From the Hills of Dream by Fiona Macleod

FROM THE HEART OF A WOMAN


"The great winding sheets that bury all things in oblivion, are two:
Love, that makes oblivious of Life; and Death, that obliterates Love."
"Was it because I desired thee darkly, that thou could'st not know the
white spell? Or was it that the white spell could not reach thy
darkness? One god debateth this: and another god angwereth this :
but one god knoweth it. With him be the issue."

AN LEABHAR B└N.
(The Book of White Magic.)

My wisdom became pregnant on lonely mountains; upon rugged
stones she bore her young.
Now she runneth strangely through the hard desert and seeketh, and
ever seeketh for soft grass, mine own old wisdom."

NIETZSCHE.


I

THE PRAYER OF WOMEN

O spirit that broods upon the hills
And moves upon the face of the deep,
And is heard in the wind,
Save us from the desire of men's eyes,
And the cruel lust of them.
Save us from the springing of the cruel seed
In that narrow house which is as the grave
For darkness and loneliness . . .
That women carry with them with shame, and weariness,
   and long pain,
Only for the laughter of man's heart,
And for the joy that triumphs therein,
And the sport that is in his heart,
Wherewith he mocketh us,
Wherewith he playeth with us,
Wherewith he trampleth upon us . . .
Us, who conceive and bear him;
Us, who bring him forth;
Who feed him in the womb, and at the breast, and
   at the knee:
Whom he calleth mother and wife,
And mother again of his children and his children's
   children.
Ah, hour of the hours,
When he looks at our hair and sees it is grey;
And at our eyes and sees they are dim;
And at our lips straightened out with long pain;
And at our breasts, fallen and seared as a barren hill;
And at our hands, worn with toil !
Ah, hour of the hours,
When, seeing, he seeth all the bitter ruin and wreck of us--
All save the violated womb that curses him --
All save the heart that forbeareth . . . for pity --
All save the living brain that condemneth him --
All save the spirit that shall not mate with him --
All save the soul he shall never see
Till he be orfe with it, and equal;
He who hath the bridle, but guideth not;
He who hath the whip, yet is driven;
He who as a shepherd calleth upon us,
But is himself a lost sheep, crying among the hills!
O Spirit, and the Nine Angels who watch us,
And Thou, white Christ, and Mary Mother of Sorrow,
Heal us of the wrong of man:
We whose breasts are weary with milk,
Cry, cry to Thee, O Compassionate!

 

THE RUNE OF THE SORROW
                  OF WOMEN

This is the rune of the women who bear in sorrow :
Who, having anguish of body, die in the pangs of bearing,
Who, with the ebb at the heart, pass ere the wane of the   babe-month.

THE RUNE

O we are tired, we are tired, all we who are women:
Heavy the breasts with milk that never shall nourish:
Heavy the womb that never again shall be weighty.
For we have the burthen upon us, we have the burthen,
The long slow pain, and the sorrow of going, and the parting.
O little hands, O little lips, farewell and farewell.
Bitter the sorrow of bearing only to end with the parting.

THE DREAM

Far away in the east of the world a Woman had sorrow.
Heavy she was with child, and the pains were upon her.
Then God looked forth out of heaven, and He spake in His pity:
"O Mary, thou bearest the Prince of Peace,
     and thy seed shall be blessÚd."
But Mary the Mother sighed, and
     God the All-Seeing wondered,
For this is the rune He heard in the heart of
     Mary the Virgin: --
"Man blindfold soweth the seed, and blindly be reapeth:
And lo the word of the Lord is a blessing upon the sower.
O what of the blessing upon the field that is  sown,
What of the sown, not the sower, what of
     the mother, the bearer?
Sure it is this that I see: that everywhere over the world
The man has the pain and the sorrow, the
     weary womb and the travail!
Everywhere patient he is, restraining the
     tears of his patience,
Bearing his pain in silence, in silence the shame and the anguish:
Slow, slow he is to put the blame on the love of the woman:
Slow to say that she led him astray, swift 
    ever to love and, excuse her !
O 'tis a good thing, and glad I am at the seeing,
That man who has all the pain and the
    patient sorrow and waiting
Keepeth his heart ever young and never
     upbraideth the woman
For that she laughs in the sun and taketh the joy of her living
And holdeth him to her breast, and knoweth pleasure,
And plighteth troth akin to the starry immortals,
And soon forgetteth, and lusteth after another,
And plighteth again, and again, and yet again and again,
And asketh one thing only of man who is patient and loving,--
This: that he swerve not ever, that faithful he be and loyal,
And know that the sorrow of sorrows is only a law of his being,
And all is well with woman, and the world
    of woman, and God.
O 'tis a good thing, and glad I am at the seeing !
And this is the rune of man the bearer of pain and sorrow,
The father who giveth the babe his youth,
     his joy and the life of his living !--

(And high in His Heaven God the All-Seeing troubled.)

 

THE RUNE

O we are weary, how weary, all we of the burthen:
Heavy the breasts with milk that never shall nourish:
Heavy the womb that never again shall be fruitful:
Heavy the hearts that never again shall be weighty.
For we have the burthen upon us, we have the burthen,
The long slow pain, and the sorrow of going, and the parting.
O little hands, O little lips, farewell and farewell:
Bitter the sorrow of bearing only to end with the parting,
Bitter the sorrow of bearing only to end with the parting.

THE RUNE OF THE PASSION OF WOMEN

We who love are those who suffer,
We who suffer most are those who most do love
O the heartbreak come of longing love,
O the heartbreak come of love deferred,
O the heartbreak come of love grown listless
Far upon the lonely hills I have heard the crying,
The lamentable crying of the ewes,
And dreamed I heard the sorrow of poor mothers
Made lambless too and weary with that sorrow:
And far upon the waves I have heard the crying,
The lamentable crying of the seamews,
And dreamed I heard the wailing of the women
Whose hearts are flamed with love above the grave-stone,
Whose hearts beat fast but hear no fellow-beating.
Bitter, alas, the sorrow of lonely women,
When no man by the ingle sits, and in the cradle
No little flower-like faces flush with slumber:
Bitter the loss of these, the lonely silence,
The void bed, the hearthside void,
The void heart, and only the grave not void:
But bitterer, oh more bitter still, the longing
Of women who have known no love at all, who
Never, never, never, have grown hot and cold with rapture
'Neath the lips or 'neath the clasp of longing,
Who have never opened eyes of heaven to man's devotion,
Who have never heard a husband whisper "wife,"
Who have lost their youth, their dreams, their fairness,
In a vain upgrowing to a light that comes not.
Bitter these: but bitterer than either,
O most bitter for the heart of woman
To have loved and been beloved with passion,
To have known the height and depth, the vision
Of triple flaming love -- and in the heart-self
Sung a song of deathless love, immortal,
Sunrise-haired, and starry-eyed, and wondrous:
To have felt the brain sustain the mighty
Weight and reach of thought unspanned and spanless,
To have felt the soul grow large and noble,
To have felt the spirit dauntless, eager, swift in hopeand daring,
To have felt the body grow in fairness,
All the glory and the beauty of the body
Thrill with joy of living, feel the bosom
Rise and fall with sudden tides of passion,
Feel the lift of soul to soul, and know the rapture
Of the rising triumph of the ultimate dream
Beyond the pale place of defeated dreams:
To know all this, to feel all this, to be a woman
Crowned with the double crown of lily and rose
And have the morning star to rule the golden hours
And have the evening star thro' hours of dream,
To live, to do, to act, to dream, to hope,
To be a perfect woman with the full
Sweet, wondrous, and consummate joy
Of womanhood fulfilled to all desire --
And then . . . oh then, to know the waning of the vision,
To go through days and nights of starless longing,
Through nights and days of gloom and bitter sorrow:
To see the fairness of the body passing,
To see the beauty wither, the sweet colour
Fade, the coming of the wintry lines
Upon pale faces chilled with idle loving,
The slow subsidence of the tides of living.
To feel all this, and know the desolate sorrow
Of the pale place of all defeated dreams,
And to cry out with aching lips, an vainly;
And to cry out with aching heart, and vainly;
And to cry out with aching brain, and vainly;
And to cry out with aching soul, and vainly;
To cry, cry, cry with passionate heartbreak, sobbing,
To the dim wondrous shape of Love Retreating --
To grope blindly for the warm hand, for the swift touch,
To seek blindly for the starry lamps of passion,
To crave blindly for the dear words of longing !
To go forth cold, and drear, and lonely, O so lonely,
With the heart-cry even as the crying,
The lamentable crying on the hills
When lambless ewes go desolately astray--
Yea, to go forth discrowned at last, who have worn
The flower-sweet lovely crown of rapturous love:
To know the eyes have lost their starry wonder;
To know the hair no more a fragrant dusk
Wherein to whisper secrets of deep longing;
To know the breasts shall henceforth be no haven
For the dear weary head that loved to lie there --
To go, to know, and yet to live and suffer,
To be as use and wont demand, to fly no signal
That the soul founders in a sea of sorrow,
But to be "true," "a woman," "patient," "tender,"
"Divinely acquiescent," all -forbearing,
To laugh, and smile, to comfort, to sustain,
To do all this -- oh this is bitterest,
O this the heaviest cross, O this the tree
Whereon the woman hath her crucifixion.

But O ye women, what avail ? Behold,
Men worship at the tree, whereon is writ
The legend of the broken hearts of women.
And this is the end: for young and old the end:
For fair and sweet, for those not sweet nor fair,
For loved, unloved, and those who once were loved,
For all the women of all this weary world
Of joy too brief and sorrow far too long,
This is the end: the cross, the bitter tree,
And worship of the phantom raised on high
Out of your love, your passion, your despair,
Hopes unfulfilled, and unavailing tears.

THE SHEPHERD

Verily, those herdsmen also were of the sheep!
                      
NIETZSCHE

I

He loved me, as he said, in every part,
And yet I could not, would not, give him all:
Why should a woman forfeit her whole heart
At bidding of a single shepherd's call ?
One vast the deep, and yet each wave is free
To answer to the noonshine's drowsy smile
Or leap to meet the storm-wind's rapturous glee:
This heart of mine a wave is oftenwhile.
Depth below depth, strange currents cross, re-cross,
The anguished eddies darkly ebb and flow,
But on the placid surface seldom toss
The reckless flotsam of what seethes below:
O placid calms and maelstrom heart of me,
Shall it be thus till there be no more sea ?

II

"I am thy shepherd, love, that on this hill
Of life shall tend and guard thee evermore."
These were thy words that far-off day and still
Lives on thine echoing lips this bond of yore.
Yet who wert thou, O soul as I am, thus
To take so blithely gage of shepherding?
Were we not both astray where perilous
Steps might each into the abysmal darkness fling?
Lo, my tired soul even as a storm-stayed ewe
Across the heights unto my shepherd cried:
But to the sheltered vale at last I drew
And laid me weary by thy sleeping side.
Thou didst not hear The Shepherd calling us,
Nor far the night-wind, vibrant, ominous.

III

O shepherd of mine, lord of my little life,
Guard me from knowledge even of the stress:
And if I stray, take heed thou of thy wife,
Errant from mere womanhood's wantonness.
Even as the Lord of Hosts, lo in thy hand,
The hollow of thy hand, my soul support:
Guide this poor derelict back unto the land
And lead me, pilot, to thy sheltering port !
No -- no -- keep back -- away -- not now thy kiss:
O shepherd, pilot, wake ! awake ! awake !
The deep must whelm us both ! Hark, the waves hiss,
And as a shaken leaf the land doth shake!
Awake, O shepherding soul, and take command!--
--Nay, vain vain words: how shall he understand?

 

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