Selected Writings of Wm Sharp, Vol 1, Poems

SONNETS

    1893

 

SONNET-SEQUENCE

I

Where have I known thee, dear, in what strange place,
Midst what caprices of our alien fate,
Where have I bowed, worshipping this thy face,
And hunger'd for thee, as now, insatiate?
Tell me, white soul, that through those starry veils
Keep'st steadfast vigil o'er my wavering spirit,
On what far sea trimm'd we our darkling sails
When fell the shadow o'er that we now inherit?
Two tempest-driven souls were we, or glad
With the young joy that recks of no tomorrow:
Or were we as now inexplicably sad
Before the coming twilight of new Sorrow?
Did our flesh quail as now this poor flesh quails.
Our faces blanch, as mine, as thine that pales!

II

Out of the valley of the Shadow of Death
Who cometh, through the haunted Hollow Land
On those tired lips of mine whose quickening breath
In this long yearning clasp whose tremulous hand?
O, is it death or dream, madness, or what
Fantastic torture of the chemic brain,
That brings thee here, as thus, when all forgot,
Thy body sleeps, as mine doth, free from pain?
What is the brooding word upon thy lips
O beautiful image of my heart's desire?
What is the ominous shadow of eclipse
That dusks those veiléd eyes' redeeming fire?
O soul whom I from life to life have sought,
What menace haunteth joy so dearly bought?

III

This menace :--of remembrance that must come
This menace :--of the waking that must be.
O soul, let the rhythm of life itself grow dumb
And be the song of death our litany:
Let the world perish as a perishing fire,
For us be less than ashes without flame,
So that we twain our last breath here suspire,
Here where none uttereth word, none calleth name.
For in the Hollow Land is utter peace,
The magic spell which hath no first or last,
But all that never ceaseth here doth cease
And what would know no death is long since past :
Only one thing endures where all expire
The inviolate rapture of fulfilled desire.

IV

Where art thou, Love ! Lo, I am crucified
Here on the bitter tree of my suspense,
And my soul travails in my quivering side,
Wild with the passionate longing to go hence.
Where would it voyage, lost, bewildered soul
If from the body's warm white home it strayed :
Even as the wild-fox would it find its hole,
Even as the fowls of the air would it find shade?
Yea, dear, with winnowing wings there would it fly
To fold them on the whiteness of thy breast,
And all its passion breathe into thy sigh,
Fulfil the uttermost peace of perfect rest
And passing into thee as its last goal
Should know no more this bitter-sweet control.

IV

Dear, through the silence comes a vibrant call,
Thy voice, thy very voice it is, O Sweet!
Yet who shall scale the dread invisible wall
That guards the Eden where our souls would meet?
O veil of flesh, O dull mortality,
Is there no vision for the enfranchised eyes
Must we stoop low thro' Death's greenglooms to see
The immaculate light known of our wingéd sighs?
Nay, Love, of body or soul no shadow or gloom
Can always, always, thee and me dispart
Soul of my soul, thro' the very gates of Doom
Even as deep to deep, heart crieth to heart---
Yea, as two moving waves on Life's wild sea,
We meet, we merge, we are one, I thou, thou me!

VI

"And dost thou love me not a whit the less :
And is thy heart as tremulous as of yore,
And do thine eyes mirror the wonderfulness,
And do thy lips retain their magic lore?"
What, Sweet, can these things be, ev'n in thy thought,
And I so briefly gone, so swiftly come
Nay, if the pulse of life its beat forgot
This speaking heart would not thereby be dumb.
I love thee, love thee so, O beautiful Hell
That dost consume heart, brain, nerves, body, soul
That even my immortal birthright I would sell
Were Heaven to choose, or Thee, as my one goal.
Sweet love fulfilled, they say, the common lot
He who speaks thus, of real love knoweth not.

VII

The dull day darkens to its close. The sheen
Of a myriad gas-jets lights the squalid night.
There is no joy, it seems, but what hath been :
There is nought left but semblance of delight.
Nay, is it so? Down this long darkling way
What surety is there for the hungry heart,
What vistas of white peace, rapt holiday
Of the tired soul forlorn, thus kept apart?
Oh, hearken, hearken, love! I cannot wait :
Drear is the night without, the night within
I am so tired, so tired, so baffled of our fate,
The very sport it seems of our sweet sin
Oh, open, open now, and bid me stay,
Who almost am too tired, too weak, to pray.

VIII

And so, is it so ? the long sweet pain is over?
The dear familiar love must know a change?
No more am I, no more, to be your lover,
But life be cold once more, and drear, and strange.
We have sinned, you say, and sorrow must redeem
All the cruel largess of our passionate love,
And we, at the last, content us with a dream
Who have known a hell below, a heaven above
Well, be it so : thy life I shall not darken
Thy dream, for me, shall be disturbed no more :
Thine ears, by day or night, shall never hearken
The coming of the steps thou lovedst of yore
And if, afar, a lost wild soul blaspheme,
Thou shalt not know it in thy peace supreme.

AN UNTOLD STORY

I

When the dark falls, and as a single star
The orient planets blend in one bright ray
A-quiver through the violet shadows far
Where the rose-red still lingers 'mid the grey:

And when the moon, half-cirque around her hollow,
Casts on the upland pastures shimmer of green :
And the marsh-meteors the frail lightnings follow,
And wave lapse into wave with amber sheen---

O then my heart is full of thee, who never
From out thy beautiful mysterious eyes
Givest one glance at this my wild endeavour,
Who hast no heed, no heed, of all my sighs
Is it so well with thee in thy high place
That thou canst mock me thus even to my face?

II

Dull ash-grey frost upon the black-grey fields:
Thick wreaths of tortured smoke above the town
The chill impervious fog no foothold yields,
But onward draws its shroud of yellow brown.

No star can pierce the gloom, no moon dispart :
And I am lonely here, and scarcely know
What mockery is "death from a broken heart,"
What tragic pity in the one word : Woe.

But I am free of thee, at least, yea free
No more thy bondager 'twixt heaven and hell!
No more there numbs, no more there shroudeth me
The paralysing horror of thy spell
No more win'st thou this last frail worshipping breath,
For twice dead he who dies this second death.

THE VEILS OF SILENCE

Three veils of Silence, Summer draws apace.
The noon-tide Peace that broods on hill and dale,
That passes o'er the sea and leaves no trace,
That sleeps in the moveless clouds' moveless trail:

The wave of colour deepening day by day.
The yellow grown to purple on the leas,
Blue within there beyond the dusky ways;
A green-gloom dusk within the grass-green trees.

The third veil no man sees. She weaves it where
Beneath the fret and fume tired hearts aspire
And long for some divine impossible air.
Out of Man's heart she weaves this veil of Rest---
Sweet anodyne for all the feverish quest
And ache of inarticulate Desire.

WRITTEN BY THE SEA

Sweet are white dreams i' the dusk, yet sweeter far
When the sea-music fills those haunting dreams :
When light survives alone in each white star
And in the far white shine of a myriad gleams:
When from white flowers, that through the violet gloom
Shine faintly phosphorescent, strange breaths steal
And in the lamp-lit silence of the room
The longing, yearning soul makes mute appeal :
When nought is heard, and yet the tired hands stray
To meet white dream-like hands soft floating by:
When the disanchor'd mind sails far away
'Mid the suspense of an imagined sigh---
'Tis thee, 'tis thee, O dear white soul, 'tis thee,
White joy, white Peace, white Balm that healeth me!

THE MENACE OF AUTUMN

Amber and yellow and russet, gold and red,
The autumnal leaves dream they are summer flowers
Day after day the windless sunny hours
With feet of flame pass softly overhead

Day after day over each perishing leaf
The windless hours pass with slow-fading flame :
No song is heard where floods of music came;
Long garner'd on the fields the final sheaf.

One day a wild and ravishing wind will rise,
One day a paralysing frost will come,
And all this glory be taken unaware
Dark branches then will lean against the skies,
Sear leaves will drift the forest-pathways dumb,
And wold and woodland lie, austere and bare.

AFTERMATH

The herald redbreast sings his winter lays,
The fieldfares drift in flocks adown the weald :
The turbulent rooks gather on every field,
And clamorous starlings dare our garden-ways:

O beautiful garden-ways, not grown less dear
Because the rose has gone, and briony waves
Where lily and purple iris have their graves,
Or that, where violets were, the asters rear.

Lo, what a sheen of colour lingers still,
Though the autumnal rains and frost come :
The tall dishevelled sunflowers, stooping, spill
Lost rays of sunshine o'er the tangled mould,
While everywhere, touched with a glory of gold,
Flaunts the imperial chrysanthemum.

FLORA IN JANUARY

The goddess slept. About her where she lay
Dead pansies, fragrant still, and the myriad rose :
Adream 'mid the fallen drift, she woke one day,
And the blooms stirred, seeing her eyes unclose.

The oaks and beeches stood in disarray,
Gaunt, spectral, dark, in dismal phantom rows;
She smiled, and there was a shimmer 'mid the grey
And sudden fall of the first winter-snows.

But when, tired with the icy blossoms of the air,
She slept once more, and all the snow was over,
She dreamed of Spring and saw his sunlit hair,
And heard the whisper of her laughing lover :
But while she dreamed, the dead blooms had grown fair
And Christmas-roses made a veil above her.

 

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