Selected Writings of Wm Sharp, Vol. 1, Poems

from

SOSPIRI DI ROMA

 

A DREAM AT ARDEA

(Maremma)

Where Ardea, the cliff-girt,
Looks to the Sea,
Dreaming forever
In her desert place
Of her vanished glory---
-
There too in the tall grass,
Starred with narcissus
And the flaming poppy,
I dreamed a dream.

Not of the days when
The fierce trumpeting
Of the Asian elephants
Made the wild horses
Snort in new terror,
Snort and wheel wildly,
Till o'er the Campagna
They passed like a trail
Of vanishing smoke.
No, nor when
The brazen clarions
Of the Roman legion
Summoned the hill-folk
To the Punic War:
Nor yet when the shadow
Of the falling star
Of the House of Tarquin
Swept unseen o'er the banquet,
And none, foreseeing,
Drew forth the pure sword
For the foul heart of Sextus.
Nor yet of the ancient days
When the fierce Rutuli
Laughed at the boasting of
The seven-hilled city,
And when on rude altars
White victims lay,
To appease the anger
Of barbarian Gods---
Nay, not of these, not even the far-off,
The ancient time, when the mother of Perseus,
Danaë the beautiful, came hither and builded
Close to the sea the hill-town which standeth
Now amid leagues of the inland grasses,
White with the surf of the blossoming asphodels-
--
Nay, but only
Of the shrine of her,
Venus, the Beautiful One,
The Well-Beloved.
Lost, it lieth
Deep 'mid the tangle,
Deep 'neath the roots of the flowers and the grasses
Drawn like a veil o'er
The face of Maremma.
Only the brown lark
Singing above it,
Only the grey hare
Beneath the wild olive,
Only the linnet aflit in the myrtle,
Only the spotted snake
Writhing swiftly
O'er the thyme and the spikenard,
Only the falcon
Dusking a moment the gold of the yellow broom
Only the thngs of the air and the desert,
Know where deep in the maze of the undergrowth
Lieth the shrine of the sacred Goddess,
The shrine of Venus.
Up through the dark blue mist of the harebells--
All the wild glory, with trailing convolvulus,
Lenten lilies asway in the sunlight,
Wine-dark anemones, pasque-flowers of ruby,
Iris and daffodil and sweet-smelling violet,
And high over all the white and gold shining
Where the wind raced o'er the asphodel meadows:
All the flower-glory of Spring in Maremma.
But here, just here, a mist of the harebells
Up through the dark blue mist of the harebells
Rose like a white smoke hovering gently
Over the windless woodlands of Ostia
Where the charcoal-burners wander like shadows,
Rose a white vapour, stealthily, slowly.

Ah but the wonder! the wan ghost of Venus
Rose slowly before me:
Dark, deep, and awful the eyes of the vision,
Sad beyond words that wraith of dead beauty,
Chill now and solemn
Austere as the grave,
The face that had blanched
The high gods of old,
The face that had led
The heroes of men
From the heights of Caucasus
To the uttermost ends
Of Earth, as leadeth nightly
The Moon, her cohorts
Of perishing billows.
"I am she whom thou lovest:"
"Nay, whom I worship, Goddess and Queen!"
"I am she whom thou worshippest:"
"For thou art Beauty, and Beauty I worship,
And thou art Love, and Love---
"
"Love is Beauty. They love not nor worship,
They who dissever the one from the other."
"Hearken, O Goddess!"
"Nay, shadow of shadows, why callest me Goddess!
Far from thy world 'the Goddess' is banished.
Ye have chosen the dark: the dark be with you!
Ye have chosen sorrow: and sorrow is yours:
O fools that worship vain Gods, and know not
That life is the breath but of perishing dust---
They only live in whose hearts there hath fallen
The breath of my passion---
"
"O Goddess, fade not !"
"I pass, and behold
With my passing goeth
The joy of the world!"

Darkly austere
The face of the Goddess.
Then like a flame
That groweth wan
And flickereth forth from the reach of vision,
The face of Venus
Was seen no more
Though through the mist
Her eyes gleamed darkly,
Great fires of joy---
Of joy disherited
But glorious ever
In their lordly scorn
Their high disdain.

Not till the purple-hued
Wings of the twilight
Waved softly downward
From the Alban hills,
And moved stilly
Over the vast dim leagues of Maremma,
Turned I backward
My wandering steps.
Far o'er the white-glimmering
Breast of the Tyrrhene Sea
(Laid as in sleep at the feet of the hills)
Rose, dropping liquid fires
Into the wine-dark vault of the heaven,
The Star of Evening,
Venus, the Evening Star:
Eternal, serene,
In deathless beauty
Revolving ever
Through the stellar spheres!

High o'er the shadowy heights
Of the Volscian summits
The full moon soared:
Soared slowly upward
Like a golden nenuphar
In a vaster Nilus
Than that which floweth
Through the heart of Egypt.
The moon that maketh
The world so beautiful,
That moveth so tenderly
Over desolate things,
The moon that giveth
The amber light,
Wherein best blossom
The mystic flowers
Of human love.

Through the darkness
Whelming the waste,
And, like a stealthy tide
Rising around
Ardea, the cliff-girt,
Wavered the sound of joyous laughter.
Sweet words and sweeter
Fell where the lentisc
Bloomed, and the rosemary;
Loving caresses
Lost in a rustle
Where the hawthom-bushes
Loomed large in the twilight
Of the fireflies' lanterns.

Deep in the heart of
A myrtle-thicket
A nightingale stirred
With low sweet note,
Thrilling strangely,
And as though moving
With the breath of its passion
The midmost leaves.
But once her plaint
Then wild and glad,
In a free ecstasy,
In utter bliss,
In one high whirl of rapture, sang
His answering song
Her mate low swaying upon a bough,
With throat full-strained, and quivering wings
Beating with tremulous whirr.

Then I was glad,
For surely I knew
I had dreamed a dream 'neath the spell of Maremma.
Not sunk in the drift
Of antique dust,
Lost from the ken of Earth
Within her shrine,
Venus, the Beautiful,
The Queen of Love !
But though no longer
Beheld of man,
Still living and breathing
Through the heart of the world---
Whether in the song,
Passionate, beautiful,
Of the nightingale
Or in the glad rapture
Of lovers meeting,
With soft caresses
Hid in the dusk;
In the fair flower of the vast field of heaven
Or in the glow,
The pulsing splendour,
Of the white star of joy,
The Star of Eve.

DE PROFUNDIS

Whence hast thou gone,
O vision belov6d ?
There is silence now
In thy groves, and never
A voice proclaimeth
Thy glory come,
Thy joy rearisen!

O passion of beauty,
Forsake not thus
Those who have worshipped thee,
Body and soul!
Come to us, come to us,
Inviolate, Beautiful,
Thou whose breath
Is as Spring o'er the world,
Whose smile is the flowering
Of the wide green Earth!
Deep in the heart of thee,
Like a moonbeam moving
Through the heart of a hill-lake
Moveth Compassion:

O Belovéd,
Be with us ever
Thou, the Beauiful,
Passion of Beauty,
Alma Victrix!

ULTIMO SOSPIRO

O dolce Primavera pien' di olezzo e amor!
Che fai tu . . . che fai fra tanti fior ?
Colgo le rose amabili dei piů soavi odori;
Colgo le rose affabili e i lunghi gelsomini,
Nei olenti miei giardini io vi tengo al cor.
                                                         Roman Folksong.

Joy of the world,
O flower-crown'd Spring,
With thine odorous breath and thy heart of love,
Breathe through this verse thy sweet message of longing.
Lo, in the gardens of Alma, whose lovers
Die gladly in worship, but fail not ever,
Oft have I strayed,
Oft have I lingered
When high through the noon the lost lark has been singing,
Or when in the moonlight
Soft through the silence has whispered the ocean,
Or when, in the dark
Of the ilex woods,
Where the fireflies wavered
Frail wandering stars,
Not a sound has been heard
But Scirocco rustling
The midmost leaves
Of the trees where he sleepeth.

Roses of love,
White lilies of dream,
Frail blooms that have blossom'd
Into life with thy breathing
Blow them, O wind,
West wind of the Spring,
Lift them and take them where gardens await them,
Lift them and take them to those who hearken,
Facing the dawn, for the sounds of the morning,
With wide eyes glad with the beautiful vision,
O whispers of joy,
O breaths of passion,
O sighs of longing.

EPILOGUE

        IL BOSCO SACRO

Ah, the sweet silence
Not a breath stirreth
Scarce a leaf moveth.

The Dusk, as a dream,
Steals slowly, slowly,
With shadowy feet
Under the branches
Here, in the woodland,
Hushfully seeking
The Night, her lover.

Sweet are the odours
Breath'd through the twilight,
Lovely spirits
Of lovely things.
One by One
Forth-shimmer white stars
Beyond the skiey
Boughs of chestnuts
Pale Phosphorescence
Gleaming and glancing
As in the wake
Of a windspent vessel
That, moonlike, drifts
With motionless motion.

Peace: utter peace.
Not a sound riseth
From where in the hollow
The town lies dreaming:
Not a cry from the pastures
That far below
Are drowsed in the shadows.
Only afar,
On the dim Campagna,
Peace, utter peace:
On the pastures, peace
Low in the hollows,
Deep in the woodlands,
High on the hill-slopes,
Rest, utter rest,
Utter peace.

Suddenly . . . thrilling
Long-drawn vibrations!
Passionate preludes
Of passionate song
O the wild music
Tost through the silence,
As a swaying fountain
Is swept by the wind's wings
Far through the sunshine
A mist of flashing
And falling spray.
How the hush of the stillness
Deepeneth slowly. . . .
Till never, never
Can paid and rapture
So wild a music,
So sweet a song,
List in the moonlight---
Listen again
O never, never!

O heart still thy beating
Oˇbird, thy song!
Too deep the rapture
Of this new sorrow.
White falls the moonshine
Here, where we gather'd
The snow-pure blossoms,
The Flowers of Dream:
Here, when the sunlight
On that glad day
Flooded the mosses
With golden wine,
And deep in the forest,
Joy passed us, laughing;
Laughing low,
While ever behind her
Rose lovely, delicate,
Beautiful, beautiful,
The fadeless blossoms,
The Flowers of Dream.
Be still, O beating,
O yearning heart !
Here there is silence . . .
Silence . . . Silence . . .
O beating heart!

Here, in the sunshine,
Together we gather'd
The perfect blooms:
And now in the gleaming,
Here, where the moonlight,
Lies like white foam on
The dark tides of night,
Here is one only,
Longing forever,
Longing, longing
With passion and pain.

Come, O Belovéd!
O heart, be still!
Nay, through the silence
Cometh no answer,
But only, only
The sweet subsiding
Of this wild strain
Now lost in the thickets
Down in the hollows.

Hark . . . rapture outwelling
O song of joy!
Glad voice of my passion
Singing there
Out of the heart of
The fragrant darkness!
O flowers at my feet,
White beautiful flowers,
That whisper, whisper
My soul's desire
O never, never
Lost though afar,
My joy, my Dream

Too deep the rapture
Of this sweet sorrow,
Of this glad pain
O heart, still thy beating,
O bird, thy song!

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