H O M E

Poems
by Alan Seeger

(1917)



    Juvenilia

  1. An Ode to Natural Beauty
  2. The Deserted Garden
  3. The Torture of Cuauhtemoc
  4. The Nympholept
  5. The Wanderer
  6. The Need to Love
  7. El Extraviado
  8. La Nue
  9. All That's Not Love . . .
  10. Paris
  11. The Sultan's Palace
  12. Fragments

    Thirty Sonnets:

  13. Sonnet I
  14. Sonnet II
  15. Sonnet III
  16. Sonnet IV
  17. Sonnet V
  18. Sonnet VI
  19. Sonnet VII
  20. Sonnet VIII
  21. Sonnet IX
  22. Sonnet X
  23. Sonnet XI
  24. Sonnet XII
  25. Sonnet XIII
  26. Sonnet XIV
  27. Sonnet XV
  28. Sonnet XVI
  29. Kyrenaikos
  30. Antinous
  31. Vivien
  32. I Loved . . .
  33. Virginibus Puerisque . . .
  34. With a Copy of Shakespeare's Sonnets on Leaving College
  35. Written in a Volume of the Comtesse de Noailles
  36. Coucy
  37. Tezcotzinco
  38. The Old Lowe House, Staten Island
  39. Oneata
  40. n the Cliffs, Newport
  41. O
  42. To England at the Outbreak of the Balkan War
  43. At the Tomb of Napoleon Before the Elections in America -- November, 1912

  44. The Rendezvous
  45. Do You Remember Once . . .
  46. The Bayadere
  47. Eudaemon
  48. Broceliande
  49. Lyonesse
  50. Tithonus
  51. An Ode to Antares

    Translations

  52. Dante. Inferno, Canto XXVI
  53. Ariosto. Orlando Furioso, Canto X, 91-99
  54. On a Theme in the Greek Anthology
  55. After an Epigram of Clement Marot

    Last Poems

  56. The Aisne (1914-15)
  57. Champagne (1914-15)
  58. The Hosts
  59. Maktoob
  60. I Have a Rendezvous with Death . . .

    Sonnets:

  61. Sonnet I
  62. Sonnet II
  63. Sonnet III
  64. Sonnet IV
  65. Sonnet V
  66. Sonnet VI
  67. Sonnet VII
  68. Sonnet VIII
  69. Sonnet IX
  70. Sonnet X
  71. Sonnet XI
  72. Sonnet XII

  73. Bellinglise
  74. Liebestod
  75. Resurgam
  76. A Message to America
  77. Introduction and Conclusion of a Long Poem
  78. Ode in Memory of the American Volunteers Fallen for France

Poets' Corner Scripting
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Seegers Enlistment Photo for the French Foreign Legion
Poems




Alan Seeger

(1917)

Edited for the Web by Bob Blair

. An Ode to Natural Beauty

    THERE is a power whose inspiration fills
    Nature's fair fabric, sun- and star-inwrought,
    Like airy dew ere any drop distils,
    Like perfume in the laden flower, like aught
    Unseen which interfused throughout the whole
    Becomes its quickening pulse and principle and soul.
    Now when, the drift of old desire renewing,
    Warm tides flow northward over valley and field,
    When half-forgotten sound and scent are wooing
    From their deep-chambered recesses long sealed
    Such memories as breathe once more
    Of childhood and the happy hues it wore,
    Now, with a fervor that has never been
    In years gone by, it stirs me to respond, -- -
    Not as a force whose fountains are within
    The faculties of the percipient mind,
    Subject with them to darkness and decay,
    But something absolute, something beyond,
    Oft met like tender orbs that seem to peer
    From pale horizons, luminous behind
    Some fringe of tinted cloud at close of day;
    And in this flood of the reviving year,
    When to the loiterer by sylvan streams,
    Deep in those cares that make Youth loveliest,
    Nature in every common aspect seems
    To comment on the burden in his breast -- -
    The joys he covets and the dreams he dreams -- -
    One then with all beneath the radiant skies
    That laughs with him or sighs,
    It courses through the lilac-scented air,
    A blessing on the fields, a wonder everywhere.

    Spirit of Beauty, whose sweet impulses,
    Flung like the rose of dawn across the sea,
    Alone can flush the exalted consciousness
    With shafts of sensible divinity -- -
    Light of the World, essential loveliness:
    Him whom the Muse hath made thy votary
    Not from her paths and gentle precepture
    Shall vulgar ends engage, nor break the spell
    That taught him first to feel thy secret charms
    And o'er the earth, obedient to their lure,
    Their sweet surprise and endless miracle,
    To follow ever with insatiate arms.
    On summer afternoons,
    When from the blue horizon to the shore,
    Casting faint silver pathways like the moon's
    Across the Ocean's glassy, mottled floor,
    Far clouds uprear their gleaming battlements
    Drawn to the crest of some bleak eminence,
    When autumn twilight fades on the sere hill
    And autumn winds are still;
    To watch the East for some emerging sign,
    Wintry Capella or the Pleiades
    Or that great huntsman with the golden gear;
    Ravished in hours like these
    Before thy universal shrine
    To feel the invoked presence hovering near,
    He stands enthusiastic. Star-lit hours
    Spent on the roads of wandering solitude
    Have set their sober impress on his brow,
    And he, with harmonies of wind and wood
    And torrent and the tread of mountain showers,
    Has mingled many a dedicative vow
    That holds him, till thy last delight be known,
    Bound in thy service and in thine alone.

    I, too, among the visionary throng
    Who choose to follow where thy pathway leads,
    Have sold my patrimony for a song,
    And donned the simple, lowly pilgrim's weeds.
    From that first image of beloved walls,
    Deep-bowered in umbrage of ancestral trees,
    Where earliest thy sweet enchantment falls,
    Tingeing a child's fantastic reveries
    With radiance so fair it seems to be
    Of heavens just lost the lingering evidence
    From that first dawn of roseate infancy,
    So long beneath thy tender influence
    My breast has thrilled. As oft for one brief second
    The veil through which those infinite offers beckoned
    Has seemed to tremble, letting through
    Some swift intolerable view
    Of vistas past the sense of mortal seeing,
    So oft, as one whose stricken eyes might see
    In ferny dells the rustic deity,
    I stood, like him, possessed, and all my being,
    Flooded an instant with unwonted light,
    Quivered with cosmic passion; whether then
    On woody pass or glistening mountain-height
    I walked in fellowship with winds and clouds,
    Whether in cities and the throngs of men,
    A curious saunterer through friendly crowds,
    Enamored of the glance in passing eyes,
    Unuttered salutations, mute replies, -- -
    In every character where light of thine
    Has shed on earthly things the hue of things divine
    I sought eternal Loveliness, and seeking,
    If ever transport crossed my brow bespeaking
    Such fire as a prophetic heart might feel
    Where simple worship blends in fervent zeal,
    It was the faith that only love of thee
    Needed in human hearts for Earth to see
    Surpassed the vision poets have held dear
    Of joy diffused in most communion here;
    That whomsoe'er thy visitations warmed,
    Lover of thee in all thy rays informed,
    Needed no difficulter discipline
    To seek his right to happiness within
    Than, sensible of Nature's loveliness,
    To yield him to the generous impulses
    By such a sentiment evoked. The thought,
    Bright Spirit, whose illuminings I sought,
    That thou unto thy worshipper might be
    An all-sufficient law, abode with me,
    Importing something more than unsubstantial dreams
    To vigils by lone shores and walks by murmuring streams.

    Youth's flowers like childhood's fade and are forgot.
    Fame twines a tardy crown of yellowing leaves.
    How swift were disillusion, were it not
    That thou art steadfast where all else deceives!
    Solace and Inspiration, Power divine
    That by some mystic sympathy of thine,
    When least it waits and most hath need of thee,
    Can startle the dull spirit suddenly
    With grandeur welled from unsuspected springs, -- -
    Long as the light of fulgent evenings,
    When from warm showers the pearly shades disband
    And sunset opens o'er the humid land,
    Shows thy veiled immanence in orient skies, -- -
    Long as pale mist and opalescent dyes
    Hung on far isle or vanishing mountain-crest,
    Fields of remote enchantment can suggest
    So sweet to wander in it matters nought,
    They hold no place but in impassioned thought,
    Long as one draught from a clear sky may be
    A scented luxury;
    Be thou my worship, thou my sole desire,
    Thy paths my pilgrimage, my sense a lyre
    Aeolian for thine every breath to stir;
    Oft when her full-blown periods recur,
    To see the birth of day's transparent moon
    Far from cramped walls may fading afternoon
    Find me expectant on some rising lawn;
    Often depressed in dewy grass at dawn,
    Me, from sweet slumber underneath green boughs,
    Ere the stars flee may forest matins rouse,
    Afoot when the great sun in amber floods
    Pours horizontal through the steaming woods
    And windless fumes from early chimneys start
    And many a cock-crow cheers the traveller's heart
    Eager for aught the coming day afford
    In hills untopped and valleys unexplored.
    Give me the white road into the world's ends,
    Lover of roadside hazard, roadside friends,
    Loiterer oft by upland farms to gaze
    On ample prospects, lost in glimmering haze
    At noon, or where down odorous dales twilit,
    Filled with low thundering of the mountain stream,
    Over the plain where blue seas border it
    The torrid coast-towns gleam.

    I have fared too far to turn back now; my breast
    Burns with the lust for splendors unrevealed,
    Stars of midsummer, clouds out of the west,
    Pallid horizons, winds that valley and field
    Laden with joy, be ye my refuge still!
    What though distress and poverty assail!
    Though other voices chide, yours never will.
    The grace of a blue sky can never fail.
    Powers that my childhood with a spell so sweet,
    My youth with visions of such glory nursed,
    Ye have beheld, nor ever seen my feet
    On any venture set, but 'twas the thirst
    For Beauty willed them, yea, whatever be
    The faults I wanted wings to rise above;
    I am cheered yet to think how steadfastly
    I have been loyal to the love of Love!

    Alan Seeger

. The Deserted Garden

    I KNOW a village in a far-off land
    Where from a sunny, mountain-girdled plain
    With tinted walls a space on either hand
    And fed by many an olive-darkened lane
    The high-road mounts, and thence a silver band
    Through vineyard slopes above and rolling grain,
    Winds off to that dim corner of the skies
    Where behind sunset hills a stately city lies.

    Here, among trees whose overhanging shade
    Strews petals on the little droves below,
    Pattering townward in the morning weighed
    With greens from many an upland garden-row,
    Runs an old wall; long centuries have frayed
    Its scalloped edge, and passers to and fro
    Heard never from beyond its crumbling height
    Sweet laughter ring at noon or plaintive song at night.

    But here where little lizards bask and blink
    The tendrils of the trumpet-vine have run,
    At whose red bells the humming bird to drink
    Stops oft before his garden feast is done;
    And rose-geraniums, with that tender pink
    That cloud-banks borrow from the setting sun,
    Have covered part of this old wall, entwined
    With fair plumbago, blue as evening heavens behind.

    And crowning other parts the wild white rose
    Rivals the honey-suckle with the bees.
    Above the old abandoned orchard shows
    And all within beneath the dense-set trees,
    Tall and luxuriant the rank grass grows,
    That settled in its wavy depth one sees
    Grass melt in leaves, the mossy trunks between,
    Down fading avenues of implicated green;

    Wherein no lack of flowers the verdurous night
    With stars and pearly nebula o'erlay;
    Azalea-boughs half rosy and half white
    Shine through the green and clustering apple-spray,
    Such as the fairy-queen before her knight
    Waved in old story, luring him away
    Where round lost isles Hesperian billows break
    Or towers loom up beneath the clear, translucent lake;

    And under the deep grass blue hare-bells hide,
    And myrtle plots with dew-fall ever wet,
    Gay tiger-lilies flammulate and pied,
    Sometime on pathway borders neatly set,
    Now blossom through the brake on either side,
    Where heliotrope and weedy mignonette,
    With vines in bloom and flower-bearing trees,
    Mingle their incense all to swell the perfumed breeze,

    That sprung like Hermes from his natal cave
    In some blue rampart of the curving West,
    Comes up the valleys where green cornfields wave,
    Ravels the cloud about the mountain crest,
    Breathes on the lake till gentle ripples pave
    Its placid floor; at length a long-loved guest,
    He steals across this plot of pleasant ground,
    Waking the vocal leaves to a sweet vernal sound.

    Here many a day right gladly have I sped,
    Content amid the wavy plumes to lie,
    And through the woven branches overhead
    Watch the white, ever-wandering clouds go by,
    And soaring birds make their dissolving bed
    Far in the azure depths of summer sky,
    Or nearer that small huntsman of the air,
    The fly-catcher, dart nimbly from his leafy lair;

    Pillowed at ease to hear the merry tune
    Of mating warblers in the boughs above
    And shrill cicadas whom the hottest noon
    Keeps not from drowsy song; the mourning dove
    Pours down the murmuring grove his plaintive croon
    That like the voice of visionary love
    Oft have I risen to seek through this green maze
    (Even as my feet thread now the great world's garden-ways);

    And, parting tangled bushes as I passed
    Down beechen alleys beautiful and dim,
    Perhaps by some deep-shaded pool at last
    My feet would pause, where goldfish poise and swim,
    And snowy callas' velvet cups are massed
    Around the mossy, fern-encircled brim.
    Here, then, that magic summoning would cease,
    Or sound far off again among the orchard trees.

    And here where the blanched lilies of the vale
    And violets and yellow star-flowers teem,
    And pink and purple hyacinths exhale
    Their heavy fume, once more to drowse and dream
    My head would sink, from many an olden tale
    Drawing imagination's fervid theme,
    Or haply peopling this enchanting spot
    Only with fair creations of fantastic thought.

    For oft I think, in years long since gone by,
    That gentle hearts dwelt here and gentle hands
    Stored all this bowery bliss to beautify
    The paradise of some unsung romance;
    Here, safe from all except the loved one's eye,
    'Tis sweet to think white limbs were wont to glance,
    Well pleased to wanton like the flowers and share
    Their simple loveliness with the enamored air.

    Thrice dear to them whose votive fingers decked
    The altars of First Love were these green ways, -- -
    These lawns and verdurous brakes forever flecked
    With the warm sunshine of midsummer days;
    Oft where the long straight allies intersect
    And marble seats surround the open space,
    Where a tiled pool and sculptured fountain stand,
    Hath Evening found them seated, silent, hand in hand.

    When twilight deepened, in the gathering shade
    Beneath that old titanic cypress row,
    Whose sombre vault and towering colonnade
    Dwarfed the enfolded forms that moved below,
    Oft with close steps these happy lovers strayed,
    Till down its darkening aisle the sunset glow
    Grew less and patterning the garden floor
    Faint flakes of filtering moonlight mantled more and more.

    And the strange tempest that a touch imparts
    Through the mid fibre of the molten frame,
    When the sweet flesh in early youth asserts
    Its heyday verve and little hints enflame,
    Disturbed them as they walked; from their full hearts
    Welled the soft word, and many a tender name
    Strove on their lips as breast to breast they strained
    And the deep joy they drank seemed never, never drained.

    Love's soul that is the depth of starry skies
    Set in the splendor of one upturned face
    To beam adorably through half-closed eyes;
    Love's body where the breadth of summer days
    And all the beauty earth and air comprise
    Come to the compass of an arm's embrace,
    To burn a moment on impassioned lips
    And yield intemperate joy to quivering finger-tips,

    They knew; and here where morning-glories cling
    Round carven forms of carefullest artifice,
    They made a bower where every outward thing
    Should comment on the cause of their own bliss;
    With flowers of liveliest hue encompassing
    That flower that the beloved body is -- -
    That rose that for the banquet of Love's bee
    Has budded all the aeons of past eternity.

    But their choice seat was where the garden wall,
    Crowning a little summit, far and near,
    Looks over tufted treetops onto all
    The pleasant outer country; rising here
    From rustling foliage where cuckoos call
    On summer evenings, stands a belvedere,
    Buff-hued, of antique plaster, overrun
    With flowering vines and weatherworn by rain and sun.

    Still round the turrets of this antique tower
    The bougainvillea hangs a crimson crown,
    Wistaria-vines and clematis in flower,
    Wreathing the lower surface further down,
    Hide the old plaster in a very shower
    Of motley blossoms like a broidered gown.
    Outside, ascending from the garden grove,
    A crumbling stairway winds to the one room above.

    And whoso mounts by this dismantled stair
    Finds the old pleasure-hall, long disarrayed,
    Brick-tiled and raftered, and the walls foursquare
    Ringed all about with a twofold arcade.
    Backward dense branches intercept the glare
    Of afternoon with eucalyptus shade;
    Eastward the level valley-plains expand,
    Sweet as a queen's survey of her own Fairyland.

    For through that frame the ivied arches make,
    Wide tracts of sunny midland charm the eye,
    Frequent with hamlet, grove, and lucent lake
    Where the blue hills' inverted contours lie;
    Far to the east where billowy mountains break
    In surf of snow against a sapphire sky,
    Huge thunderheads loom up behind the ranges,
    Changing from gold to pink as deepening sunset changes;

    And over plain and far sierra spread
    The fulgent rays of fading afternoon,
    Showing each utmost peak and watershed
    All clarified, each tassel and festoon
    Of floating cloud embroidered overhead,
    Like lotus-leaves on bluest waters strewn,
    Flushing with rose, while all breathes fresh and free
    In peace and amplitude and bland tranquillity.

    Dear were such evenings to this gentle pair;
    Love's tide that launched on with a blast too strong
    Sweeps toward the foaming reef, the hidden snare,
    Baffling with fond illusion's siren-song,
    Too faint, on idle shoals, to linger there
    Far from Youth's glowing dream, bore them along,
    With purple sail and steered by seraph hands
    To isles resplendent in the sunset of romance.

    And out of this old house a flowery fane,
    A bridal bower, a pearly pleasure-dome,
    They built, and furnished it with gold and grain,
    And bade all spirits of beauty hither come,
    And winged Love to enter with his train
    And bless their pillow, and in this his home
    Make them his priests as Hero was of yore
    In her sweet girlhood by the blue Dardanian shore.

    Tree-ferns, therefore, and potted palms they brought,
    Tripods and urns in rare and curious taste,
    Polychrome chests and cabinets inwrought
    With pearl and ivory etched and interlaced;
    Pendant brocades with massive braid were caught,
    And chain-slung, oriental lamps so placed
    To light the lounger on some low divan,
    Sunken in swelling down and silks from Hindustan.

    And there was spread, upon the ample floors,
    Work of the Levantine's laborious loom,
    Such as by Euxine or Ionian shores
    Carpets the dim seraglio's scented gloom.
    Each morn renewed, the garden's flowery stores
    Blushed in fair vases, ochre and peach-bloom,
    And little birds through wicker doors left wide
    Flew in to trill a space from the green world outside.

    And there was many a dainty attitude,
    Bronze and eburnean. All but disarrayed,
    Here in eternal doubt sweet Psyche stood
    Fain of the bath's delight, yet still afraid
    Lest aught in that palatial solitude
    Lurked of most menace to a helpless maid.
    Therefore forever faltering she stands,
    Nor yet the last loose fold slips rippling from her hands.

    Close by upon a beryl column, clad
    In the fresh flower of adolescent grace,
    They set the dear Bithynian shepherd lad,
    The nude Antinous. That gentle face,
    Forever beautiful, forever sad,
    Shows but one aspect, moon-like, to our gaze,
    Yet Fancy pictures how those lips could smile
    At revelries in Rome, and banquets on the Nile.

    And there were shapes of Beauty myriads more,
    Clustering their rosy bridal bed around,
    Whose scented breadth a silken fabric wore
    Broidered with peacock hues on creamiest ground,
    Fit to have graced the barge that Cydnus bore
    Or Venus' bed in her enchanted mound,
    While pillows swelled in stuffs of Orient dyes,
    All broidered with strange fruits and birds of Paradise.

    'Twas such a bower as Youth has visions of,
    Thither with one fair spirit to retire,
    Lie upon rose-leaves, sleep and wake with Love
    And feast on kisses to the heart's desire;
    Where by a casement opening on a grove,
    Wide to the wood-winds and the sweet birds' choir,
    A girl might stand and gaze into green boughs,
    Like Credhe at the window of her golden house.

    Or most like Vivien, the enchanting fay,
    Where with her friend, in the strange tower they planned,
    She lies and dreams eternity away,
    Above the treetops in Broceliande,
    Sometimes at twilight when the woods are gray
    And wolf-packs howl far out across the lande,
    Waking to love, while up behind the trees
    The large midsummer moon lifts -- - even so loved these.

    For here, their pleasure was to come and sit
    Oft when the sun sloped midway to the west,
    Watching with sweet enjoyment interknit
    The long light slant across the green earth's breast,
    And clouds upon the ranges opposite,
    Rolled up into a gleaming thundercrest,
    Topple and break and fall in purple rain,
    And mist of summer showers trail out across the plain.

    Whereon the shafts of ardent light, far-flung
    Across the luminous azure overhead,
    Ofttimes in arcs of transient beauty hung
    The fragmentary rainbow's green and red.
    Joy it was here to love and to be young,
    To watch the sun sink to his western bed,
    And streaming back out of their flaming core
    The vesperal aurora's glorious banners soar.

    Tinging each altitude of heaven in turn,
    Those fiery rays would sweep. The cumuli
    That peeped above the mountain-tops would burn
    Carmine a space; the cirrus-whorls on high,
    More delicate than sprays of maiden fern,
    Streak with pale rose the peacock-breasted sky,
    Then blanch. As water-lilies fold at night,
    Sank back into themselves those plumes of fervid light.

    And they would watch the first faint stars appear,
    The blue East blend with the blue hills below,
    As lovers when their shuddering bliss draws near
    Into one pulse of fluid rapture grow.
    New fragrance on the freshening atmosphere
    Would steal with evening, and the sunset glow
    Draw deeper down into the wondrous west
    Round vales of Proserpine and islands of the blest.

    So dusk would come and mingle lake and shore,
    The snow-peaks fade to frosty opaline,
    To pearl the domed clouds the mountains bore,
    Where late the sun's effulgent fire had been -- -
    Showing as darkness deepened more and more
    The incandescent lightnings flare within,
    And Night that furls the lily in the glen
    And twines impatient arms would fall, and then -- - and then . . .

    Sometimes the peasant, coming late from town
    With empty panniers on his little drove
    Past the old lookout when the Northern Crown
    Glittered with Cygnus through the scented grove,
    Would hear soft noise of lute-strings wafted down
    And voices singing through the leaves above
    Those songs that well from the warm heart that woos
    At balconies in Merida or Vera Cruz.

    And he would pause under the garden wall,
    Caught in the spell of that voluptuous strain,
    With all the sultry South in it, and all
    Its importunity of love and pain;
    And he would wait till the last passionate fall
    Died on the night, and all was still again, -- -
    Then to his upland village wander home,
    Marvelling whence that flood of elfin song might come.

    O lyre that Love's white holy hands caress,
    Youth, from thy bosom welled their passionate lays -- -
    Sweet opportunity for happiness
    So brief, so passing beautiful -- - O days,
    When to the heart's divine indulgences
    All earth in smiling ministration pays -- -
    Thine was the source whose plenitude, past over,
    What prize shall rest to pluck, what secret to discover!

    The wake of color that follows her when May
    Walks on the hills loose-haired and daisy-crowned,
    The deep horizons of a summer's day,
    Fair cities, and the pleasures that abound
    Where music calls, and crowds in bright array
    Gather by night to find and to be found;
    What were these worth or all delightful things
    Without thine eyes to read their true interpretings!

    For thee the mountains open glorious gates,
    To thee white arms put out from orient skies,
    Earth, like a jewelled bride for one she waits,
    Decks but to be delicious in thine eyes,
    Thou guest of honor for one day, whose fetes
    Eternity has travailed to devise;
    Ah, grace them well in the brief hour they last!
    Another's turn prepares, another follows fast.

    Yet not without one fond memorial
    Let my sun set who found the world so fair!
    Frail verse, when Time the singer's coronal
    Has rent, and stripped the rose-leaves from his hair,
    Be thou my tablet on the temple wall!
    Among the pious testimonials there,
    Witness how sweetly on my heart as well
    The miracles of dawn and starry evening fell!

    Speak of one then who had the lust to feel,
    And, from the hues that far horizons take,
    And cloud and sunset, drank the wild appeal,
    Too deep to live for aught but life's sweet sake,
    Whose only motive was the will to kneel
    Where Beauty's purest benediction spake,
    Who only coveted what grove and field
    And sunshine and green Earth and tender arms could yield -- -

    A nympholept, through pleasant days and drear
    Seeking his faultless adolescent dream,
    A pilgrim down the paths that disappear
    In mist and rainbows on the world's extreme,
    A helpless voyager who all too near
    The mouth of Life's fair flower-bordered stream,
    Clutched at Love's single respite in his need
    More than the drowning swimmer clutches at a reed -- -

    That coming one whose feet in other days
    Shall bleed like mine for ever having, more
    Than any purpose, felt the need to praise
    And seek the angelic image to adore,
    In love with Love, its wonderful, sweet ways
    Counting what most makes life worth living for,
    That so some relic may be his to see
    How I loved these things too and they were dear to me.

    I sometimes think a conscious happiness
    Mantles through all the rose's sentient vine
    When summer winds with myriad calyces
    Of bloom its clambering height incarnadine;
    I sometimes think that cleaving lips, no less,
    And limbs that crowned desires at length entwine
    Are nerves through which that being drinks delight,
    Whose frame is the green Earth robed round with day and night.

    And such were theirs: the traveller without,
    Pausing at night under the orchard trees,
    Wondered and crossed himself in holy doubt,
    For through their song and in the murmuring breeze
    It seemed angelic choirs were all about
    Mingling in universal harmonies,
    As though, responsive to the chords they woke,
    All Nature into sweet epithalamium broke.

    And still they think a spirit haunts the place:
    'Tis said, when Night has drawn her jewelled pall
    And through the branches twinkling fireflies trace
    Their mimic constellations, if it fall
    That one should see the moon rise through the lace
    Of blossomy boughs above the garden wall,
    That surely would he take great ill thereof
    And famish in a fit of unexpressive love.

    But this I know not, for what time the wain
    Was loosened and the lily's petal furled,
    Then I would rise, climb the old wall again,
    And pausing look forth on the sundown world,
    Scan the wide reaches of the wondrous plain,
    The hamlet sites where settling smoke lay curled,
    The poplar-bordered roads, and far away
    Fair snowpeaks colored with the sun's last ray.

    Waves of faint sound would pulsate from afar -- -
    Faint song and preludes of the summer night;
    Deep in the cloudless west the evening star
    Hung 'twixt the orange and the emerald light;
    From the dark vale where shades crepuscular
    Dimmed the old grove-girt belfry glimmering white,
    Throbbing, as gentlest breezes rose or fell,
    Came the sweet invocation of the evening bell.

    Alan Seeger

. The Torture of Cuauhtemoc

    THEIR strength had fed on this when Death's white arms
    Came sleeved in vapors and miasmal dew,
    Curling across the jungle's ferny floor,
    Becking each fevered brain. On bleak divides,
    Where Sleep grew niggardly for nipping cold
    That twinged blue lips into a mouthed curse,
    Not back to Seville and its sunny plains
    Winged their brief-biding dreams, but once again,
    Lords of a palace in Tenochtitlan,
    They guarded Montezuma's treasure-hoard.
    Gold, like some finny harvest of the sea,
    Poured out knee deep around the rifted floors,
    Shiny and sparkling, -- - arms and crowns and rings:
    Gold, sweet to toy with as beloved hair, -- -
    To plunge the lustful, crawling fingers down,
    Arms elbow deep, and draw them out again,
    And watch the glinting metal trickle off,
    Even as at night some fisherman, home bound
    With speckled cargo in his hollow keel
    Caught off Campeche or the Isle of Pines,
    Dips in his paddle, lifts it forth again,
    And laughs to see the luminous white drops
    Fall back in flakes of fire. . . . Gold was the dream
    That cheered that desperate enterprise. And now? . . .
    Victory waited on the arms of Spain,
    Fallen was the lovely city by the lake,
    The sunny Venice of the western world;
    There many corpses, rotting in the wind,
    Poked up stiff limbs, but in the leprous rags
    No jewel caught the sun, no tawny chain
    Gleamed, as the prying halberds raked them o'er.
    Pillage that ran red-handed through the streets
    Came railing home at evening empty-palmed;
    And they, on that sad night a twelvemonth gone,
    Who, ounce by ounce, dear as their own life's blood
    Retreating, cast the cumbrous load away:
    They, when brown foemen lopped the bridges down,
    Who tipped thonged chests into the stream below
    And over wealth that might have ransomed kings
    Passed on to safety; -- - cheated, guerdonless -- -
    Found (through their fingers the bright booty slipped)
    A city naked, of that golden dream
    Shorn in one moment like a sunset sky.

    Deep in a chamber that no cheerful ray
    Purged of damp air, where in unbroken night
    Black scorpions nested in the sooty beams,
    Helpless and manacled they led him down -- -
    Cuauhtemotzin -- - and other lords beside -- -
    All chieftains of the people, heroes all -- -
    And stripped their feathered robes and bound them there
    On short stone settles sloping to the head,
    But where the feet projected, underneath
    Heaped the red coals. Their swarthy fronts illumed,
    The bearded Spaniards, helmed and haubergeoned,
    Paced up and down beneath the lurid vault.
    Some kneeling fanned the glowing braziers; some
    Stood at the sufferers' heads and all the while
    Hissed in their ears: "The gold . . . the gold . . . the gold.
    Where have ye hidden it -- - the chested gold?
    Speak -- - and the torments cease!"

                                           They answered not.
    Past those proud lips whose key their sovereign claimed
    No accent fell to chide or to betray,
    Only it chanced that bound beside the king
    Lay one whom Nature, more than other men
    Framing for delicate and perfumed ease,
    Not yet, along the happy ways of Youth,
    Had weaned from gentle usages so far
    To teach that fortitude that warriors feel
    And glory in the proof. He answered not,
    But writhing with intolerable pain,
    Convulsed in every limb, and all his face
    Wrought to distortion with the agony,
    Turned on his lord a look of wild appeal,
    The secret half atremble on his lips,
    Livid and quivering, that waited yet
    For leave -- - for leave to utter it -- - one sign -- -
    One word -- - one little word -- - to ease his pain.

    As one reclining in the banquet hall,
    Propped on an elbow, garlanded with flowers,
    Saw lust and greed and boisterous revelry
    Surge round him on the tides of wine, but he,
    Staunch in the ethic of an antique school -- -
    Stoic or Cynic or of Pyrrho's mind -- -
    With steady eyes surveyed the unbridled scene,
    Himself impassive, silent, self-contained:
    So sat the Indian prince, with brow unblanched,
    Amid the tortured and the torturers.
    He who had seen his hopes made desolate,
    His realm despoiled, his early crown deprived him,
    And watched while Pestilence and Famine piled
    His stricken people in their reeking doors,
    Whence glassy eyes looked out and lean brown arms
    Stretched up to greet him in one last farewell
    As back and forth he paced along the streets
    With words of hopeless comfort -- - what was this
    That one should weaken now? He weakened not.
    Whate'er was in his heart, he neither dealt
    In pity nor in scorn, but, turning round,
    Met that racked visage with his own unmoved,
    Bent on the sufferer his mild calm eyes,
    And while the pangs smote sharper, in a voice,
    As who would speak not all in gentleness
    Nor all disdain, said: "Yes! And am -- I- then
    Upon a bed of roses?"

                         Stung with shame -- -
    Shame bitterer than his anguish -- - to betray
    Such cowardice before the man he loved,
    And merit such rebuke, the boy grew calm;
    And stilled his struggling limbs and moaning cries,
    And shook away his tears, and strove to smile,
    And turned his face against the wall -- - and died.

    Alan Seeger

. The Nympholet

    THERE was a boy -- - not above childish fears -- -
    With steps that faltered now and straining ears,
    Timid, irresolute, yet dauntless still,
    Who one bright dawn, when each remotest hill
    Stood sharp and clear in Heaven's unclouded blue
    And all Earth shimmered with fresh-beaded dew,
    Risen in the first beams of the gladdening sun,
    Walked up into the mountains. One by one
    Each towering trunk beneath his sturdy stride
    Fell back, and ever wider and more wide
    The boundless prospect opened. Long he strayed,
    From dawn till the last trace of slanting shade
    Had vanished from the canyons, and, dismayed
    At that far length to which his path had led,
    He paused -- - at such a height where overhead
    The clouds hung close, the air came thin and chill,
    And all was hushed and calm and very still,
    Save, from abysmal gorges, where the sound
    Of tumbling waters rose, and all around
    The pines, by those keen upper currents blown,
    Muttered in multitudinous monotone.
    Here, with the wind in lovely locks laid bare,
    With arms oft raised in dedicative prayer,
    Lost in mute rapture and adoring wonder,
    He stood, till the far noise of noontide thunder,
    Rolled down upon the muffled harmonies
    Of wind and waterfall and whispering trees,
    Made loneliness more lone. Some Panic fear
    Would seize him then, as they who seemed to hear
    In Tracian valleys or Thessalian woods
    The god's hallooing wake the leafy solitudes;
    I think it was the same: some piercing sense
    Of Deity's pervasive immanence,
    The Life that visible Nature doth indwell
    Grown great and near and all but palpable . . .
    He might not linger, but with winged strides
    Like one pursued, fled down the mountain-sides -- -
    Down the long ridge that edged the steep ravine,
    By glade and flowery lawn and upland green,
    And never paused nor felt assured again
    But where the grassy foothills opened. Then,
    While shadows lengthened on the plain below
    And the sun vanished and the sunset-glow
    Looked back upon the world with fervid eye
    Through the barred windows of the western sky,
    Homeward he fared, while many a look behind
    Showed the receding ranges dim-outlined,
    Highland and hollow where his path had lain,
    Veiled in deep purple of the mountain rain.

    Alan Seeger

. The Wanderer

    TO SEE the clouds his spirit yearned toward so
    Over new mountains piled and unploughed waves,
    Back of old-storied spires and architraves
    To watch Arcturus rise or Fomalhaut,

    And roused by street-cries in strange tongues when day
    Flooded with gold some domed metropolis,
    Between new towers to waken and new bliss
    Spread on his pillow in a wondrous way:

    These were his joys. Oft under bulging crates,
    Coming to market with his morning load,
    The peasant found him early on his road
    To greet the sunrise at the city-gates, -- -

    There where the meadows waken in its rays,
    Golden with mist, and the great roads commence,
    And backward, where the chimney-tops are dense,
    Cathedral-arches glimmer through the haze.

    White dunes that breaking show a strip of sea,
    A plowman and his team against the blue,
    Swiss pastures musical with cowbells, too,
    And poplar-lined canals in Picardie,

    And coast-towns where the vultures back and forth
    Sail in the clear depths of the tropic sky,
    And swallows in the sunset where they fly
    Over gray Gothic cities in the north,

    And the wine-cellar and the chorus there,
    The dance-hall and a face among the crowd, -- -
    Were all delights that made him sing aloud
    For joy to sojourn in a world so fair.

    Back of his footsteps as he journeyed fell
    Range after range; ahead blue hills emerged.
    Before him tireless to applaud it surged
    The sweet interminable spectacle.

    And like the west behind a sundown sea
    Shone the past joys his memory retraced,
    And bright as the blue east he always faced
    Beckoned the loves and joys that were to be.

    From every branch a blossom for his brow
    He gathered, singing down Life's flower-lined road,
    And youth impelled his spirit as he strode
    Like winged Victory on the galley's prow.

    That Loveliness whose being sun and star,
    Green Earth and dawn and amber evening robe,
    That lamp whereof the opalescent globe
    The season's emulative splendors are,

    That veiled divinity whose beams transpire
    From every pore of universal space,
    As the fair soul illumes the lovely face -- -
    That was his guest, his passion, his desire.

    His heart the love of Beauty held as hides
    One gem most pure a casket of pure gold.
    It was too rich a lesser thing to hold;
    It was not large enough for aught besides.

    Alan Seeger

. The Need to Love

    THE need to love that all the stars obey
    Entered my heart and banished all beside.
    Bare were the gardens where I used to stray;
    Faded the flowers that one time satisfied.

    Before the beauty of the west on fire,
    The moonlit hills from cloister-casements viewed,
    Cloud-like arose the image of desire,
    And cast out peace and maddened solitude.

    I sought the City and the hopes it held:
    With smoke and brooding vapors intercurled,
    As the thick roofs and walls close-paralleled
    Shut out the fair horizons of the world -- -

    A truant from the fields and rustic joy,
    In my changed thought that image even so
    Shut out the gods I worshipped as a boy
    And all the pure delights I used to know.

    Often the veil has trembled at some tide
    Of lovely reminiscence and revealed
    How much of beauty Nature holds beside
    Sweet lips that sacrifice and arms that yield:

    Clouds, window-framed, beyond the huddled eaves
    When summer cumulates their golden chains,
    Or from the parks the smell of burning leaves,
    Fragrant of childhood in the country lanes,

    An organ-grinder's melancholy tune
    In rainy streets, or from an attic sill
    The blue skies of a windy afternoon
    Where our kites climbed once from some grassy hill:

    And my soul once more would be wrapped entire
    In the pure peace and blessing of those years
    Before the fierce infection of Desire
    Had ravaged all the flesh. Through starting tears

    Shone that lost Paradise; but, if it did,
    Again ere long the prison-shades would fall
    That Youth condemns itself to walk amid,
    So narrow, but so beautiful withal.

    And I have followed Fame with less devotion,
    And kept no real ambition but to see
    Rise from the foam of Nature's sunlit ocean
    My dream of palpable divinity;

    And aught the world contends for to mine eye
    Seemed not so real a meaning of success
    As only once to clasp before I die
    My vision of embodied happiness.

    Alan Seeger

. El Extraviado

    OVER the radiant ridges borne out on the offshore wind,
    I have sailed as a butterfly sails whose priming wings unfurled
    Leave the familiar gardens and visited fields behind
    To follow a cloud in the east rose-flushed on the rim of the world.

    I have strayed from the trodden highway for walking with upturned eyes
    On the way of the wind in the treetops, and the drift of the tinted rack.
    For the will to be losing no wonder of sunny or starlit skies
    I have chosen the sod for my pillow and a threadbare coat for my back.

    Evening of ample horizons, opaline, delicate, pure,
    Shadow of clouds on green valleys, trailed over meadows and trees,
    Cities of ardent adventure where the harvests of Joy mature,
    Forests whose murmuring voices are amorous prophecies,

    World of romance and profusion, still round my journey spread
    The glamours, the glints, the enthralments, the nurture of one whose feet
    From hours unblessed by beauty nor lighted by love have fled
    As the shade of the tomb on his pathway and the scent of the winding-sheet.

    I never could rest from roving nor put from my heart this need
    To be seeing how lovably Nature in flower and face hath wrought, -- -
    In flower and meadow and mountain and heaven where the white clouds breed
    And the cunning of silken meshes where the heart's desire lies caught.

    Over the azure expanses, on the offshore breezes borne,
    I have sailed as a butterfly sails, nor recked where the impulse led,
    Sufficed with the sunshine and freedom, the warmth and the summer morn,
    The infinite glory surrounding, the infinite blue ahead.

    Alan Seeger



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