From Cold Morning Sky (1938)
The Virgin, the Doe, and the Leper
They are always there:
The frightened virgin at the burning fountain,
The leper left upon the fatal stair,
The milk-white doe lost on the savage mountain.
Do you hear them cry?
Despair and shame, that final sense
Of doom descending upon innocence,
Outcasts from pity's gentle eye?
I fly their shadowy pain;
I invoke the guardians of their destiny,
Angels of thunder and rain,
To keep sick pity from corrupting me.
Earth would deny them;
As I deny and plead, earth pleads, denies:
"O pitiful, stain not my garment's hem
And hide from me the silent wound that bleeds."
For we are not lost, too?
Are we not outcasts from time's living flood?
And often from the sky's deceptive blue
Rains down a shower of blood.
When shelfter seemed most near, and love most close,
When summer's golden eyelids opened wide,
Have we not seen the worm crawl from the rose?
Have we not seen the shadowy sisters glide?
Fatal and wan on cherished garden walks,
Whose was that sudden cry? that burning chill?
What halts our footsteps? and what stilled our talks?
What shadow stalks us, run wherever we will?
Silent and stealthy days that hour by hour
Spring up unnoticed as a flower
In summer grass; and like a breath, a light, a feather,
Make my world's weather,
I wished to weave a garland, deep and rare,
To wear upon my hair,
Or a long chain, intricate, strong, and fine,
To sound through stillness and to shine,
To bind the intangible days that so efface
Themselves with me, and run so dull a pace.
O they have run! They have gone! Nor have they set
Their seal of vast regret
Upon that wide and echoing door
That, opening, opens, shuts and sounds no more.
How to pursue Life's Runaway? Let go
Forego the moons and waters of the mind:
Today is all that you shall find.
Cold Morning Sky
Oh, morning fresh and clear as heavenly light,
Like warmth of love within the unwilling breast,
Sad to be so possessed,
Always the delicate shafts, piercing and bright,
Troubling my rest.
Neither tempestuous now, nor tormented
As when in fragrant, unforgotten air
Of the blood's April, all the world was spent
In passionate discontent,
In rapture and despair.
But like rich gold beat thin into a thread,
Metallic-firm and shadow-fine as thought,
So this new Eros rests his shining head
Upon a book much prized and seldom read,
Glad to be captured, shielded and untaught.
Then, under morning, everlasting morning,
Clear as new joy, cool with expectant breath,
The mystery takes blood, the arriving sun gives warning;
The soul within its sheath
Explains, endures, interprets all the bliss,
Once new and unexplained;
The lucid flower is named, the numbered kiss,
The pulse-beat numbered and reduced to this
And nothing is profaned.
But airy-light, and fragile, bitter sweet,
A small bell rings and all enchantment's done
In smallest intervals of expanding dawn;
But quiet fills the eyes, lightens the feet,
Dissolves the wonder, all fulfilled, complete.
Ruin falls on blackening skies
And disaster lies in wait
For the heart and for the state;
Loud the voices in the street
Shout unhealing remedies.
Sleep, beloved, while you may;
Heralds of the Augustan day
That arise as you awake
Can consume but never slake
The strong thirst, intense and deep,
For the peace that need not sleep.
Let the lion have his hour,
Let the evil beasts devour
Leaf and vine and fruit and flower;
Theirs the night but yours the time
Known to the Vergilian clime
When the ancient world, distressed,
Found peace in an infant's breast.
Still remote and gay and young
Sing the stars in ancient peace,
Heralding the great release
In their worldless tongue.
Close your eyes and let them sing
In the morning that will bring
What strange beasts to haunt the spheres?
Revelations? New-found fears?
Let the old world fall away
As the great beasts leave their prey;
Let the dogs and cats destroy
That which they cannot enjoy.
New as life and death and sleep
Shall the cyclic rivers creep,
Bringing learning, art, and thought
New again to be renewed,
Revived, restored, and still uncaught,
The intangible pursued.
Sleep, beloved, in the changes
Light from bright to darkness ranges:
Venus, ocean-young, arises,
Love again the earth surprises
Naked, dreaming, peaceful, free,
Springing from the bitter sea
Of unending destiny.