Title: Birds, Beasts and Flowers (1923) Author: D H Lawrence http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks09/0900321.txt BIRDS, BEASTS AND FLOWERS POEMS BY D. H. LAWRENCE LONDON: MARTIN SECKER (LTD.) 1923 Some of these poems have appeared in _Poetry_, _The Dial_, _The New Republic_, _The Bookman_, _The English Review_. CONTENTS -------- FRUITS: POMEGRANITE PEACH MEDLARS AND SORB APPLES FIGS GRAPES THE REVOLUTIONARY THE EVENING LAND PEACE TREES: CYPRESSES BARE FIG-TREES BARE ALMOND-TREES TROPIC SOUTHERN NIGHT FLOWERS: ALMOND BLOSSOM PURPLE ANEMONES SICILIAN CYCLAMENS HIBISCUS AND SALVIA FLOWERS THE EVANGELISTIC BEASTS: ST MATTHEW ST MARK ST LUKE ST JOHN CREATURES: MOSQUITO FISH BAT MAN AND BAT REPTILES: SNAKE BABY TORTOISE TORTOISE SHELL TORTOISE FAMILY CONNECTIONS LUI ET ELLE TORTOISE GALLANTRY TORTOISE SHOUT BIRDS: TURKEY-COCK HUMMING-BIRD EAGLE IN NEW MEXICO BLUE JAY ANIMALS: ASS HE-GOAT SHE-GOAT ELEPHANT KANGAROO BIBBLES MOUNTAIN LION THE RED WOLF GHOSTS: MEN N NEW MEXICO AUTUMN IN TAOS SPIRITS SUMMONED WEST THE AMERICAN EAGLE * * * FRUITS POMEGRANATE YOU tell me I am wrong. Who are you, who is anybody to tell me I am wrong? I am not wrong. In Syracuse, rock left bare by the viciousness of Greek women. No doubt you have forgotten the pomegranate-trees in flower, Oh so red, and such a lot of them. Whereas at Venice Abhorrent, green, slippery city Whose Doges were old, and had ancient eyes, In the dense foliage of the inner garden Pomegranates like bright green stone, And barbed, barbed with a crown. Oh, crown of spiked green metal Actually growing! Now in Tuscany, Pomegranates to warm, your hands at; And crowns, kingly, generous, tilting crowns Over the left eyebrow. And, if you dare, the fissure! Do you mean to tell me you will see no fissure? Do you prefer to look on the plain side? For all that, the setting suns are open. The end cracks open with the beginning: Rosy, tender, glittering within the fissure. Do you mean to tell me there should be no fissure? No glittering, compact drops of dawn? Do you mean it is wrong, the gold-filmed skin, integument, shown ruptured? For my part, I prefer my heart to be broken. It is so lovely, dawn-kaleidoscopic within the crack. _San Gervasio in Tuscany_. PEACH WOULD you like to throw a stone at me? Here, take all that's left of my peach. Blood-red, deep; Heaven knows how it came to pass. Somebody's pound of flesh rendered up. Wrinkled with secrets? And hard with the intention to keep them. Why, from silvery peach-bloom, From that shallow-silvery wine-glass on a short stem This rolling, dropping, heavy globule? I am thinking, of course, of the peach before I ate it. Why so velvety, why so voluptuous heavy? Why hanging with such inordinate weight? Why so indented? Why the groove? Why the lovely, bivalve roundnesses? Why the ripple down the sphere? Why the suggestion of incision? Why was not my peach round and finished like a billiard ball? It would have been if man had made it. Though I've eaten it now. But it wasn't round and finished like a billiard ball. And because I say so, you would like to throw something at me. Here, you can have my peach stone. _San Gervasio_. MEDLARS AND SORB-APPLES I LOVE you, rotten, Delicious rottenness. I love to suck you out from your skins So brown and soft and coming suave, So morbid, as the Italians say. What a rare, powerful, reminiscent flavour Comes out of your falling through the stages of decay: Stream within stream. Something of the same flavour as Syracusan muscat wine Or vulgar Marsala. Though even the word Marsala will smack of preciosity Soon in the pussy-foot West. What is it? What is it, in the grape turning raisin, In the medlar, in the sorb-apple. Wineskins of brown morbidity, Autumnal excrementa; What is it that reminds us of white gods? Gods nude as blanched nut-kernels. Strangely, half-sinisterly flesh-fragrant As if with sweat, And drenched with mystery. Sorb-apples, medlars with dead crowns. I say, wonderful are the hellish experiences Orphic, delicate Dionysos of the Underworld. A kiss, and a vivid spasm of farewell, a moment's orgasm of rupture. Then along the damp road alone, till the next turning. And there, a new partner, a new parting, a new unfusing into twain, A new gasp of further isolation, A new intoxication of loneliness, among decaying, frost-cold leaves. Going down the strange lanes of hell, more and more intensely alone, The fibres of the heart parting one after the other And yet the soul continuing, naked-footed, ever more vividly embodied Like a flame blown whiter and whiter In a deeper and deeper darkness Ever more exquisite, distilled in separation. So, in the strange retorts of medlars and sorb-apples The distilled essence of hell. The exquisite odour of leave-taking. _Jamque vale_! Orpheus, and the winding, leaf-clogged, silent lanes of hell. Each soul departing with its own isolation, Strangest of all strange companions, And best. Medlars, sorb-apples More than sweet Flux of autumn Sucked out of your empty bladders And sipped down, perhaps, with a sip of Marsala So that the rambling, sky-dropped grape can add its music to yours, Orphic farewell, and farewell, and farewell And the _ego sum_ of Dionysos The _sono io_ of perfect drunkenness Intoxication of final loneliness. _San Gervasio_. FIGS THE proper way to eat a fig, in society, Is to split it in four, holding it by the stump, And open it, so that it is a glittering, rosy, moist, honied, heavy-petalled four-petalled flower. Then you throw away the skin Which is just like a four-sepalled calyx, After you have taken off the blossom with your lips. But the vulgar way Is just to put your mouth to the crack, and take out the flesh in one bite. Every fruit has its secret. The fig is a very secretive fruit. As you see it standing growing, you feel at once it is symbolic: And it seems male. But when you come to know it better, you agree with the Romans, it is female. The Italians vulgarly say, it stands for the female part; the fig-fruit: The fissure, the yoni, The wonderful moist conductivity towards the centre. Involved, Inturned, The flowering all inward and womb-fibrilled; And but one orifice. The fig, the horse-shoe, the squash-blossom. Symbols. There was a flower that flowered inward, womb-ward; Now there is a fruit like a ripe womb. It was always a secret. That's how it should be, the female should always be secret. There never was any standing aloft and unfolded on a bough Like other flowers, in a revelation of petals; Silver-pink peach, venetian green glass of medlars and sorb- apples, Shallow wine-cups on short, bulging stems Openly pledging heaven: _Here's to the thorn in the flower! Here is to Utterance!_ The brave, adventurous rosaceae. Folded upon itself, and secret unutterable, And milky-sapped, sap that curdles milk and makes _ricotta_, Sap that smells strange on your fingers, that even goats won't taste it; Folded upon itself, enclosed like any Mohammedan woman. Its nakedness all within-walls, its flowering forever unseen. One small way of access only, and this close-curtained from the light; Fig, fruit of the female mystery, covert and inward, Mediterranean fruit, with your covert nakedness, Where everything happens invisible, flowering and fertilisa- tion, and fruiting In the inwardness of your you, that eye will never see Till it's finished, and you're over-ripe, and you burst to give up your ghost. Till the drop of ripeness exudes, And the year is over. And then the fig has kept her secret long enough. So it explodes, and you see through the fissure the scarlet. And the fig is finished, the year is over. That's how the fig dies, showing her crimson through the purple slit Like a wound, the exposure of her secret, on the open day. Like a prostitute, the bursten fig, making a show of her secret. That's how women die too. The year is fallen over-ripe. The year of our women. The year of our women is fallen over-ripe. The secret is laid bare. And rottenness soon sets in. The year of our women is fallen over-ripe. When Eve once knew _in her mind_ that she was naked She quickly sewed fig-leaves, and sewed the same for the man. She'd been naked all her days before, But till then, till that apple of knowledge, she hadn't had the fact on her mind. She got the fact on her mind, and (quickly sewed fig-leaves. And women have been sewing ever since. But now they stitch to adorn the bursten fig, not to cover it. They have their nakedness more than ever on their mind, And they won't let us forget it. Now, the secret Becomes an affirmation through moist, scarlet lips That laugh at the Lord's indignation. _What then, good Lord_! cry the women. _We have kept our secret long enough. We are a ripe fig. Let us burst into affirmation_. They forget, ripe figs won't keep. Ripe figs won't keep. Honey-white figs of the north, black figs with scarlet inside, of the south. Ripe figs won't keep, won't keep in any clime. What then, when women the world over have all bursten into affirmation? And bursten figs won't keep? _San Gervasio_. GRAPES SO many fruits come from roses From the rose of all roses From the unfolded rose Rose of all the world. Admit that apples and strawberries and peaches and pears and blackberries Are all Rosaceae, Issue of the explicit rose, The open-countenanced, skyward-smiling rose. What then of the vine? Oh, what of the tendrilled vine? Ours is the universe of the unfolded rose, The explicit, The candid revelation. But long ago, oh, long ago Before the rose began to simper supreme, Before the rose of all roses, rose of all the world, was even in bud, Before the glaciers were gathered up in a bunch out of the unsettled seas and winds, Or else before they had been let down again, in Noah's flood, There was another world, a dusky, flowerless, tendrilled world And creatures webbed and marshy, And on the margin, men soft-footed and pristine, Still, and sensitive, and active, Audile, tactile sensitiveness as of a tendril which orientates and reaches out, Reaching out and grasping by an instinct more delicate than the moon's as she feels for the tides. Of which world, the vine was the invisible rose, Before petals spread, before colour made its disturbance, before eyes saw too much. In a green, muddy, web-foot, unutterably songless world The vine was rose of all roses. There were no poppies or carnations, Hardly a greenish lily, watery faint. Green, dim, invisible flourishing of vines Royally gesticulate. Look now even now, how it keeps its power of invisibility! Look how black, how blue-black, how globed in Egyptian darkness Dropping among his leaves, hangs the dark grape! See him there, the swart, so palpably invisible: Whom shall we ask about him? The negro might know a little. When the vine was rose, Gods were dark-skinned. Bacchus is a dream's dream. Once God was all negroid, as now he is fair. But it's so long ago, the ancient Bushman has forgotten more utterly than we, who have never known. For we are on the brink of re-remembrance. Which, I suppose, is why America has gone dry. Our pale day is sinking into twilight, And if we sip the wine, we find dreams coming upon us Out of the imminent night. Nay, we find ourselves crossing the fern-scented frontiers Of the world before the floods, where man was dark and evasive And the tiny vine-flower rose of all roses, perfumed, And all in naked communion communicating as now our clothed vision can never communicate. Vistas, down dark avenues As we sip the wine. The grape is swart, the avenues dusky and tendrilled, subtly prehensile. But we, as we start awake, clutch at our vistas democratic, boulevards, tram-cars, policemen. Give us our own back Let us go to the soda-fountain, to get sober. Soberness, sobriety. It is like the agonised perverseness of a child heavy with sleep, yet fighting, fighting to keep awake; Soberness, sobriety, with heavy eyes propped open. Dusky are the avenues of wine, And we must cross the frontiers, though we will not, Of the lost, fern-scented world: Take the fern-seed on our lips, Close the eyes, and go Down the tendrilled avenues of wine and the otherworld. _San Gervasio_. THE REVOLUTIONARY LOOK at them standing there in authority The pale-faces, As if it could have any effect any more. Pale-face authority, Caryatids, Pillars of white bronze standing rigid, lest the skies fall. What a job they've got to keep it up. Their poor, idealist foreheads naked capitals To the entablature of clouded heaven. When the skies are going to fall, fall they will In a great chute and rush of debacle downwards. Oh and I wish the high and super-gothic heavens would come down now, The heavens above, that we yearn to and aspire to. I do not yearn, nor aspire, for I am a blind Samson. And what is daylight to me that I should look skyward? Only I grope among you, pale-faces, caryatids, as among a forest of pillars that hold up the dome of high ideal heaven Which is my prison, And all these human pillars of loftiness, going stiff, metallic- stunned with the weight of their responsibility I stumble against them. Stumbling-blocks, painful ones. To keep on holding up this ideal civilisation Must be excruciating: unless you stiffen into metal, when it is easier to stand stock rigid than to move. This is why I tug at them, individually, with my arm round their waist The human pillars. They are not stronger than I am, blind Samson. The house sways. I shall be so glad when it comes down. I am so tired of the limitations of their Infinite. I am so sick of the pretensions of the Spirit. I am so weary of pale-face importance. Am I not blind, at the round-turning mill? Then why should I fear their pale faces? Or love the effulgence of their holy light, The sun of their righteousness? To me, all faces are dark, All lips are dusky and valved. Save your lips, O pale-faces, Which are slips of metal, Like slits in an automatic-machine, you columns of give- and-take. To me, the earth rolls ponderously, superbly Coming my way without forethought or afterthought. To me, men's footfalls fall with a dull, soft rumble, ominous and lovely, Coming my way. But not your foot-falls, pale-faces, They are a clicketing of bits of disjointed metal Working in motion. To me, men are palpable, invisible nearnesses in the dark Sending out magnetic vibrations of warning, pitch-dark throbs of invitation. But you, pale-faces, You are painful, harsh-surfaced pillars that give off nothing except rigidity, And I jut against you if I try to move, for you are every- where, and I am blind, Sightless among all your visuality, You staring caryatids. See if I don't bring you down, and all your high opinion And all your ponderous roofed-in erection of right and wrong Your particular heavens, With a smash. See if your skies aren't falling! And my head, at least, is thick enough to stand it, the smash. See if I don't move under a dark and nude, vast heaven When your world is in ruins, under your fallen skies. Caryatids, pale-faces. See if I am not Lord of the dark and moving hosts Before I die. _Florence_. THE EVENING LAND OH America The sun sets in you. Are you the grave of our day? Shall I come to you, the open tomb of my race? I would come, if I felt my hour had struck. I would rather you came to me. For that matter Mahomet never went to any mountain Save it had first approached him and cajoled his soul. You have cajoled the souls of millions of us America, Why won't you cajole my soul? I wish you would. I confess I am afraid of you. The catastrophe of your exaggerate love, You who never find yourself in love But only lose yourself further, decomposing. You who never recover from out of the orgasm of loving Your pristine, isolate integrity, lost aeons ago. Your singleness within the universe. You who in loving break down And break further and further down Your bounds of isolation, But who never rise, resurrected, from this grave of mingling, In a new proud singleness, America. Your more-than-European idealism, Like a be-aureoled bleached skeleton hovering Its cage-ribs in the social heaven, beneficent. And then your single resurrection Into machine-uprisen perfect man. Even the winged skeleton of your bleached ideal Is not so frightening as that clean smooth Automaton of your uprisen self, Machine American. Do you wonder that I am afraid to come And answer the first machine-cut question from the lips of your iron men? Put the first cents into metallic fingers of your officers And sit beside the steel-straight arms of your fair women American? This may be a withering tree, this Europe, But here, even a customs-official is still vulnerable. I am so terrified, America, Of the iron click of your human contact. And after this The winding-sheet of your self-less ideal love. Boundless love Like a poison gas. Does no one realise that love should be intense, individual, Not boundless. This boundless love is like the bad smell Of something gone wrong in the middle. All this philanthropy and benevolence on other people's behalf Just a bad smell. Yet, America, Your elvishness. Your New England uncanniness, Your western brutal faery quality. My soul is half-cajoled, half-cajoled. Something in you which carries me beyond Yankee, Yankee, What we call human. Carries me where I want to be carried . . . Or don't I? What does it matter What we call human, and what we don't call human? The rose would smell as sweet. And to be limited by a mere word is to be less than a hopping flea, which hops over such an obstruction at first jump. Your horrible, skeleton, aureoled ideal. Your weird bright motor-productive mechanism, Two spectres. But moreover A dark, unfathomed will, that is not un-Jewish; A set, stoic endurance, non-European; An ultimate desperateness, un-African; A deliberate generosity, non-Oriental. The strange, unaccustomed geste of your demonish New World nature Glimpsed now and then. Nobody knows you. You don't know yourself. And I, who am half in love with you, What am I in love with? My own imaginings? Say it is not so. Say, through the branches America, America Of all your machines, Say, in the deep sockets of your idealistic skull, Dark, aboriginal eyes Stoic, able to wait through ages Glancing. Say, in the sound of all your machines And white words, white-wash American, Deep pulsing of a strange heart New throb, like a stirring under the false dawn that precedes the real. Nascent American Demonish, lurking among the undergrowth Of many-stemmed machines and chimneys that smoke like pine-trees. Dark, elvish, Modern, unissued, uncanny America, Your nascent demon people Lurking among the deeps of your industrial thicket Allure me till I am beside myself, A nympholepht. "These States!" as Whitman said, Whatever he meant. _Baden-Baden_. PEACE PEACE is written on the doorstep In lava. Peace, black peace congealed. My heart will know no peace Till the hill bursts. Brilliant, intolerable lava Brilliant as a powerful burning-glass Walking like a royal snake down the mountain to- wards the sea. Forests, cities, bridges Gone again in the bright trail of lava. Naxos thousands of feet below the olive-roots, And now the olive leaves thousands of feet below the lava fire. Peace congealed in black lava on the doorstep. Within, white-hot lava, never at peace Till it burst forth blinding, withering the earth; To set again into rock Grey-black rock. Call it Peace? _Taormina_. TREES CYPRESSES TUSCAN cypresses, What is it? Folded in like a dark thought For which the language is lost, Tuscan cypresses, Is there a great secret? Are our words no good? The undeliverable secret, Dead with a dead race and a dead speech, and yet Darkly monumental in you, Etruscan cypresses. Ah, how I admire your fidelity, Dark cypresses, Is it the secret of the long-nosed Etruscans? The long-nosed, sensitive-footed, subtly-smiling Etruscans, Who made so little noise outside the cypress groves? Among the sinuous, flame-tall cypresses That swayed their length of darkness all around Etruscan-dusky, wavering men of old Etruria: Naked except for fanciful long shoes, Going with insidious, half-smiling quietness And some of Africa's imperturbable sang-froid About a forgotten business. What business, then? Nay, tongues are dead, and words are hollow as hollow seed-pods, Having shed their sound and finished all their echoing Etruscan syllables, That had the telling. Yet more I see you darkly concentrate, Tuscan cypresses, On one old thought: On one old slim imperishable thought, while you remain Etruscan cypresses; Dusky, slim marrow-thought of slender, flickering men of Etruria, Whom Rome called vicious. Vicious, dark cypresses: Vicious, you supple, brooding, softly-swaying pillars of dark flame. Monumental to a dead, dead race Embalmed in you! Were they then vicious, the slender, tender-footed, Long-nosed men of Etruria? Or was their way only evasive and different, dark, like cypress- trees in a wind? They are dead, with all their vices, And all that is left Is the shadowy monomania of some cypresses And tombs. The smile, the subtle Etruscan smile still lurking Within the tombs, Etruscan cypresses. He laughs longest who laughs last; Nay, Leonardo only bungled the pure Etruscan smile. What would I not give To bring back the rare and orchid-like Evil-yclept Etruscan? For as to the evil We have only Roman word for it, Which I, being a little weary of Roman virtue, Don't hang much weight on. For oh, I know, in the dust where we have buried The silenced races and all their abominations, We have buried so much of the delicate magic of life. There in the deeps That churn the frankincense and ooze the myrrh, Cypress shadowy, Such an aroma of lost human life! They say the fit survive, But I invoke the spirits of the lost. Those that have not survived, the darkly lost. To bring their meaning back into life again. Which they have taken away And wrapt inviolable in soft cypress-trees, Etruscan cypresses. Evil, what is evil? There is only one evil, to deny life As Rome denied Etruria And mechanical America Montezuma still. _Fiesole_. BARE FIG-TREES FIG-TREES, weird fig-trees Made of thick smooth silver, Made of sweet, untarnished silver in the sea-southern air-- I say untarnished, but I mean opaque-- Thick, smooth-fleshed silver, dull only as human limbs are dull With the life-lustre, Nude with the dim light of full, healthy life That is always half-dark, And suave like passion-flower petals, Like passion-flowers, With the half-secret gleam of a passion-flower hanging from the rock. Great, complicated, nude fig-tree, stemless flower-mesh, Flowerily naked in flesh, and giving off hues of life. Rather like an octopus, but strange and sweet-myriad-limbed octopus; Like a nude, like a rock-living, sweet-fleshed sea-anemone, Flourishing from the rock in a mysterious arrogance. Let me sit down beneath the many-branching candelabrum That lives upon this rock And laugh at Time, and laugh at dull Eternity, And make a joke of stale Infinity, Within the flesh-scent of this wicked tree, That has kept so many secrets up its sleeve, And has been laughing through so many ages At man and his uncomfortablenesses, And his attempt to assure himself that what is so is not so, Up its sleeve. Let me sit down beneath this many-branching candelabrum, The Jewish seven-branched, tallow-stinking candlestick kicked over the cliff And all its tallow righteousness got rid of, And let me notice it behave itself. And watch it putting forth each time to heaven, Each time straight to heaven, With marvellous naked assurance each single twig, Each one setting off straight to the sky As if it were the leader, the main-stem, the forerunner, Intent to hold the candle of the sun upon its socket-tip, It alone. Every young twig No sooner issued sideways from the thigh of his predecessor Than off he starts without a qualm To hold the one and only lighted candle of the sun in his socket-tip. He casually gives birth to another young bud from his thigh, Which at once sets off to be the one and only, And hold the lighted candle of the sun. Oh many-branching candelabrum, oh strange up-starting fig- tree, Oh weird Demos, where every twig is the arch twig, Each imperiously over-equal to each, equality over-reaching itself Like the snakes on Medusa's head, Oh naked fig-tree! Still, no doubt every one of you can be the sun-socket as well as every other of you. Demos, Demos, Demos! Demon, too, Wicked fig-tree, equality puzzle, with your self-conscious secret fruits. _Taormina_. BARE ALMOND-TREES WET almond-trees, in the rain, Like iron sticking grimly out of earth; Black almond trunks, in the rain, Like iron implements twisted, hideous, out of the earth, Out of the deep, soft fledge of Sicilian winter-green, Earth-grass uneatable, Almond trunks curving blackly, iron-dark, climbing the slopes. Almond-tree, beneath the terrace rail, Black, rusted, iron trunk, You have welded your thin stems finer, Like steel, like sensitive steel in the air, Grey, lavender, sensitive steel, curving thinly and brittly up in a parabola. What are you doing in the December rain? Have you a strange electric sensitiveness in your steel tips? Do you feel the air for electric influences Like some strange magnetic apparatus? Do you take in messages, in some strange code, From heaven's wolfish, wandering electricity, that prowls so constantly round Etna? Do you take the whisper of sulphur from the air? Do you hear the chemical accents of the sun? Do you telephone the roar of the waters over the earth? And from all this, do you make calculations? Sicily, December's Sicily in a mass of rain With iron branching blackly, rusted like old, twisted implements And brandishing and stooping over earth's wintry fledge, climbing the slopes Of uneatable soft green! _Taormina_. TROPIC SUN, dark sun Sun of black void heat Sun of the torrid mid-day's horrific darkness. Behold my hair twisting and going black. Behold my eyes turn tawny yellow Negroid; See the milk of northern spume Coagulating and going black in my veins Aromatic as frankincense. Columns dark and soft Sunblack men Soft shafts, sunbreathing mouths Eyes of yellow, golden sand As frictional, as perilous, explosive as brimstone. Rock, waves of dark heat; Waves of dark heat, rock, sway upwards Waver perpendicular. What is the horizontal rolling of water Compared to the flood of black heat that rolls upward past my eyes? _Taormina_. SOUTHERN NIGHT COME up, thou red thing. Come up, and be called a moon. The mosquitoes are biting to-night Like memories. Memories, northern memories, Bitter-stinging white world that bore us Subsiding into this night. Call it moonrise This red anathema? Rise, thou red thing, Unfold slowly upwards, blood-dark; Burst the night's membrane of tranquil stars Finally. Maculate The red Macula. _Taormina_. FLOWERS ALMOND BLOSSOM EVEN iron can put forth, Even iron. This is the iron age, But let us take heart Seeing iron break and bud, Seeing rusty iron puff with clouds of blossom. The almond-tree, December's bare iron hooks sticking out of earth. The almond-tree, That knows the deadliest poison, like a snake In supreme bitterness. Upon the iron, and upon the steel, Odd flakes as if of snow, odd bits of snow, Odd crumbs of melting snow. But you mistake, it is not from the sky; From out the iron, and from out the steel, Flying not down from heaven, but storming up, Strange storming up from the dense under-earth Along the iron, to the living steel In rose-hot tips, and flakes of rose-pale snow Setting supreme annunciation to the world. Nay, what a heart of delicate super-faith, Iron-breaking, The rusty swords of almond-trees. Trees suffer, like races, down the long ages. They wander and are exiled, they live in exile through long ages Like drawn blades never sheathed, hacked and gone black, The alien trees in alien lands: and yet The heart of blossom, The unquenchable heart of blossom! Look at the many-cicatrised frail vine, none more scarred and frail. Yet see him fling himself abroad in fresh abandon From the small wound-stump. Even the wilful, obstinate, gummy fig-tree Can be kept down, but he'll burst like a polyp into prolixity. And the almond-tree, in exile, in the iron age! This is the ancient southern earth whence the vases were baked, amphoras, craters, cantharus, oenochoe, and open- hearted cylix. Bristling now with the iron of almond-trees Iron, but unforgotten, Iron, dawn-hearted, Ever-beating dawn-heart, enveloped in iron against the exile, against the ages. See it come forth in blossom From the snow-remembering heart In long-nighted January, In the long dark nights of the evening star, and Sirius, and the Etna snow-wind through the long night. Sweating his drops of blood through the long-nighted Gethsemane Into blossom, into pride, into honey-triumph, into most exquisite splendour. Oh, give me the tree of life in blossom And the Cross sprouting its superb and fearless flowers! Something must be reassuring to the almond, in the evening star, and the snow-wind, and the long, long, nights, Some memory of far, sun-gentler lands, So that the faith in his heart smiles again And his blood ripples with that untellable delight of once- more-vindicated faith, And the Gethsemane blood at the iron pores unfolds, unfolds, Pearls itself into tenderness of bud And in a great and sacred forthcoming steps forth, steps out in one stride A naked tree of blossom, like a bridegroom bathing in dew, divested of cover, Frail-naked, utterly uncovered To the green night-baying of the dog-star, Etna's snow-edged wind And January's loud-seeming sun. Think of it, from the iron fastness Suddenly to dare to come out naked, in perfection of blossom, beyond the sword-rust. Think, to stand there in full-unfolded nudity, smiling, With all the snow-wind, and the sun-glare, and the dog-star baying epithalamion. Oh, honey-bodied beautiful one, Come forth from iron, Red your heart is. Fragile-tender, fragile-tender life-body, More fearless than iron all the time, And so much prouder, so disdainful of reluctances. In the distance like hoar-frost, like silvery ghosts communing on a green hill, Hoar-frost-like and mysterious. In the garden raying out With a body like spray, dawn-tender, and looking about With such insuperable, subtly-smiling assurance, Sword-blade-born. Unpromised, No bounds being set. Flaked out and come unpromised, The tree being life-divine, Fearing nothing, life-blissful at the core Within iron and earth. Knots of pink, fish-silvery In heaven, in blue, blue heaven, Soundless, bliss-full, wide-rayed, honey-bodied, Red at the core, Red at the core, Knotted in heaven upon the fine light. Open, Open, Five times wide open, Six times wide open, And given, and perfect; And red at the core with the last sore-heartedness, Sore-hearted-looking. _Fontana Vecchia_. PURPLE ANEMONES _WHO gave us flowers? Heaven? The white God_? Nonsense! Up out of hell, From Hades; Infernal Dis! _Jesus the god of flowers_------? Not he. _Or sun-bright Apollo, him so musical_? Him neither. _Who then? Say who_. Say it--and it is Pluto, Dis, The dark one, Proserpine's master. _Who contradicts_------? When she broke forth from below, Flowers came, hell-hounds on her heels. Dis, the dark, the jealous god, the husband, Flower-sumptuous-blooded. _Go then_, he said. And in Sicily, on the meadows of Enna, She thought she had left him; Hut opened around her purple anemones, Caverns, Little hells of colour, caves of darkness, Hell, risen in pursuit of her; royal, sumptuous Pit-falls. All at her feet Hell opening; At her white ankles Hell rearing its husband-splendid, serpent heads, Hell-purple, to get at her-- _Why did he let her go_? So he could track her down again, white victim. Ah mastery! Hell's husband-blossoms Out on earth again. Look out, Persephone! You, Madame Ceres, mind yourself, the enemy is upon you. About your feet spontaneous aconite, Hell-glamorous, and purple husband-tyranny Enveloping your late-enfranchised plains. You thought your daughter had escaped? No more stockings to darn for the flower-roots, down in hell? But ah my dear! Aha, the stripe-cheeked whelps, whippet-slim crocuses, _At 'em, boys, at 'em! Ho golden-spaniel, sweet alert narcissus, Smell 'em, smell 'em out_! Those two enfranchised women. Somebody is coming! _Oho there_! Dark blue anemones! Hell is up! Hell on earth, and Dis within the depths! _Run, Persephone, he is after you already_. _Why did he let her go_? To track her down; All the sport of summer and spring, and flowers snap- ping at her ankles and catching her by the hair! Poor Persephone and her rights for women. _Husband-snared hell-queen, It is spring_. It is spring, And pomp of husband-strategy on earth. _Ceres, kiss your girl, you think you've got her back. The bit of husband-tilth she is, Persephone_! Poor mothers-in-law! They are always sold. It is spring. _Taormina_. SICILIAN CYCLAMENS WHEN he pushed his bush of black hair off his brow: When she lifted her mop from her eyes, and screwed it in a knob behind --O act of fearful temerity! When they felt their foreheads bare, naked to heaven, their eyes revealed: When they felt the light of heaven brandished like a knife at their defenceless eyes, And the sea like a blade at their face, Mediterranean savages: When they came out, face-revealed, under heaven, from the shaggy undergrowth of their own hair For the first time, They saw tiny rose cyclamens between their toes, growing Where the slow toads sat brooding on the past. Slow toads, and cyclamen leaves Stickily glistening with eternal shadow Keeping to earth. Cyclamen leaves Toad-filmy, earth-iridescent Beautiful Frost-filigreed Spumed with mud Snail-nacreous Low down. The shaking aspect of the sea And man's defenceless bare face And cyclamens putting their ears back. Long, pensive, slim-muzzled greyhound buds Dreamy, not yet present, Drawn out of earth At his toes. Dawn-rose Sub-delighted, stone-engendered Cyclamens, young cyclamens Arching Waking, pricking their ears Like delicate very-young greyhound bitches Half-yawning at the open, inexperienced Vista of day, Folding back their soundless petalled ears. Greyhound bitches Sending their rosy muzzled pensive down, And breathing soft, unwilling to wake to the new day Yet sub-delighted. Ah Mediterranean morning, when our world began! Far-off Mediterranean mornings, Pelasgic faces uncovered, And unbudding cyclamens. The hare suddenly goes uphill Laying back her long ears with unwinking bliss. And up the pallid, sea-blenched Mediterranean stone-slopes Rose cyclamen, ecstatic fore-runner! Cyclamens, ruddy-muzzled cyclamens In little bunches like bunches of wild hares Muzzles together, ears-aprick Whispering witchcraft Like women at a well, the dawn-fountain. Greece, and the world's morning Where all the Parthenon marbles still fostered the roots of the cyclamen. Violets Pagan, rosy-muzzled violets Autumnal Dawn-pink, Dawn-pale Among squat toad-leaves sprinkling the unborn Erechtheion marbles. _Taormina_. HIBISCUS AND SALVIA FLOWERS _Hark! Hark! The dogs do bark! It's the socialists come to town, None in rags and none in tags, Swaggering up and down_. Sunday morning, And from the Sicilian townlets skirting Etna The socialists have gathered upon us, to look at us. How shall we know them when we see them? How shall we know them now they've come? Not by their rags and not by their tags, Nor by any distinctive gown; The same unremarkable Sunday suit And hats cocked up and down. Yet there they are, youths, loutishly Strolling in gangs and staring along the Corso With the gang-stare And a half-threatening envy At every _forestière_, Every lordly tuppenny foreigner from the hotels, fattening on the exchange. _Hark! Hark! The dogs do bark! It's the socialists in the town_. Sans rags, sans tags, Sans beards, sans bags, Sans any distinction at all except loutish commonness. How do we know then, that they are they? Bolshevists. Leninists. Communists. Socialists. -Ists! -Ists! Alas, salvia and hibiscus flowers. Salvia and hibiscus flowers. Listen again. Salvia and hibiscus flowers. Is it not so? Salvia and hibiscus flowers. _Hark! Hark! The dogs do hark_! Salvia and hibiscus flowers. Who smeared their doors with blood? Who on their breasts Put salvias and hibiscus? Rosy, rosy scarlet, And flame-rage, golden-throated Bloom along the Corso on the living, perambulating bush. Who said they might assume these blossoms? What god did they consult? Rose-red, princess hibiscus, rolling her pointed Chinese petals! Azalea and camellia, single peony And pomegranate bloom and scarlet mallow-flower And all the eastern, exquisite royal plants That noble blood has brought us down the ages! Gently nurtured, frail and splendid Hibiscus flower-- Alas, the Sunday coats of Sicilian bolshevists! Pure blood, and noble blood, in the fine and rose-red veins; Small, interspersed with jewels of white gold Frail-filigreed among the rest; Rose of the oldest races of princesses, Polynesian Hibiscus. Eve, in her happy moments, Put hibiscus in her hair, Before she humbled herself, and knocked her knees with repentance. Sicilian bolshevists, With hibiscus flowers in the buttonholes of your Sunday suits, Come now, speaking of rights, what right have you to this flower? The exquisite and ageless aristocracy Of a peerless soul, Blessed are the pure in heart and the fathomless in bright pride; The loveliness that knows _noblesse oblige_; The native royalty of red hibiscus flowers; The exquisite assertion of new delicate life Risen from the roots: Is this how you'll have it, red-decked socialists, Hibiscus-breasted? If it be so, I fly to join you, And if it be not so, brutes to pull down hibiscus flowers! Or salvia! Or dragon-mouthed salvia with gold throat of wrath! Flame-flushed, enraged, splendid salvia, Cock-crested, crowing your orange scarlet like a tocsin Along the Corso all this Sunday morning. Is your wrath red as salvias. You socialists? You with your grudging, envious, furtive rage, In Sunday suits and yellow boots along the Corso. You look well with your salvia flowers, I must say. Warrior-like, dawn-cock's-comb flaring flower Shouting forth flame to set the world on fire, The dust-heap of man's filthy world on fire, And burn it down, the glutted, stuffy world, And feed the young new fields of life with ash, With ash I say, Bolshevists, Your ashes even, my friends, Among much other ash. If there were salvia-savage bolshevists To burn the world back to manure-good ash. Wouldn't I stick the salvia in my coat! But these themselves must burn, these louts! The dragon-faced, The anger-reddened, golden-throated salvia With its long antennae of rage put out Upon the frightened air. Ugh, how I love its fangs of perfect rage That gnash the air; The molten gold of its intolerable rage Hot in the throat. I long to be a bolshevist And set the stinking rubbish-heap of this foul world Afire at a myriad scarlet points, A bolshevist, a salvia-face To lick the world with flame that licks it clean. I long to see its chock-full crowdedness And glutted squirming populousness on fire Like a field of filthy weeds Burnt back to ash, And then to see the new, real souls sprout up. Not this vast rotting cabbage patch we call the world; But from the ash-scarred fallow New wild souls. Nettles, and a rose sprout, Hibiscus, and mere grass, Salvia still in a rage And almond honey-still, And fig-wort stinking for the carrion wasp; All the lot of them, and let them fight it out. But not a trace of foul equality, Nor sound of still more foul human perfection. You need not clear the world like a cabbage patch for me; Leave me my nettles, Let me fight the wicked, obstreperous weeds myself, and put them in their place, Severely in their place. I don't at all want to annihilate them, I like a row with them. But I won't be put on a cabbage-idealistic level of equality with them. What rot, to see the cabbage and hibiscus-tree As equals! What rot, to say the louts along the Corso In Sunday suits and yellow shoes Are my equals! I am their superior, saluting the hibiscus flower, not them. The same I say to the profiteers from the hotels, the money- fat-ones, Profiteers here being called dog-fish, stinking dog-fish, sharks. The same I say to the pale and elegant persons. Pale-face authorities loitering tepidly: _That I salute the red hibiscus flowers And send mankind to its inferior blazes_. Mankind's inferior blazes, And these along with it, all the inferior lot-- These bolshevists, These dog-fish, These precious and ideal ones, All rubbish ready for fire. And I salute hibiscus and the salvia flower Upon the breasts of loutish bolshevists, Damned loutish bolshevists, Who perhaps will do the business after all, In the long run, in spite of themselves. Meanwhile, alas For me no fellow-men, No salvia-frenzied comrades, antennae Of yellow-red, outreaching, living wrath Upon the smouldering air, And throat of brimstone-molten angry gold. Red, angry men are a race extinct, alas! Never To be a bolshevist With a hibiscus flower behind my ear In sign of life, of lovely, dangerous life And passionate disquality of men; In sign of dauntless, silent violets, And impudent nettles grabbing the under-earth, And cabbages born to be cut and eat, And salvia fierce to crow and shout for fight, And rosy-red hibiscus wincingly Unfolding all her coiled and lovely self In a doubtful world. Never, bolshevistically To be able to stand for all these! Alas, alas, I have got to leave it all To the youths in Sunday suits and yellow shoes Who have pulled down the salvia flowers And rosy delicate hibiscus flowers And everything else to their disgusting level, Never, of course, to put anything up again. But yet If they pull all the world down, The process will amount to the same in the end. Instead of flame and flame-clean ash Slow watery rotting back to level muck And final humus. Whence the re-start. And still I cannot bear it That they take hibiscus and the salvia flower. _Taormina_. THE EVANGELISTIC BEASTS ST MATTHEW THEY are not all beasts. One is a man, for example, and one is a bird. I, Matthew, am a man. "And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me"-- That is Jesus. But then Jesus was not quite a man. He was the Son of Man Filius Meus, O remorseless logic Out of His own mouth. I, Matthew, being a man Cannot be lifted up, the Paraclete To draw all men unto me, Seeing I am on a par with all men. I, on the other hand, Am drawn to the Uplifted, as all men are drawn, To the Son of Man _Filius Meus_. _Wilt thou lift me up, Son of Man_? How my heart beats! I am man. I am man, and therefore my heart beats, and throws the dark blood from side to side All the time I am lifted up. Yes, even during my uplifting. And if it ceased? If it ceased, I should be no longer man As I am, if my heart in uplifting ceased to beat, to toss the dark blood from side to side, causing my myriad secret streams. After the cessation I might be a soul in bliss, an angel, approximating to the Uplifted; But that is another matter; I am Matthew, the man, And I am not that other angelic matter. So I will be lifted up, Saviour, But put me down again in time, Master, Before my heart stops beating, and I become what I am not. Put me down again on the earth, Jesus, on the brown soil Where flowers sprout in the acrid humus, and fade into humus again. Where beasts drop their unlicked young, and pasture, and drop their droppings among the turf. Where the adder darts horizontal. Down on the damp, unceasing ground, where my feet belong And even my heart, Lord, forever, after all uplifting: The crumbling, damp, fresh land, life horizontal and ceaseless. Matthew I am, the man. And I take the wings of the morning, to Thee, Crucified, Glorified. But while flowers club their petals at evening And rabbits make pills among the short grass And long snakes quickly glide into the dark hole in the wall, hearing man approach, I must be put down, Lord, in the afternoon, And at evening I must leave off my wings of the spirit As I leave off my braces And I must resume my nakedness like a fish, sinking down the dark reversion of night Like a fish seeking the bottom, Jesus, ICTHUS Face downwards Veering slowly Down between the steep slopes of darkness, fucus-dark, seaweed-fringed valleys of the waters under the sea Over the edge of the soundless cataract Into the fathomless, bottomless pit Where my soul falls in the last throes of bottomless convulsion, and is fallen Utterly beyond Thee, Dove of the Spirit; Beyond everything, except itself. Nay, Son of Man, I have been lifted up. To Thee I rose like a rocket ending in mid-heaven. But even Thou, Son of Man, canst not quaff out the dregs of terrestrial manhood! They fall back from Thee. They fall back, and like a dripping of quicksilver taking the downward track. Break into drops, burn into drops of blood, and dropping, dropping take wing Membraned, blood-veined wings. On fans of unsuspected tissue, like bats They thread and thrill and flicker ever downward To the dark zenith of Thine antipodes Jesus Uplifted. Bat-winged heart of man Reversed flame Shuddering a strange way down the bottomless pit To the great depths of its reversed zenith. Afterwards, afterwards Morning comes, and I shake the dews of night from the wings of my spirit And mount like a lark, Beloved. But remember, Saviour, That my heart which like a lark at heaven's gate singing, hovers morning-bright to Thee, Throws still the dark blood back and forth In the avenues where the bat hangs sleeping, upside-down And to me undeniable, Jesus. Listen, Paraclete. I can no more deny the bat-wings of my fathom-flickering spirit of darkness Than the wings of the Morning and Thee, Thou Glorified. I am Matthew, the Man: It is understood. And Thou art Jesus, Son of Man Drawing all men unto Thee, but bound to release them when the hour strikes. I have been, and I have returned. I have mounted up on the wings of the morning, and I have dredged down to the zenith's reversal. Which is my way, being man. Gods may stay in mid-heaven, the Son of Man has climbed to the Whitsun zenith, But I, Matthew, being a man Am a traveller back and forth. So be it. ST MARK THERE was a lion in Judah Which whelped, and was Mark. But winged. A lion with wings. At least at Venice. Even as late as Daniele Manin. Why should he have wings? Is he to be a bird also? Or a spirit? Or a winged thought? Or a soaring consciousness? Evidently he is all that The lion of the spirit. Ah, Lamb of God Would a wingless lion lie down before Thee, as this winged lion lies? The lion of the spirit. Once he lay in the mouth of a cave And sunned his whiskers, And lashed his tail slowly, slowly Thinking of voluptuousness Even of blood. But later, in the sun of the afternoon Having tasted all there was to taste, and having slept his fill He fell to frowning, as he lay with his head on his paws And the sun coming in through the narrowest fibril of a slit in his eyes. So, nine-tenths asleep, motionless, bored, and statically angry. He saw in a shaft of light a lamb on a pinnacle, balancing a flag on its paw. And he was thoroughly startled. Going out to investigate He found the lamb beyond him, on the inaccessible pinnacle of light. So he put his paw to his nose, and pondered. "Guard my sheep," came the silvery voice from the pinnacle, "And I will give thee the wings of the morning." So the lion of the senses thought it was worth it. Hence he became a curly sheep-dog with dangerous pro- pensities As Carpaccio will tell you: Ramping round, guarding the flock of mankind, Sharpening his teeth on the wolves, Ramping up through the air like a kestrel And lashing his tail above the world And enjoying the sensation of heaven and righteousness and voluptuous wrath. There is a new sweetness in his voluptuously licking his paw Now that it is a weapon of heaven. There is a new ecstasy in his roar of desirous love Now that it sounds self-conscious through the unlimited sky. He is well aware of himself And he cherishes voluptuous delights, and thinks about them And ceases to be a blood-thirsty king of beasts And becomes the faithful sheep-dog of the Shepherd, think- ing of his voluptuous pleasures of chasing the sheep to the fold And increasing the flock, and perhaps giving a real nip here and there, a real pinch, but always well meant. And somewhere there is a lioness The she-mate. Whelps play between the paws of the lion The she-mate purrs Their castle is impregnable, their cave, The sun comes in their lair, they are well-off A well-to-do family. Then the proud lion stalks abroad, alone And roars to announce himself to the wolves And also to encourage the red-cross Lamb And also to ensure a goodly increase in the world. Look at him, with his paw on the world At Venice and elsewhere. Going blind at last. ST LUKE A WALL, a bastion, A living forehead with its slow whorl of hair And a bull's large, sombre, glancing eye And glistening, adhesive muzzle With cavernous nostrils where the winds run hot Snorting defiance Or greedily snuffling behind the cows. Horns The golden horns of power, Power to kill, power to create Such as Moses had, and God, Head-power. Shall great wings flame from his shoulder-sockets Assyrian-wise? It would be no wonder. Knowing the thunder of his heart The massive thunder of his dew-lapped chest Deep and reverberating, It would be no wonder if great wings, like flame, fanned out from the furnace-cracks of his shoulder-sockets. Thud! Thud! Thud! And the roar of black bull's blood in the mighty passages of his chest. Ah, the dewlap swings pendulous with excess. The great, roaring weight above Like a furnace dripping a molten drip. The urge, the massive, burning ache Of the bull's breast. The open furnace-doors of his nostrils. For what does he ache, and groan? In his breast a wall? Nay, once it was also a fortress wall, and the weight of a vast battery. But now it is a burning hearthstone only, Massive old altar of his own burnt offering. It was always an altar of burnt offering His own black blood poured out like a sheet of flame over his fecundating herd As he gave himself forth. But also it was a fiery fortress frowning shaggily on the world And announcing battle ready. Since the Lamb bewitched him with that red-struck flag His fortress is dismantled His fires of wrath are banked down His horns turn away from the enemy. He serves the Son of Man. And hear him bellow, after many years, the bull that serves the Son of Man. Moaning, booing, roaring hollow Constrained to pour forth all his fire down the narrow sluice of procreation Through such narrow loins, too narrow. Is he not over-charged by the dammed-up pressure of his own massive black blood Luke, the Bull, the father of substance, the Providence Bull, after two thousand years? Is he not over-full of offering, a vast, vast offer of himself Which must be poured through so small a vent? Too small a vent. Let him remember his horns, then. Seal up his forehead once more to a bastion, Let it know nothing. Let him charge like a mighty catapult on the red-cross flag, let him roar out challenge on the world And throwing himself upon it, throw off the madness of his blood. Let it be war. And so it is war. The bull of the proletariat has got his head down. ST JOHN JOHN, oh John, Thou honourable bird Sun-peering eagle. Taking a bird's-eye view Even of Calvary and Resurrection Not to speak of Babylon's whoredom. High over the mild effulgence of the dove Hung all the time, did we but know it, the all-knowing shadow Of John's great gold-barred eagle. John knew all about it Even the very beginning. "In the beginning was the Word And the Word was God And the Word was with God." Having been to school John knew the whole proposition. As for innocent Jesus He was one of Nature's phenomena, no doubt. Oh that mind-soaring eagle of an Evangelist Staring creation out of countenance And telling it off As an eagle staring down on the Sun! The Logos, the Logos! "In the beginning was the Word." Is there not a great Mind pre-ordaining? Does not a supreme Intellect ideally procreate the Universe? Is not each soul a vivid thought in the great consciousness stream of God? Put salt on his tail The sly bird of John. Proud intellect, high-soaring Mind Like a king eagle, bird of the most High, sweeping the round of heaven And casting the cycles of creation On two wings, like a pair of compasses; Jesus' pale and lambent dove, cooing in the lower boughs On sufferance. In the beginning was the Word, of course. And the word was the first offspring of the almighty Johannine mind, Chick of the intellectual eagle. Yet put salt on the tail of the Johannine bird Put salt on its tail John's eagle. Shoo it down out of the empyrean Of the all-seeing, all-fore-ordaining ideal. Make it roost on bird-spattered, rocky Patmos And let it moult there, among the stones of the bitter sea. For the almighty eagle of the fore-ordaining Mind Is looking rather shabby and island-bound these days: Moulting, and rather naked about the rump, and down in the beak, Rather dirty, on dung-whitened Patmos. From which we are led to assume That the old bird is weary, and almost willing That a new chick should chip the extensive shell Of the mundane egg. The poor old golden eagle of the creative spirit Moulting and moping and waiting, willing at last For the fire to burn it up, feathers and all So that a new conception of the beginning and end Can rise from the ashes. Ah Phoenix, Phoenix John's Eagle! You are only known to us now as the badge of an insurance Company. Phoenix, Phoenix The nest is in flames Feathers are singeing. Ash flutters flocculent, like down on a blue, wan fledgeling. _San Gervasio_. CREATURES THE MOSQUITO WHEN did you start your tricks Monsieur? What do you stand on such high legs for? Why this length of shredded shank You exaltation? Is it so that you shall lift your centre of gravity upwards And weigh no more than air as you alight upon me, Stand upon me weightless, you phantom? I heard a woman call you the Winged Victory In sluggish Venice. You turn your head towards your tail, and smile. How can you put so much devilry Into that translucent phantom shred Of a frail corpus? Queer, with your thin wings and your streaming legs How you sail like a heron, or a dull clot of air, A nothingness. Yet what an aura surrounds you; Your evil little aura, prowling, and casting a numbness on my mind. That is your trick, your bit of filthy magic: Invisibility, and the anaesthetic power To deaden my attention in your direction. But I know your game now, streaky sorcerer. Queer, how you stalk and prowl the air In circles and evasions, enveloping me, Ghoul on wings Winged Victory. Settle, and stand on long thin shanks Eyeing me sideways, and cunningly conscious that I am aware, You speck. I hate the way you lurch off sideways into air Having read my thoughts against you. Come then, let us play at unawares, And see who wins in this sly game of bluff. Man or mosquito. You don't know that I exist, and I don't know that you exist. Now then! It is your trump It is your hateful little trump You pointed fiend. Which shakes my sudden blood to hatred of you: It is your small, high, hateful bugle in my ear. Why do you do it? Surely it is bad policy. They say you can't help it. If that is so, then I believe a little in Providence pro- tecting the innocent. But it sounds so amazingly like a slogan A yell of triumph as you snatch my scalp. Blood, red blood Super-magical Forbidden liquor. I behold you stand For a second enspasmed in oblivion, Obscenely ecstasied Sucking live blood My blood. Such silence, such suspended transport. Such gorging, Such obscenity of trespass. You stagger As well as you may. Only your accursed hairy frailty Your own imponderable weightlessness Saves you, wafts you away on the very draught my anger makes in its snatching. Away with a paean of derision You winged blood-drop. Can I not overtake you? Are you one too many for me Winged Victory? Am I not mosquito enough to out-mosquito you? Queer, what a big stain my sucked blood makes Beside the infinitesimal faint smear of you! Queer, what a dim dark smudge you have disappeared into! _Siracusa_. FISH FISH, oh Fish, So little matters! Whether the waters rise and cover the earth Or whether the waters wilt in the hollow places, All one to you. Aqueous, subaqueous, Submerged And wave-thrilled. As the waters roll Roll you. The waters wash, You wash in oneness And never emerge. Never know. Never grasp. Your life a sluice of sensation along your sides, A flush at the flails of your fins, down the whorl of your tail. And water wetly on fire in the grates of your gills; Fixed water-eyes. Even snakes lie together. But oh, fish, that rock in water, You lie only with the waters; One touch. No fingers, no hands and feet, no lips; No tender muzzles, No wistful bellies, No loins of desire, None. You and the naked element, Sway-wave. Curvetting bits of tin in the evening light. Who is it ejects his sperm to the naked flood? In the wave-mother? Who swims enwombed? Who lies with the waters of his silent passion, womb- element? --Fish in the waters under the earth. What price _his_ bread upon the waters? Himself all silvery himself In the element No more. Nothing more. Himself, And the element. Food, of course! Water-eager eyes, Mouth-gate open And strong spine urging, driving; And desirous belly gulping. Fear also! He knows fear! Water-eyes craning, A rush that almost screams, Almost fish-voice As the pike comes. . . . Then gay fear, that turns the tail sprightly, from a shadow. Food, and fear, and joie de vivre, Without love. The other way about: Joie de vivre, and fear, and food, All without love. Quelle joie de vivre Dans l'eau! Slowly to gape through the waters. Alone with the element; To sink, and rise, and go to sleep with the waters; To speak endless inaudible wavelets into the wave; To breathe from the flood at the gills, Fish-blood slowly running next to the flood, extracting fish- fire; To have the element under one, like a lover; And to spring away with a curvetting click in the air, Provocative. Dropping back with a slap on the face of the flood. And merging oneself! To be a fish! So utterly without misgiving To be a fish In the waters. Loveless, and so lively! Born before God was love, Or life knew loving. Beautifully beforehand with it all. Admitted, they swarm in companies, Fishes. They drive in shoals. But soundless, and out of contact. They exchange no word, no spasm, not even anger. Not one touch. Many suspended together, forever apart, Each one alone with the waters, upon one wave with the rest. A magnetism in the water between them only. I saw a water-serpent swim across the Anapo, And I said to my heart, _look, look at him! With his head up, steering like a bird! He's a rare one, but he belongs_ . . . But sitting in a boat on the Zeller lake And watching the fishes in the breathing waters Lift and swim and go their way-- I said to my heart, _who are these_? And my heart couldn't own them. . . . A slim young pike with smart fins And grey-striped suit, a young cub of a pike Slouching along away below, half out of sight, Like a lout on an obscure pavement. . . . Aha, there's somebody in the know! But watching closer That motionless deadly motion, That unnatural barrel body, that long ghoul nose, . . . I left off hailing him. I had made a mistake, I didn't know him, This grey, monotonous soul in the water, This intense individual in shadow, Fish-alive. I didn't know his God, I didn't know his God. Which is perhaps the last admission that life has to wring out of us. I saw, dimly, Once a big pike rush, And small fish fly like splinters. And I said to my heart, _there are limits To you, my heart; And to the one God. Fish are beyond me_. Other Gods Beyond my range . . . gods beyond my God. . . They are beyond me, are fishes. I stand at the pale of my being And look beyond, and see Fish, in the outerwards, As one stands on a bank and looks in. I have waited with a long rod And suddenly pulled a gold-and-greenish, lucent fish from below, And had him fly like a halo round my head, Lunging in the air on the line. Unhooked his gorping, water-horny mouth. And seen his horror-tilted eye, His red-gold, water-precious, mirror-flat bright eye; And felt him beat in my hand, with his mucous, leaping life-throb. And my heart accused itself Thinking: _I am not the measure of creation. This is beyond me, this fish. His God stands outside my God_. And the gold-and-green pure lacquer-mucus comes off in my hand, And the red-gold mirror-eye stares and dies, And the water-suave contour dims. But not before I have had to know He was born in front of my sunrise. Before my day. He outstarts me. And I, a many-fingered horror of daylight to him, Have made him die. Fishes, With their gold, red eyes, and green-pure gleam, and under-gold, And their pre-world loneliness, And more-than-lovelessness. And white meat; They move in other circles. Outsiders. Water-wayfarers. Things of one element. Aqueous, Each by itself. Cats, and the Neapolitans, Sulphur sun-beasts, Thirst for fish as for more-than-water; Water-alive To quench their over-sulphureous lusts. But I, I only wonder And don't know. I don't know fishes. In the beginning Jesus was called The Fish. . . . And in the end. _Zell-am-See_. BAT AT evening, sitting on this terrace, When the sun from the west, beyond Pisa, beyond the mountains of Carrara Departs, and the world is taken by surprise . . . When the tired flower of Florence is in gloom beneath the glowing Brown hills surrounding . . . When under the arches of the Ponte Vecchio A green light enters against stream, flush from the west, Against the current of obscure Arno . . . Look up, and you see things flying Between the day and the night; Swallows with spools of dark thread sewing the shadows together. A circle swoop, and a quick parabola under the bridge arches Where light pushes through; A sudden turning upon itself of a thing in the air. A dip to the water. And you think: "The swallows are flying so late!" Swallows? Dark air-life looping Yet missing the pure loop . . . A twitch, a twitter, an elastic shudder in flight And serrated wings against the sky. Like a glove, a black glove thrown up at the liglit, And falling back. Never swallows! _Bats_! The swallows are gone. At a wavering instant the swallows gave way to bats By the Ponte Vecchio . . . Changing guard. Bats, and an uneasy creeping in one's scalp As the bats swoop overhead! Flying madly. Pipistrello! Black piper on an infinitesimal pipe. Little lumps that fly in air and have voices indefinite, wildlj' vindictive; Wings like bits of umbrella. Bats! Creatures that hang themselves up like an old rag, to sleep; And disgustingly upside down. Hanging upside down like rows of disgusting old rags And grinning in their sleep. Bats! Not for me! MAN AND BAT WHEN I went into my room, at mid-morning, Say ten o'clock . . . My room, a crash-box over that great stone rattle The Via de' Bardi. ... When I went into my room at mid-morning _Why? . . . a bird_! A bird Flying round the room in insane circles. In insane circles! . . . A bat! A disgusting bat At mid- morning! . . . _Out! Go out_! Round and round and round With a twitchy, nervous, intolerable flight, And a neurasthenic lunge, And an impure frenzy; A bat, big as a swallow. _Out, out of my room_! The Venetian shutters I push wide To the free, calm upper air; Loop back the curtains. . . . _Now out, out from my room_! So to drive him out, flicking with my white handkerchief: _Go_! But he will not. Round and round and round In an impure haste, Fumbling, a beast in air, And stumbling, lunging and touching the walls, the bell- wires About my room! Always refusing to go out into the air Above that crash-gulf of the Via de' Bardi, Yet blind with frenzy, with cluttered fear. At last he swerved into the window bay, But blew back, as if an incoming wind blew him in again. A strong inrushing wind. And round and round and round! Blundering more insane, and leaping, in throbs, to clutch at a corner, At a wire, at a bell-rope: On and on, watched relentless by me, round and round in my room, Round and round and dithering with tiredness and haste and increasing delirium Flicker-splashing round my room. I would not let him rest; Not one instant cleave, cling like a blot with his breast to the wall In an obscure corner. Not an instant! I flicked him on, Trying to drive him through the window. Again he swerved into the window bay And I ran forward, to frighten him forth. But he rose, and from a terror worse than me he flew past me Back into my room, and round, round, round in my room Clutch, cleave, stagger, Dropping about the air Getting tired. Something seemed to blow him back from the window Every time he swerved at it; Back on a strange parabola, then round, round, dizzy in my room. He _could_ not go out, I also realised. . . . It was the light of day which he could not enter. Any more than I could enter the white-hot door of a blast- furnace. He could not plunge into the daylight that streamed at the window. It was asking too much of his nature. Worse even than the hideous terror of me with my hand- kerchief Saying: _Out, go out_! . . . Was the horror of white daylight in the window! So I switched on the electric light, thinking: _Now The outside will seem brown_. . . . But no. The outside did not seem brown. And he did not mind the yellow electric light. Silent! He was having a silent rest. _But never! Not in my room_. Round and round and round Near the ceiling as if in a web, Staggering; Plunging, falling out of the web, Broken in heaviness, Lunging blindly, Heavier; And clutching, clutching for one second's pause, Always, as if for one drop of rest, One little drop. And I! _Never_, I say. . . . _Go out_! Flying slower, Seeming to stumble, to fall in air. Blind-weary. Yet never able to pass the whiteness of light into freedom . . . A bird would have dashed through, come what might. Fall, sink, lurch, and round and round Flicker, flicker-heavy; Even wings heavy: And cleave in a high corner for a second, like a clot, also a prayer. _But no. Out, you beast_. Till he fell in a corner, palpitating, spent. And there, a clot, he squatted and looked at me. With sticking-out, bead-berry eyes, black, And improper derisive ears, And shut wings, And brown, furry body. Brown, nut-brown, fine fur! But it might as well have been hair on a spider; thing With long, black-paper ears. So, a dilemma! He squatted there like something unclean. No, he must not squat, nor hang, obscene, in my room! Yet nothing on earth will give him courage to pass the sweet fire of day. What then? Hit him and kill him and throw him away? Nay, I didn't create him. Let the God that created him be responsible for his death . . . Only, in the bright day, I will not have this clot in my room. Let the God who is maker of bats watch with them in their unclean corners. . . . I admit a God in every crevice. But not bats in my room; Nor the God of bats, while the sun shines. _So out, out you brute_! . . . And he lunged, flight-heavy, away from me, sideways, _a sghembo_! And round and round and round my room, a clot with wings, Impure even in weariness. Wings dark skinny and flapping the air. Lost their flicker. Spent. He fell again with a little thud Near the curtain on the floor. And there lay. Ah death, death You are no solution! Bats must be bats. Only life has a way out. And the human soul is fated to wide-eyed responsibility In life. So I picked him up in a flannel jacket, Well covered, lest he should bite me. For I would have had to kill him if he'd bitten me, the impure one. . . . And he hardly stirred in my hand, muffled up. Hastily, I shook him out of the window. And away he went! Fear craven in his tail. Great haste, and straight, almost bird straight above the Via de' Bardi. Above that crash-gulf of exploding whips, Towards the Borgo San Jacopo. And now, at evening, as he flickers over the river Dipping with petty triumphant flight, and tittering over the sun's departure, I believe he chirps, pipistrello, seeing me here on this terrace writing: _There he sits, the long loud one! But I am greater than he . . . I escaped him_. . . . _Florence_. REPTILES SNAKE A SNAKE came to my water-trough On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat, To drink there. In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob- tree I came down the steps with my pitcher And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the trough before me. He reached down from a fissure in the earth-wall in the gloom And trailed his yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down, over the edge of the stone trough And rested his throat upon the stone bottom, And where the water had dripped from the tap, in a small clearness, He sipped with his straight mouth, Softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack long body, Silently. Someone was before me at my water-trough, And I, like a second comer, waiting. He lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do, And looked at me vaguely, as drinking cattle do, And flickered his two-forked tongue from his lips, and mused a moment, And stooped and drank a little more, Being earth-brown, earth-golden from the burning bowels of the earth On the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking. The voice of my education said to me He must be killed, For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold are venomous. And voices in me said, If you were a man You would take a stick and break him now, and finish him off. But must I confess how I liked him, How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at my water-trough And depart peaceful, pacified, and thankless, Into the burning bowels of this earth? Was it cowardice, that I dared not kill him? Was it perversity, that I longed to talk to him? Was it humility, to feel so honoured? I felt so honoured. And yet those voices: _If you were not afraid, you would kill him_! And truly I was afraid, I was most afraid. But even so, honoured still more That he should seek my hospitality From out the dark door of the secret earth. He drank enough And lifted his head, dreamily, as one who has drunken, And flickered his tongue like a forked night on the air, so black, Seeming to lick his lips, And looked around like a god, unseeing, into the air, And slowly turned his head. And slowly, very slowly, as if thrice adream, Proceeded to draw his slow length curving round And climb again the broken bank of my wall-face. And as he put his head into that dreadful hole, And as he slowly drew up, snake-easing his shoulders, and entered farther, A sort of horror, a sort of protest against his withdrawing into that horrid black hole, Deliberately going into the blackness, and slowly drawing himself after, Overcame me now his back was turned. I looked round, I put down my pitcher, I picked up a clumsy log And threw it at the water-trough with a clatter. I think it did not hit him, But suddenly that part of him that was left behind convulsed in undignified haste, Writhed like lightning, and was gone Into the black hole, the earth-lipped fissure in the wall- front, At which, in the intense still noon, I stared with fascination. And immediately I regretted it. I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act! I despised myself and the voices of my accursed human education. And I thought of the albatross, And I wished he would come back, my snake. For he seemed to me again like a king, Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld, Now due to be crowned again. And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords Of life. And I have something to expiate; A pettiness. _Taormina_.