normal sanity. This will return to us
with the other good things we are doing without
under administrative order. But the fever will not
last for ever, and we shall probably see repeated
what happened at the end of the Napoleonic wars
in France and Germany and among ourselves, an
era of intellectual new birth caused by its long
suppression under military rule, and which reminded
contemporaries of the wealth of spring herbage
which is seen where fire has devastated a mountain
side, clothing it in astonishing new green and
illustrated by such splended flowers of originality,
especially in vanquished France, as Europe had not
witnessed since the days of the Pleiad, a sudden
adornment which overgrew the military disasters
and invaded every region of art and established a
supreme ideality compensating a sad world for the
happinesses lost. We may look for something
analogous to this among ourselves when the war
shall have cast its crude barbarities on the scrap
heap of vain glory and shall have settled down to
its ancient bourgeois way of peace, prosperity and
the romance of beauty. Let us in the meanwhile
be thankful for what remains to us of the classic
tradition in form and dignity which Lady Margaret,
more than any other of our young writers adheres
to, even where she yields to the war-like emotion



of the hour, in her choice of subject. Her war
poems are not mere experiments in realism, but
genuine laments for the pity of such things, the
ugliness of rage and the waste of what is noblest.
Her volume, two years ago, A Pageant of War
gave voice to these finer influences and this present
collection renews it. The glories of war as Lady
Margaret Sackville sees them are the glories not of
victory but of its final disappearance from the
possibilities of human folly, and so, I doubt not,
we shall all regard them before many years, perhaps
months are over, which may God grant with much
else of urgently needed wisdom in an unwise





aXto'TOi'oy -... - .. j

Prelude - - .... 5

A Prophecy 8

"quando veniret ver meum ? " - - - - lo

The Runaway - 13

Ballade of the Journey's End - - - 14

Lines 16

Weary-Well 17

Invitation au Repos 18

Fete Galante : Adieu 20

Vale 21

The Ghost 22

The Wind in the Garden 24

The Apple 26

Oh! my Dear! - - 27

A Dirge 29

Romance 30





The Flight 37

Syrinx 4°

The Lion-Goddess 46

The Queen's Cabinet 48

Orpheus among the Shades - - - - 57

Le Voyage en Cythere 65

*• Hark to the Rain ! " 73

A Poet at the Court of Pan - - - - 77

The Wooing of Dionysus - - - 85

POEMS igi4-ign

Quo Vaditis? "31

Reconciliation 132

Flanders — 1915 - - - - 133

To One who denies the Possibility of a

Permanent Peace i34

The Peacemakers ^35

The Fighters 136

"Behold the Dreamer cometh" - - - 138

Foam and Earth i39

Vale ^4©



" We will gather branches of myrtle and pluck
dreams from the fast-fading aromatic leaves."

What dreams are these which from the myrtle
And the crushed leaves arise?

What shining host of fragrant memories ?
Let us bend our heads and take our fill of them,
Here where the pale verge of enchanted seas
Meets the faint luminous skies.

Oh ! scent which stabs sharp as the sea's salt breath
Yet with the sweetness of all earth in it ;
Is it not even as the curling smoke
Which wrought a trance of ecstasy like death,
When once in Delphi the white flame was lit
And the god stirred and spoke .f*

That flame has turned to perfume ; all that was
In those lost years divine,

The tragic splendour and unslumbering woe,



The passion and delight and triumph has
Crushed itself in the myrtle and the vine
That the new days may know.

Though all forget, though all the earth forget,
Still the wise myrtle doth remember : grief
For the past day like ever falling dew
Has kept its branches and frail blossoms wet,
Has stored with life unfading every leaf
Which Daphne changed into.

Thou hearest too. Hast thou not seen each face
"Which the grave myrtle's haunted scents
surround ?
Thy feet pursue the vision and afar
Beyond our hesitating days can pace
Lonely upon that solemn, holy ground
Where the immortals are.


Pause for a little, Summer, and forget
How few the hours 'twixt sunrise and sunset ;
How fugitive thy kingdom, and how soon
Thy crescent swells to the gold harvest moon ;
And how with faded flowers are strewn thy ways —
Grant us one perfect day of all thy days!
Golden, as only thou canst well devise,
Coloured and sumptuous as peacocks' eyes :
A day of unstained lustre, without fleck,
Like a pearl hung round Aphrodite's neck.
That we may, peradventure, crush therefrom
The essence of thy beauty : sun and storm
And shadow and wild scents — all palpitating
For the hour only. Lo! thou art a thing
Pagan and unremembering. For a while
Charge us with the full magic of thy smile,
And in some haunted place, where the full stream
Murmurs and laughs like music in a dream,
Through ferns, and noiseless over the green earth

Sit mocking us, thy pipes pressed to thy lips,



Those perverse pipes which lure men's feet to stray
From the ancient safety of the straight highway,
To worship on some perilous hillside
That loveliness which perished when Pan died.

— O Summer! grant to us our full desire!

A flame of inextinguishable fire,

Which shall not wane though all life's fervours wane ;

A joy in each new joy reborn again ;

Foam of far seas ; a flower snatched from the wreath

Of a nymph dancing ; song which lurks beneath

The thickest woods' most secret canopies :

These things would we have, Summer, and more

than these.
And a full draught of wine from thy wine-press
To comfort us, pilgrims of the wilderness.

We who entreat thee are the children of
Fire and delight and ecstasy and love.
Whose feet most fatally the roads have drawn
Ever outwards and away and ever on.
And we have laughter on our lips and pride
And song and passion — yet the world is wide !
And we have wisdom — ytt we may not rest!
Our hearts are leaves the wind drives East and

Exiles from some lost Paradise, we claim


As bearers and inheritors of the flame
Which in the heart of the garden burns, to break
Our souls up as we will for our dream's sake.
Gipsies of the wide earth, lonely and glad.
Whom one brief, soaring hour of life gone mad
With its own loveliness, suffices still :
Kings are we or beggars, as you will —
We ask nor praise nor pity.

Yet, behold !
We tireless seekers after fairy gold,
Grown weary for a little, pray to thee.
Summer, thou gossamer divinity.
That thou, one gracious gift for which we long,
Wilt grant to us, poor suppliants of song!
Grant us one day of roses — all the scent
Of roses — fragrant as Love's sacrament.
Something equal to our dream of love,
Who have not loved, save only in dreams.

Enough !
Let us be still a little, though the road,
The road of our desire is still untrod. —
Ah ! let us rest to-day, to-morrow is
Much less than the wind's whisper in the trees ;
Soon our mad hearts will urge us forth again
Shelterless, beneath the sun and rain,
And faces, which the wind stings mockingly.
Turned, full of mirth and longing towards the sea!


Fire shall absolve thee. Thy immense delays,
Thy silent, bleak, unmemorable days,
All thy waste words, thy passions come to naught,
The pauses and limitations of thy thought.
Shall in one blast of windy rapture, glow
Such a flame, as only those altars know
Which the very god's secret, still, silent breath
Touches and the dark ashes leap from death.
So thy feet faltering, and thy hands which long
Have vainly sought and thy heart athirst for

Shall meet at last in some sequestered place
Thy dream, thy dream living and face to face !
Yea, and beside thy dream no memory
Nor mark of all thy life left upon thee.
Nor proof that thou hast been save sprung from

Dream, a new song wherein thy whole soul is ;
Wherefrom, re-born, thou shalt again arise
Swift on the track of finer ecstasies.




These are thy deaths and births — this is thy life
All else to thee is little more than strife
Of winds, or phantoms urging their dim flight
Through the forlorn, lost solitudes of night.


Now over the brown hill

Spring rises like a star,
And scatters with glad will
Her treasure near and far,
And Earth, Spring's pensioner,

Joins lightly in a maze of dances.
Since the cold, long-sleeping blood of her

Has turned to wine beneath the Sun's kind
O ! festal, royal Sun

Of Spring's nativity,
Hast thou of all thy robes of joy not one
For me, for me ?

I have waited over long

In many a shadowed place.
For (ah ! ) once heard — a song.

And (ah!) once seen — a face ;
Once in a dream, but swift

Night's river chill and gray



Carried both in a drift

Of drowning dreams away : —
Outward, onward borne

On that chill, hurrying stream
Until far off in the leaping sea of morn
I lost my dream.

My Spring, my Dream, most rare!

When shall I find thee, when ?
This spring is not so fair

She is for all men. —
This spring goes with the wind.

She is young, she is glad.
Sweet but of common-kind,

Mine moves like a Queen clad ;
Not in any secret way

Shall ye find her or know
In what soft paths of fallen flowers to-day
Her white feet go.

I am so sick for her

Who wait till she shall pass,
In shining robes like lily-leaves astir,

Or twilight on the grass.
Her hands are cool like deep

Water on a summer's eve ;
In her eyes, innocent as sleep,

No memories awake or grieve. —


I have searched the house of Day, the~house of
And found no place at all where she might be : —
When shall my Spring come, when shall my

Come, come to me ?


I've lost my favourite dream, good lack!

She was so swift, I might not hold her!
I run hot-footed on her track,

But she has wings on either shoulder,
She fled from me last Spring,

And now the Summer's done :
Out upon the crafty thing! —

She has wings and I have none.


Those far fair lands our feet have trod.

The journey that was never done,
The dreams that followed us golden shod,

All mad adventure 'neath the sun ; —
Ships in the trough of a waste sea spun,

The treasuries of outlawed kings,
And the white walls of Babylon ; —

Ah ! woe is me for all these things !

Your staff and scrip are laid aside

And all my golden minstrelsy ;
We sail no more at the turn of the tide

In a captured vessel out to sea.
Oh! fallen and sick and tired are we!

Sleek sloth about us twines and clings,
And where is the sword that should set us free ?

Ah! woe is me for all these things!

The street lamps in a dreary line

Gaze through the dusk with venomous eyes ;



We stir the fire and pour the wine,

For we have done with enterprise.
The anxious town about us lies ;

Another song the shrill wind sings
Than that which startled the morning skies. —

Ah ! woe is me for all these things !


A sudden gust and a rattle of rain,

And a thought which leaps in the heart and
stings ;
Draw the curtains close round the window pane! —

Ah ! woe is me for all these things !


Assouan, 1913.

Tread softly oh! my dancing feet,
Lest your untimely gladness stir

Dust of forgotten men who find death sweet
At rest within their sepulchre!



There is no mirror where I dwell,

And I was fain to see
From the smooth depths of Weary-well

My face smile back at me.

But now if I should stoop to gaze

Where the still water lies,
I could not even see my face

For the tears within my eyes!



No longer heed the restless seas

Calling at the fall of night :

Nor let the perfume-laden breeze,

Soft, treacherous and sweet, invite

You forth : there is no worth in these.

All deceptive cadences

Of sea and wind and day and night

Shut from your ears. For who may know

Any lasting certitude

Who follows where the sea- winds go

East and West, in fickle mood.^

But rather when the fire is lit

And the warm curtains closely drawn,

Cheerfully remain by it!

The wild night and wilder dawn,

And clamour of the outcast sea.

And lights of the slow-passing ships,

These shall form your reverie ;

Or when the sea-fog with cold lips

Presses upon the window pane,



Brooding closely on cold wings,

This and the sharp sound of rain

Shall teach you unfamiliar things.

Ah! better thus in dreams to range!

All far cities are less strange,

Less wondrous than your dream. Abide

Therefore with your dream content!

For it can spread pinions as wide

As any earthly continent. —

Friend, stir no more from the fireside!


Let all be put away — all garments fringed and

Rouge, rapiers, powder, frills, the mouche of

All gallant, shining things ; the day grows chill ;

Before the last gay love has withered in your heart ;
Before the wind-swept skies have hurled their

torrents down.
Is there any shelter anywhere outside the town.^*
There is no shelter — see, the woods are wringing

And you have lost the buckle from your shoe,

Pierrette !
Time to go home at last, put all your gauds away.
Songs fail, old age, ah! me, will it be like to-day,
A mockery of broken strings and tarnished gold ? —
The woods are wringing wet. Adieu. We have

grown old.



Go forth ; the snow

So fast upon thy track
Shall fall, no man may know
Whether thou g-oest on


Or turnest back.

The cold winds over thee

Snowing shall hide
Thy pathway ; not the sea
Shall so efface all footprints from the sand

With the incoming tide.

But when at last

Glad early morning like an anthem thrills
The skies, how wilt thou lie ? In sleep locked fast
In a warm bed, or where the snow drifts deep

Out there among the hills?



"Oh! who is this that calls through the grey rain

to me ? " —
" Oh ! it's I you loved, and loved too well, and I've

been drowned at sea."
" But if it's you I loved so well, and if it's you I lost,
You who came not as a living man, why come you

now as a ghost ? "

" Oh ! proud and foolish was my heart, but now my

pride is done,
I'm but a weary waif, driven through the lone seas,

alone." —
" Oh! many's the time, day out, day in, I called in

vain to you.
Now you may knock at my closed door : I shall not

let you through."

" Is there no shelter then for me ? " " Fast bolted

is the door."
" And is your heart all dead to me ? " " Dead as

was yours before.



Comfort you as best you may, drift seaward with

the rain —
The heart which died for a living man, wakes not

for the dead again ! "


Wind of the sea-way,

Wet Wind, drenched with spray!
Thou hast surely swept and lingered
Through the paths of an old garden.
Loitered, spied there, beyond pardon!

Where my thoughts, my thoughts too, stray,
When the twilight, chilly-fingered.

Turns the red to grey.

These are tears,

Not spray upon thy pinions.

Tears, tears —

Thou pilgrim from the sea's august dominions,

Why didst thou leave

Those vexed ways to creep

Into a garden given over to sleep.

Freed from the long obsession

And tyranny of the unavailing years .^

Intruder! thus to take possession

Of the secrets therein hidden



And a guest unbidden,

To sally forth with wings whereon

Gleam my tears, each one a gem —

Thou art drenched with them.

Begone, begone!

This garden made for my sad thoughts alone

I will not share with thee.

— Not for thy pleasure are these wild ways sown, —

Sea-thief, gaunt Wind, return unto thy sea!


Eve, smiling, plucked the apple, then
Laughed, sighed — and tasted it again :
" Strange such a pleasant, juicy thing
On a forbidden tree should spring! "

But had she seen with clearer eyes.
Or had the serpent been less wise.
She'd scarce have shown such little wit
As to let Adam taste of it!



The wind has scattered the leaves down
And made a path so bright and clean,
For some high lord to tread thereon.
Or for Lightfoot, the fairy Queen.

Or — for you !
No, my dear, no. —
And yet it might be so,
If dreams came true !

My eyes have grown so bitter-bright

I could see you a mile away,
Any time by day or night.

Oh ! will you never come this way ?
You I'm wearying for,
Day out, day in ;
Oh, why can't I just rise and open wide the door,
And drag you in !

I know you'll never come, and yet

Like a puzzled ghost am I


2 8 OH! MY DEiVR!

Who must have wrought some crime, for It
Safe and sleeping cannot lie.

Oh ! my dear,
Here's Autumn and the fall,
And the ending of the year. —
Is it then the end of all ?

If the roads are light to you,

They are very heavy for my feet.
I think that I will die and forget and forget you.
And not care though we never meet.

Oh ! my dear —
I wish that you were dead,

I wish that you were dead and loving me and
With the broken earth for your bed !

My own dear —
And never a word to be said ;

I wish that you were dead and lying very near
My heart a pillow for your head !


Let not around her brows be set

Earth's golden blossoms for a coronet.

For she was of the sea and not of earth :

Grey waters gave her birth.

And she who sleeps thus soundly shall become

Grey mist and elemental foam.

Pluck not for her rich blooms whose passionate

Might stab her soul with waking discontent.
Rather those petals by light winds blown down
From the waves' crest should be her crown.
— Ah! me, what salt, faint, savourless perfume

Round these fast-fading flowers of hers!



Come, come to me!

I am the Sea,

I am all that can never be ;

The whirling wave, the steady light

Of ships slow sailing out into the night ;

Wind, wave and leaping spray,

And the lands which are very far away ;

Every rainbow-circled shore.

Where you may stay

A night and a day.

No more!

I kiss your eyes and leave them blind ;

I am around you and above ;

I am the road that lies before,

And behind ;

I am Morning — I am Love!

I shake my gleaming

My sun-splashed wings,

Whilst you lie dreaming

Of other things.



The sun shakes your grating,

The wind's at the door ;

Oh! ride forth for all the world is waiting

And come back no more!

Am I not fair

With my wishing cap on my gold hair?

Am I not fleet

Who have feathered shoulders and winged feet?

Listen! listen! have you heard

Such a song ever,

As now beneath the wandering moon I sing?

Each wild-winged bird

Whose throat is mad with Spring,

Has sought to learn it and might never!

Listen! wheresoe'er I pass

Laughter stirs among the grass,

And the withered tree.

Breaks into leaf,

And Grief,

Smiles through heavy eyes, tear-laden,

And becomes my waiting-maiden.

Serving me!

I am the sheath, I am the sword,
And I am flame : I set alight
Cities that men may make
Songs of that burning for my sake,


And yield their souls up at a word.

It may be I shall turn my head

And with my eyes' flash strike you dead,

What matters it?

You will have lived as only they

Who do my bidding may.

Of what avail to sit

In comfort ease and slow decay,

Watching the grey ash, bit by bit.

Crumble away?

What care though I destroy

Who have re-christened Death and called him Joy,

And have taught Laughter

To the sharp-visaged, horny-fingered Fates. —

Oh! if I lead you dancing through Hell's gates

What matter what comes after?

Come, come to me!

I am the moon, I am the sea ;

I am every ship that sails

Trackless waters, knowing not

Where she steers.

I am the light which never fails ;

I am a golden knot

Binding together the loose years.

I sparkle and run

Like ice in the moonlight, like frost in the sun.

And when you have found me, then life has begun.


Therefore be bold.

Of my hand take hold,

And swing in the track of my garment's fold!

Cling to me, follow me, set your heart free ;

I am all that can never be,

A song, a spell, a key of gold.

Which can unlock the earth and the sea : —

Come, come, oh! come with me!



Following ! Following !

I heard the horse-hoofs rise and ring

And rise and fall again and beat,

And strike the sand ; they had winged feet

Those horses! I could almost hear

— As it seemed — a rush of wings draw near,

Demons with great pinions spread

To fall on me. On, on I sped ;

On I sped, swift as air.

The wind tangled in my hair

Dragged me forwards. I kept pace

With the wind. So fierce a race

'Twixt death and life was never run.

I cried : " Now surely Death has won ! »

And yet I did not die. —

Red sand.
Burning hot on either hand,
And the sun angry and red
Fixed just above my head,
Motionless in the still sky ;



There was no man in all the world save I,
Nor sound, save the following
Horse-hoofs' sharp rise and swing,
And a whirr as of great wings behind
Me dragged in the wake of the wind.
With the whole world to ride in — grown
Empty save for us alone.
They who followed, I who fled !

The steady sun above my head

Pressed me down, down, down. The sun

And my enemies were one,

Leagued together for my defeat ;

Earth seemed sodden through with heat,

Through and through ; yet I rode on.

Whilst red, like madness, the sun shone.

Or like a flame up-blown from Hell.

My horse stumbled, almost fell,

I was riding with so slack a rein.

Since life seemed hardly worth the strain.

Of this interminable flight.

"At least I shall be dead by night"

I thought — and renewed the flight again.

When suddenly how did it chance ?
I must have fallen into a trance.


Time had slipped from me like a sheath,

Leaving the spirit, crushed beneath

Long dominion, at last free

In a moment from all memory.

Since nothing I remember more

Till leapt up bright as flame before

My eyes, there at my feet, my own

Whitewalled, battlemented town!

Ah ! me how coldly, strangely gleamed

The shining spires, the walls which seemed

A mirage, impossible as heaven.

To a soul beyond all hope forgiven !

So I pressed on — whilst life began

To fade from me and the tears ran

Down my cheeks like fire, as I

Heard the following horse- hoofs die

Slowly, slowly away and cease.

And I stood in the shadow of my trees.

And through the high-arched doorway passed

And swooning over the threshold cast

My body down — safe, safe at last!


I AM Syrinx : I am she who when the gold,
Sun over the grey mountain burns awake,
Rises and drives the flock from the safe fold ;

And all day long hidden in the green brake
Watches ; or where the wood's heart grows so

That the least tremor of small leaves ashake,

Seems somehow a foreboding of strange ill. —

1 3 4 5

Online LibraryMargaret SackvilleSelected poems → online text (page 1 of 5)